The idea that the media is biased one way or another has been around for a long time, but has really become a mainstream topic for many people in the last 4-5 years, largely because of the campaign antics of Donald Trump and his supporters. A big part of his driving force for his presidential campaign was preaching to the right that the media was biased against them and they were being silenced, therefore the media could not be trusted. This helped him win the 2016 Presidency over Hillary Clinton in the end. This was in large part due to all of the media exposure he got because of these claims he was making. Whether or not the coverage of his statements were in a positive light or a negative one, it still got his name out there that he won the election. For the next four years, his Presidency caused a divide down the political aisle that had not been seen in decades, and is very relevant in our current climate. A big reason for that is due to one side of that aisle not having any faith in the media at all, claiming that everything that is put out is “fake news.” If trust in the media is regained, then the divide can begin to heal. This idea that trust in media is essential has been around for a long time and does not pertain to this current state of affairs. It is true that this idea has been around for a long time, but to think that it is not a key building block to move the country forward is wrong.
In 1988, Albert Gunther wrote that, “A recent series of experiments demonstrated that audience members more partisan or biased on a specific issue are more likely to percieve bias in media treatment of that issue.” This statement supports that media bias is not a new occurence. However, it is possible that it is much more relevant today than it was in 1988. Today, the right feels more than ever that they are belittled by the media, while a lot of the left feels that there is no bias towards them at all. There are cases to be made for and against both sides of that. It is true that a lot of media platforms put out things that right wing people might not always agree with, but at the same time, there certainly are platforms that definetely lean right, Fox News being the biggest one of those. It is probably safe to say that today both sides are more invested in politics and current events, just because it is so easy to access all of it in different forms of social media and the internent. Because of this, everyone now feels a wide range of things whenever anything happens pertaining to politics, and they feel like the media is pushing one agenda or another. In that regard, Gunther’s statement is more relavent now than it was when he said it in 1988.
Another factor in why people might not trust the media is because they just do not trust the government in general. David A Jones wrote an article about trust in media in 2004, saying that “One key factor appears to be trust in government, suggesting that the media’s lowly stature may stem more from general political malaise than from the many shortcomings of contemporary news coverage. Interestingly, trust in the media is particularly low among conservative Republicans, especially those who listen to political talk radio.” This has been relevant to the argument all along, and it is true that the majority of those who do not trust the media do not trust the government either. However it appears that this narrative goes both ways, and that trust in one would build up trust in the other. trusting the government in general is a whole different argument. But since it is the same group of people not trusting either one of those entities, it seems to be a fair assumption that if trust in the media is gained, it could go a long way to help trust in the government overall.
Another counter-argument to this might ask if trust in the media is really that important overall? It is definetely a valid question, but he answer is very important. At this point in time, media should be viewed as much more than an outlet for the news, which is almost strictly what it was up until recenly. Now however, media is everything to society. Most of today’s structure is built around the internet, so that is where media is. It shows just where people are getting their news from, which is how they form their opinions. The younger audience is much more likely to get information from social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, while older folks might generally stick to newspapers and news on tv. In 2015, Sarah Stonebely wrote that ” Contemporary ethnographies have placed greater emphasis on journalistic agency and on the networked nature of newswork, though I question whether an emphasis on organizational constraints is still not politically warrented.” She discusses how in today’s society, media does not have to be just one main thing, it can branch out and be many things at once. This is very important in today’s situation, because the way people view the media is largely based on how it is brought to them.
All this being said, media has been a backbone of society for the longest time, dating back to the days when the printing press was invented and people were able to get news around. Ever since then it has played a huge role in the world. Today we stand at a very critical point in our country, and hopefully we could use the media to bring the United States to be somewhat more united. To downplay the role that the media currently has would be extremely foolish and would set us back probably even farther. That is something that both sides of the aisle can agree on.
Jones, D. A. (2004). Why Americans Don’t Trust the Media. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 9(2), 60-75. doi:10.1177/1081180×04263461
Gunther, A. (1988, June 1). Attitude Extremity and Trust in Media – Albert Gunther, 1988. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/107769908806500203?journalCode=jmqb
The Social and Intellectual Contexts of the U.S. “Newsroom Studies,” and the Media Sociology of Today. (2013, November 21). Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1461670X.2013.859865