Casey Anthony. The mystery of Flight 370. Glued to our seats for what seems like forever with the same never-ending story. The news just keeps on stringing us along, gripping us with the unchanging news coverage. It doesn’t end—at least not for a long time.
Is there nothing else going on in the world? Are there not other global concerns like human rights issues we could learn about?
The media, commonly known as the fourth pillar of democracy, is one of the most powerful agents of any society, influencing what citizens think, care about and believe, and consequently helping to affirm societal norms such as gender roles.
The media serves as a sieve for information and a catalyst for political issues. The choice of which news stories to showcase, and how to do so, ultimately influences public opinion—think, for example, of wartime media coverage.
Unfortunately, media is often skewed due to powerful monetary influences from other parties, political regimes or personal self-interests. The classic example of crooked or opinionated journalists doing whatever it takes to ensure their own success comes to mind.
Why does the media cover certain stories for weeks at a time? What’s with all the celebrity coverage? It’s all about that money. After all, news companies are businesses too. In most instances, the media selectively cherry-picks issues that they feel will be the most “sexy,” or capable of getting people caught up in the mystery and drama of a story. The more you watch and the more entranced you are, the more ads you see and the more money media companies receive from their sponsors.
Then there is political and third party influence that further augments media corruption. Companies like Fox News may often appeal to followers of certain ideologies. Other times the news is influenced by “donations” from organizations or officials that ultimately impact the information that is relayed to the public.
These forms of corruption happen for a variety of reasons. The media caters to individuals or organizations to varying extents through different mechanisms but, alas, that is another article. The effects of crooked news—especially on television—are quite drastic, resulting in disregard for many important issues. The news often leaves us wondering what else is going on in the world.
A central role of the media is to educate society, yet this duty is often poorly upheld. Most Americans learn about the world through the media and, as a result, individuals often learn what the media wants them to learn. If broadcast news became more thorough there would likely be greater progress, outreach, and concern regarding other important issues.
Fortunately, the effects of poor media coverage can be mitigated. Reputable online newspapers tend to cover a much wider breadth of material and are organized according to subject, making it easier to learn about important issues.
Being critical and skeptical of the media is important, especially in our democratic society. Individuals must always remain knowledgeable about the world and realize that there are two sides to every story. Rather than simply accepting what we are told or what we see, maybe it’s time to do our own research.