The truth will set you free, but what if that truth is inaccurate? This is the dilemma of current society, or at least what many believe is an issue. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 44% of Americans believe mainstream news is inaccurate, but how did we get to this point?
Many may attribute this to Donald Trump’s rhetoric regarding the news. Trump has talked poorly of and delegitimize news sources, even shutting down some reporters for asking questions that challenged his administration. Distrust in news has been growing since at least the late 1990s, it is not just Trump’s actions that have led to the current climate of distrust in the mainstream news media. If you aren’t convinced, there is data on this – 72% of Americans had faith in the media in 1976 compared to 45% in 2018 (from Gallup Poll).
Something that likely contributes to this is the ‘if it bleeds it leads’ motivator behind many news companies – these companies are constantly seeking out whatever gets the most views. This is a belief that ASB President Evan Olson shares “I think the way the news portrays things is sensationalized and sometimes glorifies horrible things like school shootings.”
Because of the current distrust of the news, many are turning to social media to gather their information, which leads to even more unreliable knowledge and potential manipulation of the facts. But this may not be a great concern as few act on information or political advertisements they see on social media. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, only 0.39% more Americans voted after having seen an “I voted” post on social media. The larger issue here is that many people simply accept what they see as factual, instead of investigating and digging for the truth, which is often too much effort for many.
Nicole Morell, the Associate Director of Digital Strategy for Rhode Island University believes that the mainstream news has gone from an information source to an “infotainment” source. This could very well explain the lack of trust present in citizens today – if more entertainment than news, why consider it news or factual?
Morell explained viewer’s needs for “infotainment”, “more relevant or proportional topics to the public’s need like the election or the war in Iraq finished second and third respectively in coverage with [stories based on entertainment or popularity].” When more important issues take the sidelines to lesser ones, such as kneeling during the national anthem, it’s easy to see why we are straying further and further away from the mainstream news.
Mr. Sage commented on the media’s lack of focus stating, “Certainly in things like politics whatever side you are on, however it serves your purpose, you might try to sensationalize it to get more viewers. You might depict it in a way that makes viewers think it’s more important than it actually is.”
Could it be our own fault that our news is little more than informative entertainment? We choose what is produced by the news with our viewership and posts. Regardless of whether the mainstream news or social media is fake, inaccurate, or something else entirely, we chose to read or spread it across various platforms. The only way we can change it is by not listening to “infotainment”, and instead listening to just plain old news.