Growing up, people used to trust the news to bring you facts; important stuff you needed to know. Generation X got older and we kept on not trusting authority. At some point 24 hour new TV stations were born, and talk radio got popular. And the country got polarized.
I stopped watching national TV news. When I listen to the radio I run everything through my own filter because I know whatever show I’m listening to has to get ratings first. Most of those are opinion shows anyway, but the TV news channels are in the same boat. How to make important stuff entertaining is the biggest concern. Even local news outlets fall into this.
There’s a big national story? Local news had better find a local link to that issue. So they ride the coattails of what national news tells America is important. Even if on a different day, in a different news cycle, the same story wouldn’t be important at all.
In college I took a couple journalism classes. One of the big things I look away was that every story has an angle. Every story has some approach to help make it interesting. Journalistic integrity was making sure that angle didn’t become too slanted. I’m not sure that’s a concern anymore. Do they still teach journalistic integrity and objectivity? If so, who do they use as examples?
Click bait on social media is a huge problem. I have been systematically deleting clickbait links from my Facebook feed. It’s pretty liberating. These posts are designed to make you click through, and then the site shows you advertising, a lot of advertising, while you read the story which is generally more hype than substance. “You won’t believe what…” Nope, I won’t. And I won’t click it. If you want to tell me something, get my attention, write a real headline! But even the real news stores from some of these news sites are suspect. You just can’t take them at face value.
Did that bakery get a gag order or not? That’s the latest one in my Facebook feed. One article says the 1st amendment rights of this couple has been violated. Another says it hasn’t. Solution? Go read the source material for yourself and figure it out. But who takes the time to do this? Most people, I suspect, simply latch onto whatever slant they already like and use that to bolster their current opinion of the politics, issues, etc… You know things are out of hand when joke posts from satirical sites are passed on like they are true. Because we can’t tell the difference anymore! Social media is littered with junk news posts. There might be some fact in them, but you have to dig for it. They’re almost all more slant than angle.
That’s not to say that there aren’t news stories that are well written, balanced pieces. There are. But they are not sensational and they don’t get the views/ratings.
The only solution I’ve found is to keep your filter on. Approach every story knowing that it will probably be full of someone else’s opinion and agenda. But you can probably sort through and find the facts. Then make your own judgement on what the news in that story really is.