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The Epidemic of Biased Media


It is as simple as that. So why does it seem to be so difficult for some American news networks to relay factual, grounded, and reliable information to their viewers?

The partisan divide plaguing this country has infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives, whether we are cognizant of it or not. From the news channels we watch to the brands we purchase at the grocery store, it seems there is a political agenda emanating from practically everything around us. Polarization is seemingly inescapable and the 2020 election cycle news coverage is no exception to this.

Growing up in a staunchly conservative area of Pennsylvania, I am no stranger to political beliefs rooted in white supremacy and hate. Though I have been surrounded by this rhetoric for most of my life, I have never accepted it. Whether the source was peers at school, community leaders, or even my family, I could never empathize with their side of an argument when it came to social issues. As I have gotten older and sought out resources to educate myself politically, it has only pushed me farther away resulting in a chasm of political divide among those closest to me.

Over the past few years, I have begun to realize that several factors perpetuate this polarization within my family. Of no surprise, the media and news outlets which we each choose to consume is a major source of contention. While I am not an avid subscriber to any network, in particular, many members of my family are fervent supporters of Fox News. In my opinion, Fox would be better categorized as an entertainment channel rather than news; but to each their own I suppose.

It is no secret that U.S. media is biased. Both ends of the political spectrum are guilty of this whether it is done implicitly or explicitly. However, it has become more apparent to me throughout the 2020 election cycle just how biased different outlets are. It is no longer a difference of understanding or opinion, it now seems as though I am living in an alternate political reality than most of my family.

How are people expected to be “educated voters” when the sources they rely on for information focus more on spewing biased interpretations of news than facts?

Media bias is a unique example of social control in the sense that it is somewhat voluntary. People have the freedom to choose their news sources and in turn take on the opinions, perspectives, and mindsets of those preaching at them through their televisions. Those that take this information to be undeniable truth, even if it is not an objective fact, then allow themselves to become agents of a partisan agenda perceiving any person, group, or news outlet with differing opinions as deviant. As the population becomes increasingly hyper-polarized through media consumption, it takes a toll on American democracy.

Following a summer of protest and mass dissatisfaction with the Trump administration, the 2020 presidential election saw unprecedented voter turnout across the country. Despite the seemingly clear mishandlings and failures by the standing administration, there were still extremely small marginal victories in numerous battleground states.

Why is this? The answer likely falls to the different media portrayals of the events which have unfolded in the previous months. For example, while an outlet from the left may have empathized with the #BLM movement and criticized the mishandling of COVID-19, their right-wing counterparts surely demonized and labeled #BLM protestors as deviant while standing in unwavering support of Trump. The turnout of this election is the result of placing hotly contested topics under a lens of biased media scrutiny in efforts to mobilize people to get out and vote in support of their associated political agendas.

While solely placing the blame of the current divided state of American politics on biased media would be unfair, it certainly plays a part. If you took nothing else away from this post, at least take this: We as consumers have a responsibility to consume a diversity of sources in order to get to the truth and bridge the gap between left and right.

Demetria Smith, B.A. Candidate in Sociology, The George Washington University

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