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Column: Media Bias No Good For Voters Or For News Outlets

This story was written by Ronald Quiroga, The Daily Campus


The perilous and painstakingly long road to Election Day 2008 has finally come to an end, but not without the bickering and yammering of the media. The media bias that has been present since the dawn of American journalism has yet to retract its claws from mass communication. Ever since the partisan press of the 18th and 19th centuries, newspapers, radio shows, television networks and now blogs have dedicated themselves to the empowerment of their respective political idealogies. The preferences that are often shrewdly displayed in the underlying messages of programs presented by the news media are incredibly divisive. In the previous two elections, especially in 2000, the country's views on major issues had never been so polarized. It was often said that the only time the United States had ever stood as rifted over political issues was during years preceding the Civil War.

The impact of an ever-evolving media upon the general public is undeniable. People are often influenced by mass media without realizing; but as we have come to a plateau in communications, at least for now, these splintering tactics must be controlled.

Throughout the last election, news networks - arguably the most influential news distributors to the American public - have displayed strong but subtle notes as to who they believed was going to be the next president. Flipping from channel to channel, one could see conflicting results as electoral votes were counted. Conservative or liberal candidates would receive the higher end of the counts on their respective networks, so unless your televisions received just one of the many news channels, you were left trying to deduce who was really in the lead. At times it is hard to distinguish between personal opinion and news but many individuals fail to understand that news is all too often leading and lacks vital information.

The "gatekeeper" effect is one of the factors that leads to the partisanship of news outlets. The idea is that a select few are in charge of choosing the stories and news pieces and do so according to their own perceptions of what is relevant. This linear process often leads to one-sided perspectives within certain news groups. One of the mainstays of modern media outlets is to produce news, as it happens, both unfiltered and very often, not factual. This is not to say that all news is published without any kind of supervision, but all forms of media are in business to produce information that is interesting and pertinent. If stories become outdated and reissued to the point where a majority of the public has some knowledge of the occurrence, then no one will notice a new story about it.

The media, in general, have become their own entity as far as political strategy and public molding is concerned. The media should serve the people with news and information that is objective on the issues, but it has not been recently. This false objectivity has become simply another factor for individuals to sift through in order to get the truth. For many politicians it has become a chore to be in front of the judgmental reporters and cameras every waking moment. There is a policy of zero-tolerance for error, and when mistakes are made, the media pounce without hesitation. This, in the end though, is not the issue; it is allowing the voters to make the informed choice about who is potentially more deserving of their votes.

Just as politicians support certain campaigns, media is given more of an incentive to support a single side. By playing the partisan role, media can be assured of having patronage and support and form their respective parties. But politicians have gained or lost hundreds of thousands of supporters due to their public image and not their stances on issues.

Those who are able to vote need to be given the peae of mind that their sources of information are not contaminated by biased political opinion. The best method to control political media bias is for journalists to present the facts and allow America to make up their own minds.

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