With the creation of televised news discussing international affairs, breaking news, campaign trails, and new legislation instantaneously, America had entered a new age of media. The Media Age allowed for instant communication via the internet, radio, and most notably, the television.
Yet, with recent efforts to boost ratings and gain more viewers, the media has become more social than educational. With headlines such as “What 2nd Graders Think Of The 2016 Race” and “Trump: I Never Said Japan Should Have Nukes (He Did)” greeting the American population as they turn on their TV’s, it’s hard to think there is a world beyond the 2016 presidential campaign with cutesy interviews done with seven year old children and *gasp* shocking controversies with candidates, popular news forums such as FOX and CNN have become more of one giant paparazzi express reporting on entertainment more than education in order to earn profit from viewers.
As a result of all of this, America is more uninformed than ever.
In March 2009, the European Journal of Communication asked citizens of Britain, Denmark, Finland, and the U.S. to answer questions on international affairs. The Europeans clobbered us. Sixty-eight percent of Danes, 75 percent of Brits, and 76 percent of Finns could, for example, identify the Taliban, but only 58 percent of Americans managed to do the same.
Moreover, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 91 percent of foreign-born applicants pass the naturalization test, which includes these questions. But when high-school students in Oklahoma and Arizona were given the same test, fewer than 4 percent got the necessary six out of ten answers right.
The media spends so much time speaking about presidential campaigns, but so little time talking of actual policy. As a result, Americans speak on the same telltale points in why they like a candidate that speak on opinionated reasons that can’t be backed up with evidence (“He seems like a trustworthy guy”/”She seems shady”/”He/She is relatable”). While America’s love of the common man (and now, the common woman) is nothing new, the introduction of instantaneous news is new and should have a notable effect in raising awareness and educating the population.
Anchors give unprofessional opinions and act more as if they are on a talk show than journalists. As a result, we get interviews with second graders and a dramatization of our presidential campaign as if it’s a reality TV show and anchors insult the smartest individuals of our country for their evidence backed views with one particular example of a FOX and Friends episode where the hosts had gone to the point of insulting Harvard students’ vocabulary as they used the word “outlandish.”
Yet while popular news channels don’t educate the public, they still have an effect. Just not a particularly benign one.
An analysis of news coverage from the 2016 primary races found that mainstream media outlets engaged in “journalistic bias” that led to over-coverage of the Donald Trump campaign and under-coverage of Democratic candidates, in particular Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The media holds the power of telling the people what to think and what to hear and uses that to their advantage. Votes are bought in this election as contributors to these news channels take advantage of how they get air time for candidates and topics. Such behavior explains the entertainment oriented journalism of the presidential campaign we exclusively see on news channels.
To fix this problem, these corporations need to hold higher standards on journalism or else be legally deemed an entertainment industry and not proper, citable news sources as they are currently deemed. Only then can we take the first step to better educating the American population and having less embarrassing moments as a society in the international community and work to better ourselves on being an educated society of good, active citizens.