When we go to a restaurant or a supermarket, for the most part, we assume that what we eat is safe. This is because the FDA regulates what goes into our food in order to ensure that Americans consume foods that are safe. Similarly, we assume that the news we read is true. Without looking at these stories carefully, we ignore how the news has been refined to better the “taste” of the stories, thus ignoring the harmful side effects that this type of editing could have. In fact, through the power of censorship and skewed information, news conglomerates can perpetuate inaccurate ideas that Americans adopt as fact—a trend that is perilous to the nation at large.
So, why exactly do media platforms choose to contribute to the misrepresentation of news? Often times, it is because their success and ability to attract readers is measured by flashiness of titles and juiciness of stories. This unfortunate truth is one of our deepest societal flaws. Consumers are drawn to read articles that assert that the creepy clowns are in fact real, claim that Hillary Clinton was caught selling weapons to ISIS, and that Obama signed an executive order to ban the pledge of allegiance in schools nationwide (Yes, these articles all attracted over 1 million shares on Facebook in 2016). Likewise, subconsciously, many SHS students found themselves reading and believing the article that contended we will all participate in communal reflection. This is because we constantly overlook the news we read and seldom question the validity of its content.
We at SHS have the power to collectively prevent this broken-telephone news from tainting our opinions and condemning others. Firstly, we must learn to detect bias when it is presented. Rather than accept a source simply because it is what our friend shared on Facebook, it is important to thoroughly investigate a source and check that similar content is being presented by neighboring sources before deeming a story as factual. Next, we must actively oppose the dissemination of fake news on social media. If we recognize that our Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter followers post an article that we know is distorted or embellished, it is important to report the post before it continues to be shared. Lastly, we should be open to read content that is written from a perspective that opposes our own. By choosing to only follow and read news sources that support our views, we are feeding into the skewed and biased news. In order to overcome this epidemic, we must learn to be informed on a spectrum of opinions and try to avoid one-sided sources.
by Avi Altman