In today’s increasingly-heated political climate, a lot of the political discourse and rhetoric has grown more and more extreme. Hot-button issues like abortion, marriage equality, and stem cell research continue to divide us and stir us up. As a result, hot-button issues dominate the news headlines day in and day out. News organizations like FOX News and MSNBC capitalize on the division of our country with often-extreme views and coverage that reflects them.
However, it is important to realize that most of America’s major news outlets, which include FOX, MSNBC, CNN, various talk radio stations, websites like Yahoo! News and newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, among many others, are major corporations that own the vast majority of American media outlets, and they are out to make money. Because they want to make money, these news organizations tend to disproportionately cover hot-button issues that provoke and incite the public, and they often do so from extreme viewpoints. It makes sense: the more people talk about these issues, the more they will use the news media to try to keep informed. But, from these news outlets’ perspectives, readers/listeners/viewers are all consumers. Therefore, news outlets capitalize on the divisiveness of issues that often do not have any significant impact on everyday life. Additionally, depending on the news source, the coverage is often biased.
So, what do we do about it? Frankly, outside of massive boycotts that are not likely to occur, we can’t do much to stop it. But, we can take measures to inoculate ourselves against it. A great way to start is by relying on multiple news sources, not just one. If you read a story on CNN, try to find a story on the same topic from, say, FOX and Yahoo! too. Cross-referencing like this will help you gain a more complete understanding of an issue, and from there you can make a better judgment. Another tactic you can use is to look at news organizations that are either from other countries like the BBC, or nonprofit news organizations like NPR. Since these organizations are not major American corporations, they have a lot more leeway to be less biased, and in my humble opinion, they usually are.
I am not saying that outlets like CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, or Yahoo! are evil or not worth utilizing. I’m only saying that you should never rely on one of them by themselves. Think of it in another way: if you wanted to buy a 72” HDTV, would you visit only one store and pay whatever their price is, knowing that store really wants your money? I personally would compare prices among a few different stores, and then make a decision based on a more complete set of information. News in America is the same way: if you always do your due diligence and check multiple sources, you’ll find that you are much better informed and that you can make a better judgment.