Becoming a media master: The state of modern news and identifying bias

(AP/Jenny Kane)

Have you ever been a victim of fake news? Like when you scrolled through Instagram and suddenly saw that “BREAKING” headline about your favorite artist who apparently just died. Then, you eagerly send it to your friends just for them to tell you a troll account posted the graphic. 

Now that we have infinite knowledge and entertainment in the palm of our hands, media consumption is at an all-time high. Among this infinite knowledge though is a seemingly equal amount of garbage online that muddies up the information we absorb. In modern times, media outlets and the internet have never been so empowering yet polarizing. 

Independent journalism is bigger than ever, but the growth of citizen journalism during the Internet Age has made news more amateur and unreliable than ever as well. When reading the news, look for sources with a history of accurate reporting. Check your sources by asking yourself a few questions known as the C.R.A.A.P. test, created in the early 2000s by California State University researcher Sarah Blakeslee. Despite the name, the test is not so crappy. Here are the five questions to ask yourself when consuming content: 1. Is the information current? 2. Is it relevant? 3. Is it accurate? 4. Was it published by someone with authority? 5. What is the purpose of this article?

View the media in the eyes of a content creator: Is the message clear? Is the writer sensationalizing the headline? Trying to gain pity or support?

Unraveling the truth from endless amounts of disagreement and misinformation is a skill in itself.  False news has a long history.

The seed was planted in the 1980s when President Reagan relaxed media ownership regulations. The Federal Communication Commission’s new, lenient laws led to a wave of company mergers with many small, independent media outlets being absorbed by larger ones. In 1987, the FCC voted 4-0 to repeal the policy that required broadcasters to present a balanced coverage for both sides of controversial issues, known as the Fairness Doctrine.

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is a common idiom that urges people not to risk everything they have on one plan. This expression is just as important in the media industry. Consuming news from a wide range of sources and perspectives gives readers more total information to make decisions with.. However, it has become increasingly harder in recent years.

In 1983, 90 percent of American media was owned by about 50 companies. 40 years later and the vast majority of professional media outlets are now owned by just six corporations. These are Comcast, Disney, National Amusements, News Corp, Warner Bros. and Sony, generating approximately $430.6 billion of revenue in fiscal year 2022, or enough money to pay every American about $1,300.

Divisive and sensational headlines are frequently used by media outlets to evoke feelings of anger, empathy, joy or sadness. Because so many people love to consume shocking stories, they generate more revenue, known as clickbait. There are too many to list them all, but watch out for terms such as: shocking, exclusive, guaranteed, must see, secret, scandal, unbelievable and other words meant to elicit a response. 

In this country, people can say (almost) whatever they want thanks to the First Amendment. “With great power comes great responsibility,” is a phrase commonly attributed to Voltaire’s writing during the Enlightenment, but is equally important in the Internet Age nearly 230 years later. Since anyone in America can say what they please, the loudest in the room is often the most popular. With the birth of social media, popularity contests and hunger for clicks have multiplied tenfold, turning feeds into either echo chambers where everyone agrees or into polar-opposite screaming matches, both competing for who can be seen the most. 

The Internet Age is a world constantly bombarded with overstimulating content and hordes of information. If media corporations care more about ratings than rationality, only YOU can separate the facts from the crap. 

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