Media clouds politics with analysis, skimps on reporting

Credit: Gowri Sunder/ Credit: Gowri Sunder/
Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Imagine you’re at work. There has been buzz surrounding a new employee, and your coworker won’t stop pestering you on your opinion of the new employee. Wanting to stay out of the office politics, but also wanting to be left alone, you answer a simple, “As of now, I don’t like him, but we’ve only had one conversation.” Satisfied, your coworker returns to her work, and never brings up this new employee again.

But the next morning, on the front page of the office newsletter is an article about how much you hate the new employee and are hoping he is fired as soon as possible. In the article, there is no reference to the actual words you said, but simply an analysis of what you said, taken completely out of context. It sounds completely unrealistic, but it’s not. This is something the American media has done far too often this election cycle and, in turn, they have harmed the American political process.

With an outspoken candidate like Donald Trump, the media has taken it into their own hands to interpret what Trump said without providing what he actually said. The New York Times recently published an article claiming that Trump said he believes that Barack Obama was born in the United States, and any claim otherwise was simply Hillary Clinton’s latest attempt to prove him distrustful. But, interestingly enough, the author Michael Barbaro never directly quoted the entirety of what Trump said, and only offered his own analysis.

The New York Times’ goal is clear: to continue to paint distrust in Donald Trump and show how he is inept to be President of the United States. Trump has been notorious this election for his fear mongering tactics, and Barbaro’s article (and many others like it) are the media’s way of employing their own fear mongering tactics. Fearful that America may elect Trump, they too play into the game, and only offer their fear ridden analysis.

But Americans aren’t as uneducated as the mass media would like to believe. Instead, these fear mongering tactics have become noticeable, and the public’s trust in the media is falling. Gallup recently conducted a
poll on the public’s perception of the media, and found that only 32 percent have some trust in the media. This number has been decreasing steadily, especially among Americans aged 18-49, a measly 26 percent of whom find the media trustful.

The lack of trust in the media harms the American political process. With the media also
labeling politicians as “stupid,” it contributes to the increasing polarization in America. Instead of allowing the public to form their own opinions on what was said or happened, the media presents a two-sided issue and defends one side. But political issues are never as black and white as they seem, and the current media presentation of issues does not allow for a gray area.

While many Americans may be distrustful of the media, it is the place they go to when they want to keep up to date with current events. So while the general public may be distrustful of what is said, at the end of the day they do see issues as two-sided. While Clinton supporters may have enjoyed The New York Times article, it only continued to place distrust in the media among Trump supporters and created further tension between the two.

This tension further harms the American political process as it decreases compromise among Democrats and Republicans. Democrats see Fox News as destructive and Republicans see CNN as spreading misinformation, and the
increasing bias present in both continues the polarization of America.

If the media instead focused on reporting the facts — what was said and what happened — in a factual manner, Americans would be more willing to compromise. They would not be offered an analysis of what is said, but simply freedom to come to their own conclusions. And if Trump is as terrible as many media outlets believe, most Americans will come to the same conclusion, anyways.

This isn’t to say that the media shouldn’t provide any analysis. With less than half the American population aged 25 and older possessing at least an associate’s degree, most Americans don’t have the education level to understand or the time to research how current events affect our domestic and foreign affairs. But the media should first present current events in a factual manner, and then allow for analysis without the name calling.

The Founding Fathers included “freedom of speech, or the press” to allow Americans to be free to express their political opinions, and to have access to information without government interference. The press is meant to belong to the people and it’s time we are provided with the truth, not simply an analysis of it.