Should we trust the media?
The media is a tool to inform the public of the truth about the government, environment, and surroundings. Today, media is no longer as trustworthy as it used to be. With so many sources of news, news companies need to become competitive to beat the competition. As a result, they play the news to make it more juicy and entertaining. The goal of some news is not to inform but to sell their news. That is why we need to be skeptics, not all news from the media is true. We have to research and ascertain the truth of everything we read, even if you search the Internet you will see various articles about the trustworthiness of the media.
What are the factors that affect the credibility of the media?
Many journalists and the organizations with a commitment to producing accurate and informative reports. Yet, there is a reason why it is not as trustworthy as they should. Consider the following factors:
1. MEDIA OWNERS. In almost all countries, there are small but very powerful number of corporations who own primary media outlets. These corporations exert a strong influence on which stories are covered and how will are they delivered to the public. Most corporations are designed for profit and as a result, their corporation owned media release stories and news motivated by economic interests. Stories that may prevent the profits of the owners of a news organization may go unreported or distorted to facilitate profits.
GOVERNMENT INFLUENCE. Believe it or not, some government officials fund the media or they are favored by the media. As a result, the media would release stories in his favor. Government is a very interesting topic, that is why the media will create controversy, whether or not it is real, so that people will continue to buy the story.
ADVERTISING. Media outlets must make money in order to stay in business, and most of it comes from advertising. If you noticed, almost 3/4 of the newspapers are advertisement and only few are news. This is because the primary source of income of these media outlet is their advertisement. The advertisers will not sponsor a program that cast an unfavorable light on their product or management. The editors will ensure that the news articles are pleasing to the eyes of the advertisers, thus they edit what will deter companies from buying a space or time slot in their program/ newspaper. They also ensure that people will buy their newspaper by making news interesting. They make it so grand to interest the public.
According to JW.org, In the United States magazines get between 50 and 60 percent of their revenue from advertising, newspapers 80 percent, and commercial television and radio 100 percent. Advertisers do not want to sponsor programs that cast an unfavorable light on their products or style of management. If they do not like what a news outlet is producing, they can advertise elsewhere. Knowing this, editors may suppress news stories that cast a negative light on sponsors.
DISHONESTY. Not all reporters are honest. Some journalists fabricate stories. Remember that they base their income on how interesting their coverage are. Some journalist would go to war to cover exclusive news to attract viewers. Others would tamper their stories to make it appear that it is real. There is a news reporter in Japan who covered coral vandalism but finding no evidence, the reporter vandalized it himself. In the Philippines, there are prominent and famous news reporters who would throw garbage to the lake and report that people nearby are dumping garbage to this clean lake. Many photoshop technologies are also available and can be used to make a “news report”.
SPIN. Even if facts are as solid as bricks, how they are presented depends on the judgment of the journalist. What facts should be included in a story, and which should be left out? An athlete may have won in a competition, this is a fact, but how he wins can be played of depending on what the journalist and the editors want.
OMISSION. Journalist needs compelling story, hence they often exclude details that would introduce complications or unresolved issues. This causes some facts to be exaggerated and others to be diminished. For television reports, television anchors and reporters may sometimes need to tell a complex story in a minute and important details can be skipped.
COMPETITION. There are so many newspapers and television stations nowadays. Each network and company needs viewers, hence they make it as interesting as they possibly can by adding, omitting, and exaggerating their reports. The more scandalous, the better. A news about a small snake seen in a school can be reported by the media as a monstrous dragon that attacked a school.
MISTAKES. Journalists make honest mistakes. A misspelled word, a misplaced comma, an error in grammar—these can all distort the meaning of a sentence. Facts may not be carefully checked because of their stiff deadlines. They have to put news in a table everyday to meet the deadlines. Numbers too can easily trip up a journalist who, in the scramble to meet a deadline, might easily type 10,000 instead of 100,000.
What we should do to prevent being fooled by the media?
While it is wise not to believe everything we read in the news, it does not follow that there is nothing we can trust. The key may be to have a healthy skepticism, while keeping an open mind. We must do our research to ensure that we are receiving real news. We must ask ourselves the following questions:
1. Who is the provider?
Determine if the report came from a credible, authoritative person or organization. The program or publication should have a reputation for seriousness and not for sensationalism. Know who provide the funds for the news source.
2. What is the source of the news?
Is there evidence of thorough research? Is the story based on just one source? Are the sources reliable, fair, and objective? Are they balanced, or have they been selected to convey only one point of view?
3. What is the primary purpose of the news?
Is it to entertain or inform? Is it trying to sell or support something?
4. What is the tone of the news?
Is it angry, spiteful, or highly critical, it suggests that an attack is under way and not a reasoned argument.
5. Are the facts consistent with those in other articles or reports? Be careful if the stories contradicts each other. One may be true and the other is not, the problem is we do not know which one is correct.
Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.”—Proverbs 14:15.