Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Some Responsibility for Shoddy Journalism Falls on Readers

For reasons irrelevant to this column, I found myself watching Fox News last week during one of its regular Obamacare-bashing segments. The anchors had twisted the results of an Associated Press poll on the Affordable Care Act beyond recognition, insinuating that because a large quantity of people claimed to pay more for health insurance, without taking into account their relation to the health-care reform or any actual monetary numbers, the law had failed. It was outrageous, but not unusual, I thought. Fox has, after all, spent the last several years making misinformation and blatant bias its trademarks.

Illustration by Emma Rust.

Lies, damned lies and statistics, I figured. But as I walked away, I reconsidered. How, exactly, did I get so jaded? Journalists like me and, ostensibly, those who work for Fox News serve a single purpose in society: to inform the public. How has blatant misrepresentation of facts become so commonplace that we can dismiss it so easily?

Fox, of course, is not alone. Other media outlets, particularly online media aggregators like Buzzfeed and Upworthy, have shown time and time again that they favor snappy or outrageous headlines to useful content. To a certain degree, this is old news. The media cannot escape a certain amount of propagandizing and sensationalism. In order to function in a capitalist society, any news outlet must have an audience and, usually, advertisers. The media never has been and never will be perfectly objective, just as it constantly works to pick up more consumers with flashy headlines and inane stories.

But the slow demise of print journalism only aids and abets this transition to low-information news. In the internet age, where we get half of our news coverage from Facebook links, this kind of crappy journalism dominates as it never has before. As more and more of the old guard transition into online-focused publications, the quality of reporting suffers. It seems consumers don’t care about good reporting, and content producers are adjusting accordingly. The free market seems to have it out for good reporting.

Fortunately, the free market is not as uncontrollable as we like to think. True, we can’t simply demand that news media abandon its for-profit ways in favor of good journalism. That would require a complete overhaul of capitalism as we know it––a daunting task, and probably even an impossible one. We can, however, watch our own consumption. Check and double-check everything you share against other articles on more trustworthy sites or even refuse to publicize articles found on untrustworthy or link-bait dense websites. Leave Buzzfeed and Upworthy to their quizzes and lists. Decent, well-researched and important content often does not come in link-friendly format. It’s the duty of consumers to show that they care about good content, not just catchy headlines.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *