News Media: Friend or Foe?

Written by PTC | Published June 20, 2014

We turn to the news in hopes of gaining the most accurate knowledge of our community and the world around us. We watch it to stay informed. But just how reassured can viewers be that the information we’re given is presented in its raw form? Not too long ago, Jimmy Kimmel tricked the media with a video clip that went viral titled, “The Worst Twerk Fail Ever.” The clip, which first appeared on YouTube, showed a young woman about college age doing a handstand with her feet up against a door gyrating, or “twerking,” her rear against it until her friend unknowingly opened the door. As the door is opened the girl falls, knocking over a burning candle and causing a fire in what supposedly a dorm room. As the fire rages, the clip suddenly ends. After a million viewers had seen the clip, Jimmy Kimmel confessed that the entire scene was a setup. He then went on to poke fun at the countless news stations all over the country that reported a video clip as real. Drama brings ratings. It is what has made reality TV popular. Would the news add dramatic effects just to gain viewer ratings? In a YouTube video titled “Breaking news: Media exaggerates truth,” Georgetown University professor Christopher Chambers states, “You have to engage people. And the way to engage them is with sex, conflict, and fear.” If that’s the case, the news is no better than programs like Two and a Half Men. How unfortunate. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll showed that only 36% believe news organizations get the facts straight. A report from the Daily Source states, “When reporters and editors interviewed in the ASNE study were asked why they thought mistakes were being made, 34 percent said the ‘rush to deadline’ was the major factor, one-third said it was a combination of being ‘overworked’ and ‘understaffed,’ and the remaining third said it was ‘inattention, carelessness, inexperience, poor knowledge’ and just plain bad editing and reporting. So how do we go about receiving the most accurate news? The pressure of being number one doesn’t outride the importance of credible news. Not all media is untrustworthy. In fact, the article goes on to say that, according to a seven-month series of polls by the Center for Policy Attitudes and Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, Americans receiving their news from non-profit organizations were far more likely to have accurate perceptions related to American foreign policy than those receiving their information from for-profit entities. Unfortunately, the accuracy of reported news is likely to get worse as time goes on. So what do you think? Have you noticed the dramatization and inaccuracy of today’s news? Is the news media your friend or foe? What other ways do you go about getting your news?

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