By Harrison Yu
Reading through these many blog posts, you might think that our day is done after running around D.C. and meeting with so many influential people. Well, you’d be wrong. At the end of just about every day, we come together to discuss, typically, what we learned that day, and any particularly striking insights that anyone might have. Being a group comprised of intelligent individuals, these evening meetings tend to take a couple of hours.
After recounting our joys of working in service for Martin Luther King Jr. Day with City Year, we turned our attention to the media, which is always relevant. Having had a weekend free in the city to explore the Smithsonian museums, eateries, and monuments, it was time to catch up with the real world. Yesterday evening, we briefly covered the confirmation hearings, Trump’s press conference (which itself brought up a lot of issues), and civil rights in regards to John Lewis. But tonight’s conversation was especially interesting to me, being one of the students on this trip not in the Journalism school.
We discussed how the media has been portrayed in the past year. Whereas it was once the gatekeeper and disseminator of unbiased (or stated bias) news, it has since been characterized as anything from unfair to leftist propaganda. Of course, my natural question was, “If the media and newspapers don’t want to be characterized as unbiased, why do editorial boards choose a candidate to back during the election cycle?” I learned perhaps the most from my peers during my sessions than I have at a few of our other meetings. Editorial boards, while the conscious of the paper, are separate from the articles published by the newspaper. Articles not in the editorial section are supposed to be impartial in their reporting, and go through layers of review and verification for facts. While editorials allow people to voice their opinion (an important aspect of U.S. society), news articles published are supposed to present–as close to humanly possible–the reality of the world.
So, why do we have biased news? Because that’s what people want to read, watch, and listen. Donald Trump has turned his TV persona from fiction to reality simply by being brash in the face of the political norms of being tactful. Audiences want to see what he does next, so we have media covering his every move in order to gain viewers, so we end up with sensationalized news instead of verified news. Despite Trump’s admonishments of fake news, he helped reinforce the industry by being the exact thing that those outlets cover. They aided his rise to the White House, he helped them reach more people. If you want better news, hold the press accountable. If you want a better presidency, hold the press accountable.