From the Revolutionary War to the Watergate scandal, journalism has always held an important place in the political sphere. However, the concept of modern journalism can appear bleak and disappointing, constructed more as an attention-getting ruse rather than an objective means of imparting essential information to the public.
News or Entertainment?
Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see entire articles devoted to a single tweet or outfit choice of a political figure. Even NBC News stooped to this level, publishing coverage of Donald Trump’s twitter account. CBS News followed suit, reporting on what Hillary Clinton wore to the debate and dedicating an entire article to iconic outfit look-a-likes. Journalism has become a smorgasbord of superfluous fluff that serves purely to attract viewers and fill space.
The modern journalist is often seen as a glorified blogger, ceaselessly pushing their own agenda through manipulative and unobtrusive claims, more concerned with their own personal gain than the impressionable minds of the readers’ potential consequences of their work.
With the U.S. Constitution declaring the freedom of the press to publish objective news stories uninhibited by the governmental agenda, journalists and news agencies have an undeniable responsibility to the public.
However, they also have the ability to determine what concerns the American people.
The Bottom Line
The concern of subjectivity and implicit bias in journalism is not a new concept, especially when it comes to politics. News and media corporations hold the power to inform the public. They are in control of what information to share, how to frame the given stories, and which ones to strategically withhold from the public eye. This advantage can be (and so often has been) corrupted by bias and influence.
On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver pokes fun at what modern journalism has become, calling out news networks’ tendencies to report on what the public wants, rather than needs, to hear. Oliver claimed:
“It is clearly smart for newspapers to expand online, but the danger in doing that is the temptation to gravitate toward whatever gets the most clicks, which is why news organizations badly need to have leaders who appreciate that what’s popular isn’t always what’s most important. But that is not always the case.”
See the full segment here.
In short, money controls the media. News companies figure out what sells and stick to it, even if it means dedicating entire 24-hour news cycles to one person or topic. If Michelle Obama’s dress draws the public eye more than pressing election reform, you can expect to see her Vogue shoot all over the politics page – after all, she is the first lady (that counts as political coverage, right?).
In a world that is more concerned with what the Kardashians are up to this weekend than the fate of America’s political system, one thing’s for sure: journalism is moving further and further away from its intended purpose as a professional and objective public informant.