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Bias in Media Reporting and Its Effect on Public Opinion

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Media plays an important role in the passing of information to the citizens. Almost the whole population in one way or the other rely on television or read a newspaper for information. Based on what the targeted audience read, it shapes their opinion on various issues for example racism, politics, abortion, and homosexuality. Mass media power cannot be underestimated especially in shaping the opinion in the society. Depending on what kind of opinion the Media outlets want to put across, it can decide to stress and publicize one side of the story more than the other angle.

The most common way media bias occurs is when the news is reported in unbalanced manner or journalist to engage in sensationalized reporting. The main purpose of media bias is to instill individual ideas into the audience even though it may not it might not be true facts. Media bias could span from the way an individual’s portrayed to the society, racial representation of information or corporate propaganda. Media bias could either be a negative, positive or inaccurate portrayal of information in order to shape the opinion of the viewers. Depending on which side is reporting mass media can shape public opinion to sway towards the conservatives or liberal.

Types

Biased reporting of information can be classified into various categories. It could be omission where one side of the story is left out. In this case, either the liberal or conservative side of the story is omitted. The second form of bias selection of sources. This is where the source of the information being used only supports one side of the story. The third form of media biases is story selection. This is where the only story that supports particular ideas are highlighted while ignoring those with opposing views. Finally, there is bias by labeling. It is most prominent when covering political news. Liberal or conservative politicians are tagged with extreme labels or groups leaving the opponents unlabelled. This form of bias reporting can also occur when a reporter identifies a politician on news as an expert in a particular field rather than as a liberal or conservative but as either an expert which brings out a positive image. In this case, the politician is given an authoritative atmosphere that is not deserved.

Media Bias in Politics

Can it be said that the media is biased? Depending on the side of political views represented, the media is evidently biased on both sides be it conservatives or liberals. The liberals believe that there are conservative media that report incorrect information and the same opinion is viewed by the conservative. Media bias is a big problem currently and trying to suppress it is even more difficult because of the fact that they are owned by corporate giants that have specific agenda. It is a serious problem since it is being used to instill certain beliefs that can have a negative influence on the society. The citizens rely on Television news and other media outlets for information in order to make an informed decision about public policy and how to cast their votes.

Media houses have the power to uplift or kill an individual political career; they can make a political candidate likable or not. They tend to focus on what they want the public to see and ignoring other facts that can have an influence on the result. In the end, the media houses take advantage of the inability of the public not being able to make an informed decision regarding the issues in hand like public policy and eventually misinform the public. In the recent past, the media seems to be the one setting the trends on what to be discussed, they are coming up to a reality they want the viewer to see.

Example of Media Bias

The 2016 US presidential election was marred by widespread lack of credibility in reporting from the media houses. Throughout the election, media reporting was divided between the two presidential candidates. It is still a debate whether the coverage had an influence on the election outcome or not. Over the election campaign period, Donald Trump faced negative coverage that was aimed at portraying him as a racist and xenophobe. The GOP and president Donald Trump urged that Hillary Clinton received favorable news coverage than him during the campaign period. While the Democrats said that the media often aired uninterrupted Trump’s speeches. The way the 2016 general election was covered was marked by overwhelming negativity.

Reflecting back during the campaign period, a majority of the newspapers endorsed Hillary Clinton. This led to Donald Trump claiming that the mainstream media is deeply corrupt and misleading the American public. Both candidates received a fair amount of coverage though Trump coverage was more negative compared to Clinton. The election may be one of the most unbalanced in news coverage of the candidates. The election brings to light the kind of information that is always delivered to the voters making it difficult for them to come up with independent opinions on different policies. There is a blurred line that distinguishes between good or bad candidates from either conservative or liberals and the news media are not making it any easier.

A substantial number of the public are not aware that they were manipulated into believing in certain information. Another example of misleading information obtained from the media occurred when the New England Patriots visited the White House. Apparently, The New York Times tweeted a misleading caption of photos of the Patriot’s visit to the White House. The Patriots responded to the tweet. In the photos, The New York Times was trying to portray that the players and staff had boycotted the visit to The White House in protest of President Donald Trump. The team posted photos of their visits in 2004, 2015 and 2017. Comparing the two photos from, the one in 2015 has both staffs and players but the one in 2017 only had players. As much as it is a common occurrence for players to boycott white house visits for various political reasons. But The New York Times was trying to show that there was a massive boycott by the team which was not true at all. This was meant to sway public opinion on the president popularity and question his image to the public.

Impact on Public Opinion

In a recent poll conducted in 2017, 62% of American believe that media is biased towards one political side than the other. 64% believe that the media favour democrat party more compared to 22% who believe it favour Republicans. In addition, 55% of voters’ think that the mainstream media report inaccurate information. This statistics could also be blamed on the media outlets bipartisan audiences. Political coverage of news is a reflection of the type of audience the media is attracting. The question whether mainstream media is just part of the massive political divide is hard to answer. The Media is in a dilapidated state. The way information is being presented to the public has changed. Currently, it is not about informing the public with facts but rather telling the public in an effort to shape their opinions. The problem has already encroached into the public itself whereby the audience only tunes in to media station that has an identical political ideology like them. Many are still claiming to be neutral in their news coverage but it can easily be noticed that news coverage from various media outlets is connected to a particular political opinion. According to a survey conducted by Business Insider, CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS have an audience that leans on the left while Fox news has an audience that is more conservative. Among the newspaper, Wall Street is more conservative, the New York Times is identified by a liberal audience while left-wing readers are associated with the USA today.

Conclusion

There is still much debate on the role of media in the society and how they shape public opinion. Journalist and owners of these media outlets are just humans with differing beliefs and political affiliations, but they should try to pass information in a neutral manner and let the audience come up with their own opinion. Mainstream media has a huge impact on politics, regardless of which side they are reporting the media is still manipulative and persuasive in matters related to the political decision made by the audience. As for now , bias in media reporting is still rampant and it will still continue as long the public is not educate enough to formulate independent opinions on policies and politics.

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Bias in Media Reporting and Its Effect on Public Opinion. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 25, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/bias-in-media-reporting-and-its-effect-on-public-opinion/
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Bias in Media Reporting and Its Effect on Public Opinion. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/bias-in-media-reporting-and-its-effect-on-public-opinion/> [Accessed 25 Jun. 2022].
Bias in Media Reporting and Its Effect on Public Opinion [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Sept 01 [cited 2022 Jun 25]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/bias-in-media-reporting-and-its-effect-on-public-opinion/
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