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We are the readers of the news. Without us reading the news, there would be no purpose for the news to exist. The media’s sole purpose is to provide information for their readers. When scrolling down your social media and coming across a post that catches your eye, that one retweet, like, or thumbs up gives that piece of news more and more fame. Overtime we click on a news story whether we like it or not, entertaining that news therefore giving it more and more power. The news media is our outlet to accessing information from all around the world. With the news, we can connect with others around us in the world. We are informed on politics, entertainment, business, and science. Unfortunately, not everything we read pleases us or agrees with our beliefs. We are then left with the question, “how does the media pander to us?” Some may ask, “how is it possible that the media is made specifically to please me if everything I hear on the news is either irrelevant or ignorant?” However, the media is what it is because of us. Everything we hear or read on the news is because we have put it there. When we watch the news and look at what is trending, we must realize that we are the ones who have gave it the power to become so widely popular. Advertisers pay thousands of dollars for their media to be clicked on. Without us clicking on the news then advertisers will not make any money. Therefore, when we click on something, that’s what the advertisers see, even if it is something we do not agree with.
The news media has been a vital piece of history and continues to be an impactful part of today’s society. Brooke Gladstone, an American journalist, author, and media-analyst, speaks about this in her influential 2011 best-selling book, The Influencing Machine in which she discusses the news media and its history. During Hurricane Katrina, the public turned to the media for information and comfort. The news media was talking to the public and provided relief for many people. Reporters would express the public’s anger and frustration and became the voice of the people (Gladstone 41). I recall when Hurricane Sandy occurred. It had been such a sad moment to see the land I grew up on being teared apart. My family and I would tune into the news every hour to see if there were any updates on the horrific loss we have endured. This is something that has happened throughout history and continues to be a part of our lives. This is the news that we need to hear and then there is news that we do not need but want to hear about. For example, the Kardashians and many infamous celebrities like the trending “Cash me outside” girl who is now very widely known across the country and rich because of the attention given by us: the audience. All attention, even negative attention, powered these people and made them so widely known and publicized in media. Therefore, the news makes more stories about them because they are what is trending right now. Whether we like it or not, the media does in fact pander to us, the news stories that are out are what the people want to hear about, or what the people deserve to know.
Although we hear many stories on what is going on in the world through social media, news channels, blogs, and more, we only actually see what is being shown to us. What else are we missing? We are only shown shadows of information rather than the entire picture. For example, the White House has had a reputation for trying to keep secrets from the public. One instance that stuck out to me was when the attacks on September 11 happened. Gladstone states that, “According to the center for Public Integrity, the White House made 935 false statements about Iraq in the two years following the 9/11 attacks” (Gladstone 31). This is a very scary number. Without the media being able to report on any news, this is the results we receive from our public servants. Another is the Watergate scandal; this was a very influential moment in history. When reporters publicized the scandal involving President Nixon, more and more people began trusting the media again (Gladstone 39). There is reasoning behind this. Many reporters struggle with this on a daily basis. The country should have a right to know what is going on in our world. Gladstone tells us, “The media is not afraid of the government. They are afraid of their audiences,”(Gladstone xiv). Although the government officials and presidents are authority figures, they are still public servants, as are reporters. Their jobs are to primarily serve the public. (Gladstone 38). This shows that the media does not write nor speak in order to please the government like they did centuries ago; they disperse information in order to please the people and their readers like in 1644 when newspapers would have to be approved and licensed by congress before they were published (Gladstone 8).
We are the controllers of what is being broadcasted in the media; however not all information is meant for us to know. In “The Cave” by Plato, the prisoner who left the prison and saw into the sun became blind by all of its bright light. Upon returning to his cave to notify the other prisoners of his discovery they decided to remain prisoners because they were happier with their shadows and darkness and not knowing what lies on the outside world (Plato 107). The world of the cave, although seemingly very fictitious, is not unlike the world we live in now. We, also do not know everything that is going on in the world. However, is that such a bad thing? Knowing everything is not always the best option. There are times when knowing less, we as human beings, are happier. Like the people in the cave, our ignorance is the only thing that keeps us sane and helps us sleep at night.
As Elizabeth Kolbert stated in her article “That’s What You Think”, inside the New Yorker magazine, “But here they encounter the very problems they have enumerated. Providing people with accurate information doesn’t seem to help; they simply discount it. Appealing to others emotions may work better but doing so is obviously antithetical to the goal of promoting sound science,”(Kolbert 71). She speaks on the struggle that reporters have to provide accurate information while still pleasing the public. The article itself speaks on how people believe to know more than they actually do. The way our minds work leads us to believe that we agree with is correct and whatever we don’t is invalid. Therefore, when we read news that does not satisfy our beliefs, we are so quick to reject and discredit that information. The media is not at liberty to disclose all information that is sent from the government. They must make the rigorous decision to choose what is being told to the people, how it is being told to the people, and when it is being told. This challenge lies in between how to please the audience while still protecting them from going into a panic.
What we see on the news is information that we requested to be up there. Even if it is something that we may disagree on or even hate. When we watch or give it any attention, negative or positive, we reinforce the media to keep on writing about it. I have caught myself on many occasions retweeting an ignorant or funny post not realizing the impact I am making with that one click of a button. A particular moment that stuck with me is when I came across a video of the Dr. Phil show where a young girl of 13 years old was a guest. Her name is Danielle Bregoli or better known as now the “Cash me Outside” girl. This young girl was put on the Dr. Phil show on September 2016 because she was abusive towards her mother and had clear signs of anger problems. However, because of the slang she used and her ill-mannered personality, she gained a lot of attention from the media. She gained an extreme amount of attention that she became an internet sensation even though most of the comments were hateful comments. Even though people despised her, she was still gaining fame from all the people talking about her. This fame grew more and more until she eventually became somewhat of a celebrity. According to The Sun Magazine, in their article “Who is Danielle Bregoli? Cash Me Outside girl and Instagram star who had a fist fight with her mum”, the now 14 year old girl has about 11 million followers on Instagram and is charging around $32,000 dollars for an appearance. Companies such as Fit Tea and Postmate are now signing her to promote their product. Also, she just signed a recording contract with popular rapper Kodak Black. This young girl is well on her way to becoming a millionaire, because of the attention we gave her. Just searching up her name on any search engine, you will get hundreds of articles dedicated to her. She has her own fan base and followers now. People made many hateful comments about her, calling her “ignorant”, and an “embarrassment”. This is the news that we do not need; however it is news that we will respond to. It is upsetting how most of our news in filled with celebrities like her while we have young girls and boys graduating colleges at the age of 15. This is the news that will not make it to the trending page.
More and more news sources speak on this young girl in order to please their fan base. There are so many people who reject this news and feel like the media is just feeding us “garbage.” Elizabeth Kolbert examined a study, where she said, “Consider what is become known as ‘confirmation bias’; the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their belief and reject information that contradicts them.” The news source we follow or keep up with shows a reflection of our character. It is impossible for the media to please every group of people all the time. Therefore we watch the news station that appeal most to us. “So when we see ourselves distorted in the media mirror, we should probably consider that some of what we see is actually us. We’re seduced by celebrity stories. We enjoy a good car chase. And who doesn’t take guilty pleasure in the refreshing saliva spray of a commentator spouting our views,” (Gladstone xxi) . What we read, follow, and retweet, like, or thumbs up is a direct reflection of ourselves. The media is not controlled by the government it is controlled by us, we have the power to choose what is being broadcasted and brought into light. Whether or not the news promotes substantial events is determined by their readers.
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