The Missouri Miner

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EST. 1915

Media bias and political polarization

Danielle Sheahan

Change can be small or large, depending on the scope, but most pair the idea of change with one for the greater good. Many are discouraged, even overwhelmed, by thought of enacting change upon the world. So how does one make change in this world? There are tons of unusual ways one can make a difference in the world, but most people believe you must take extreme action to do so. This is not alway the case, it really depends on what type of change you want to make. Is it a long or short term change? Is it a change in your own life or one that would better society or the greater good? Regardless of your desired change, one change that each person can make is putting more effort in being and staying informed with current events, even if that means stepping out of your comfort zone or typical sources of news. It is so common for people to stick to their tried and true sources and sources with bias that aligns with their own; however, it is crucial for your own understanding and even for the general population to work toward better understanding the possible bias of the news you read and watch. The effects of understanding possible bias and further researching an event to better grasp the climate extends beyond yourself and back into society, impacting human interaction.


Today, so many people want instant gratification with practically everything, even when it comes to politics - often favoring news that aligns with their political affiliation. The United States government is a democracy and the founding fathers set it up so that the three branches of government would have equal power, or rather a checks and balances system. This meant that they were purposely creating a government which would be in gridlock most of the time, while trying to make decisions. The purpose of the gridlock is to keep any one branch of the government from taking too much power and only working toward their own goals. This goes along with our two-party system, in the sense that because a roughly equal number of people blindly align with either side, those who are more informed sway the balance of power in their direction most of the time. Unfortunately, these mechanisms are becoming less effective with the growing polarization in the United States.


Carroll Doherty from the Pew Research Center wrote an article called, “7 things to know about polarization in America.” He collected data all the way from 1994 to 2014 to show proof of the polarization of our two political parties.

“[Today,] 39% of Americans currently take a roughly equal number of liberal and conservative positions, down from 49% in surveys conducted in 1994 and 2004.”


Something that has happened over the past decade that has caused some of the polarization in government is the rise of social media. The ability to personalize what media we watch has helped our views become polarized because it allows people to live in an echo chamber of view they agree with. It was not always like that, before people were able to shut out different opinions by only watching the O’Reilly Factor or getting your news strictly from Facebook, the news depended on a medley of writers working for the same news group. Having journalists with different views would allow a single newspaper or program to bring multiple perspectives to the daily news all in one place. Today, it is easy to say The New York Times is much more liberal than it is conservative and that the Wall Street Journal is more conservative than it is liberal. Having a bias is not always a terrible thing, but it does make it difficult to separate the facts of what is happening from the opinions.


Overall, it is important to understand not only the content of your political news, but the author’s bias and what they want you to learn from their articles. Ideally, everyone would learn that they can change society for the better, but to do so you cannot be ignorant of those who have different views.


http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/06/12/7-things-to-know-about-polarization-in-america/

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