Society is inundated with media coverage of every story, large or small. This is especially true when it comes to politics. The field of journalism has proven to be a powerhouse in the political arena. What the media reports, carries much weight in the outcomes of all things having a political nature. If the media spins a particular story, the general public is inclined to believe it without doing research or fact-checking to determine its validity. Not only did the media coin the phrase, “political-correctness”, but it created it. The media is the driving force behind the ideology that everything must be politically correct or be subject to gross exposure, criticism, and ridicule. With the age of the Internet and social media being as pervasive as it is, every news organization has a digital presence that is readily assessable to the public like never before.
The competition among the major news organizations has ramped up exponentially and has created a sense of urgency in journalistic news reporting. What was once a reputable means of obtaining news and information has become bogged down with media bias, opinion, and embellishment of facts, or lack thereof, in order to gain the public’s attention. In an effort to draw attention to the political landscape in the United States, journalism has gotten caught up in its own game of politics. To that end, journalism provides false information about politics causing voters to believe false information about politicians, journalists provide bias opinions on politicians, and use photography to mislead the general public.
Journalism provides false information about politics to voters
This current election cycle is perhaps the most compelling and arguable of any in American history. There has been much turbulence and turmoil among the candidates vying for the highest office. The media has incited much of what is being put out on all sides. Historically, journalists’ primary job has been to go on fact-finding missions to either support truth or dispel rumors and lies. However, as the digital age has evolved, truth in journalism has taken a back seat to false reporting in order to sway public opinion. According to Reedy, Wells, and Gastil (2014), the public has many different opinions on politics and political candidates. Much of what the public believes is foundationally inherent to their personal beliefs. Journalism serves to shake up public belief with news and campaign messages in order to sway and change public opinion and personal belief in order to further the agendas generated by politics upon society. It does not matter if what is being reported is true or not, the main objective is to change how people think about any given individual or topic. This has been especially true in the political arena.
Journalism provides bias opinions on politicians
If polled, most Americans would say that Fox News is biased towards Republicans and Conservatives and CNN is biased towards Democrats and Liberals. Journalism has become a divided front and departed from its traditional truth in reporting style. The major news organizations have aligned themselves accordingly and the general public has been caught in the fray of the media wars for position within journalistic ranks. Most Americans do not feel that they are getting the truth most of the time and believe that media bias plays too heavily into the mix of reporting the news. The other side of the coin is that when politicians are being attacked by the media they tend to pushback against the media with their own attacks, which gives the perception to the public that media is biased towards a party or candidate. (Smith). Regardless of how media bias is presented, most Americans would agree that journalism has less to do with reporting stories supported by facts and evidence and more about doing whatever it takes to secure ratings, advertising, and support from the public. The political arena has always been a major player to achieve the goals and objectives of journalism.
Journalists use photography to mislead the general public
The use of photography as part of journalism has been highly instrumental in misleading the public. There are two components to photography that are difficult to ignore. One is that pictures do not lie and the other is that pictures say a thousand words. Of course, our current age has introduced all sorts of photo editing software that can alter photographs to make them appear any way they need to in order to deceive and present a different perception from what it actually is. Recently, the National Enquirer came out with a story that Senator Ted Cruz had multiple affairs with several women. The publication even went so far as to post recognizable, silhouette photos of five women in particular to make their story seemingly more credible. Other media outlets went searching for who these women were and uncovered several of them. To support their findings some media outlets took the actual photos and placed them over the silhouette image to show they were one and the same. Senator Cruz vehemently denied involvement with any of them and blamed Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, for his connections to the owner of the National Enquirer to fabricate the story in order to win supporters away from Cruz. The media took both angles to the story and ran with it. Given the media has a love/hate relationship with Trump, the focus shifted from Cruz to Trump and the media debacle surrounding Cruz died down and was never pursued further. This was not the first time the National Enquirer had ousted a political candidate with story and pictures which made their claims about Cruz not only plausible but at the very least, gave voters a reason to pause and considered the possibility. According to Marland (2012), much of what the public sees is generated by the PR offices of political candidates in an effort to present the best perception of their candidates. The myriad of images and video clips generated by PR firms on behalf of their clients are funneled in droves to news organizations in order to minimize and influence journalists’ efforts to portray their political candidates in an unfavorable light. The media has responded to this with much concern because this approach removes the freedom to capture images of political candidates that are more realistic and true to form in the moment versus the alternative that the media frequently puts out. In essence, PR image handlers of political candidates are hired to give their candidates the best public image possible. This has somewhat beat journalists at their own game and has lent itself to the candidates having some control over what they want the public to be privy to. This does leave the door wide open for journalists to follow up on the many trails of the stories behind the pictures for anything that might contradict what the photos of given candidates might represent. Sometimes, journalists will use the suggested photos and spin false stories in order to sway public opinion.
No matter what tactics journalists use to influence public opinion, it can be concluded that the three ways discussed here all have their own ability to do damage to political candidates and sway the public’s perception of them. Media bias also plays a tremendous role in swaying public opinion. It equally serves to align likeminded individuals with journalists’ opinions in a divide and conquer ideology that has been successful through many political, election seasons. Gone are the days of truth in reporting. Traditional journalistic approaches to covering politics are no longer rooted in the facts, but rather in how well a story can be told. Journalism was once an esteemed profession that has evolved into its own indignant, persona molded and shaped by political correctness and the driven desire to win over the public at any cost.
- Marland, Alex. “Political Photography, Journalism, and Framing in the Digital Age: The Management of Visual Media By The Prime Minister Of Canada.” International Journal of Press/Politics 17.2 (2012): 214-233. Political Science Complete. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
- Reedy, Justin, Chris Wells, and John Gastil. “How Voters Become Misinformed: An Investigation Of The Emergence And Consequences Of False Factual Beliefs.” Social Science Quarterly 95.5 (2014): 1399-1418. EconLit with Full Text. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
- Smith, Glen R. “Politicians And The News Media: How Elite Attacks Influence Perceptions Of Media Bias.” International Journal of Press/Politics 15.3 (2010): 319-343. Business Source Complete. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.