Lessons from a 16-year-old on Media Bias: Is Objective Journalism Dead?



As a young adult, politics is everywhere. I’m 16 years old, and I’ve found that this is the age at which a majority of our population begins to form their political ideologies. And while it is impossible to determine exactly the several complex factors that affect one’s personal political stance, be it family, race, gender, religion or region, it’s undeniable that there is often one source in common from which every teenager derives their fundamental opinions: the mainstream media. Sounds trivial? It isn’t.


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Today’s political society is dominated utterly and unreservedly by the media. NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, HBO, WSJ, Bloomberg, Facebook, Twitter, even WhatsApp: the list of our sources of information go on and on; be it in the form of broadcasting, print or social media. In an increasingly interconnected and rapidly globalizing world, our news is ubiquitous. Correspondents and columnists are gaining new authority with the people, most significantly with the impressionable youth. Today’s adolescence has been placed in an unfavourably unique position in that we can access all the information that the world has to offer at our fingertips, but we lack the experience to independently determine the sometimes sinister factors at play in the shadows that affect every word of what we read. Behind almost every mainstream media corporation is a billionaire tycoon or a multinational conglomerate, and there are complex political factors behind every decision being made to release a partisan opinion piece or even a simple informational article. The media loves a narrative, and they will not publish anything that does not push the narrative that they are being paid to push. But I digress.


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Take, for example, CNN and Fox News. Possibly the most elementary of comparisons, the differences between the way these two corporations might break a new story or narrative is all too clear, but we’ll dissect it anyway. CNN is decidedly left-leaning: A May 2017 study by the Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center at Harvard found that 93% of CNN coverage of Donald Trump was overwhelmingly cynical, with negative stories about the President outpacing positive ones by 13 to 1. From immigration to Russian involvement to healthcare, that CNN was not too happy with Trump’s election is an incontrovertible reality. In fact, if you, dear reader, were to visit CNN’s website right now, you would, in all likelihood, find a scathing criticism of Trump dominating the headlines. Now let’s look behind the scenes: CNN was founded in 1980 by a popular media proprietor by the name of Ted Turner, whose net worth is around US$2.1 billion. Turner is unmistakably liberal at heart; he is a strong proponent of addressing climate change and healthcare reform, he openly endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and he has called anti-abortion activists ‘bozos’ in the past. And it doesn’t end there: almost every member of the CNN hierarchy, be it John Stankey, Jeff Zucker, Ken Jautz, all hold a similar political stance. The result? Another pawn in the game of partisan politics, a mouthpiece used by those in power to propagate their own personal ideology.

The same goes for the other end of the spectrum. Fox News is controlled by the Fox Corporation, of which 39% is owned by none other than Rupert Murdoch and the Murdoch family. Murdoch, for those who are unaware, is one of the more controversial figures in the United States political landscape – despite being a media mogul. He is a staunch opponent of what he calls ‘the socialist movement’ and has sporadically supported Donald Trump through the broadcasts in his media empire, most notably on Fox News. Murdoch’s political influence is almost unmatched, owning a little bit of almost everything in the media world: 21st Century Fox, consisting of Fox News and the Fox Business Network among others, News Corp, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, and even Harper Collins, which is one of the world’s foremost publishing organizations. Murdoch has been whispering in America’s ear for almost 3 decades, dating back to Ronald Reagan’s victory in the 1980 Presidential election, where Reagan himself cited Murdoch as one of the reasons for his monumental election and subsequent landslide re-election. He has been one of the Republican party’s strongest allies for every election since. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Fox News is statistically and obviously one of Trump’s most outspoken supporters; 48% of their coverage of Trump was positive in 2017 as compared to figures such as 7%  and 13% boasted by others such as NBC or the New York Times.

The disparity between these two networks is unquestionable. This example, however, is only one of many. On a broader and more elementary level, American journalism has become dishearteningly partisan, with the wealth and influence of those in positions of power, the Turners and the Murdochs, having the minds and beliefs of the impressionable common man at their fingertips. We’ve become the subjects of quiet manipulation, even if we cannot notice it in our everyday lives. The question therefore begs: is objective journalism dead?

Not quite yet. But it is dying fast.