A Fox News report found that 45% of registered voters trusted the Trump administration more than the media, while 42% trusted news outlets over Trump, and 10% didn’t know whom to trust. A similar poll, released by Quinnipiac University, found slightly better ratings. They showed 52% of registered voters trusted the media while just 37% trusted Trump’s administration.
There may be a number of reasons for the disparity, according to an NPR report (e.g. the timing of the Michael Flynn resignation), but the disturbing reality is that a large portion of voters believes Donald Trump’s flagrant lies and exaggerations. That’s a problem. Trump and his administration are the antithesis of science, facts, and research. Without a plumb line, they have no accountability to anyone but their own collective conscience.
But if we can’t trust Donald Trump and his administration, whom can we trust? The mainstream media? Hardly.
The American media has an agenda, but it’s not necessarily politics. They are there to sell stuff. In fact, the Business Insider reports that 90% of mainstream media are owned by just six corporations, which consolidated from 50 companies back in 1983. The mainstream media are masters at evoking the emotions that keep us hooked to our TV’s, radios and smartphones. Whether it’s NBC Nightly News’ dramatic theme music telling you something important is about to happen, or a click-bait ad that says, “You won’t believe what this actress looks like now!”, it’s all designed to get your attention and to keep buying the stuff they’re selling.
Like any other sales person, each of these news agencies has a niche, and it’s not about facts. They gear their sales pitch toward the people they’re talking to. The average age of a Fox News viewer is 68-years-old. The company rakes in a $1.5 billion profit each year. CNN’s demographic tends to be left-leaning, college educated women, between 25-54 years old. CNN is part of Time Warner, and their 2015 annual report shows they earned $28.1 billion.
And if you’re as annoyed as I am at the plethora of drug commercials, consider this: in 2012, drug companies spent $27 billion in advertising. Networks make a fortune from these companies, but only if they can show them how large of an audience they have. The way they keep their audiences large is to keep them entertained, keep stroking their egos, keep telling them they are right, and keep creating an us vs. them mentality. “We have to stick together and you won’t get that by watching those other news shows.”
Historically, the media has given us little reason to trust them, but they have taught us a valuable lesson: It is our responsibility to find out what is really true, regardless of who says it. And fortunately, there are news agencies and individuals committed to reporting facts and information.
Dan Rather, appalled by the barrage of “alternative facts” and mistruths coming from the White House, came out of retirement and, independent of a studio, started a Facebook page called “News and Guts.” Keith Olbermann started another independent endeavor called The Resistance with his own YouTube channel. Other reporters, some independently and others still under the management of larger media outlets, have taken it upon themselves to uncover the truth behind Donald Trump’s statements. Fox News’ Shepard Smith recently addressed the lies of the administration on the air.
Certainly, not all news is fake news. Just because we don’t agree with it, doesn’t mean it’s not true. Most journalists don’t write for the paycheck. Most of us write because we’re curious about people, their stories, our history, and what it means to be human. Journalists bring their own perspective, whether it is conservative, progressive, or somewhere in-between. Sometimes a headline or a story can lean one direction or another simply because humans have a bias. The moral of the story isn’t to discard all news, it’s to check multiple sources and read perspectives that don’t necessarily agree with ours.
As human beings, we too often approach the news like we approach life. We already believe we’re right, so we’re just looking for confirmation. If we voted for Donald Trump, we believe Donald Trump is right. There is little he can do to change our minds. Even his lies and outrageous stories can be disregarded, discounted, and dismissed. While it’s mentally soothing to blame the media for Donald Trump’s behavior, the responsibility to find out the truth, and the consequences of not knowing, fall squarely on us.
Originally Published at Huffington Post
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