Cast a wider news net

Truly balanced stories are too often unicorns in the media field these days.

The Editorial Board
Sun, 09 Aug 2020 04:00:00 GMT

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Political polarization is rising to intractable heights, and America’s news media is evidencing a similar split. It is therefore difficult to trust any individual outlet, written, televised or podcasted, to uphold the staunch old ideals of fairness and impartiality.

Truly balanced stories are too often unicorns in the media field these days.

To fully engage with the pressing issues of the day, citizens should look beyond their social media feeds and confirmation biases in researching news and topics.

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Put another way, as high school English teachers still admonish, Americans should find multiple quality sources before declaring a position.

A recent Pew Research Center study reveals deepening levels of distrust of the media split along partisan lines.

Out of 30 well-known outlets, not a single source is trusted by more than 50 percent of the adult population.

Republican faith in papers like The New York Times and The Washington Post has dropped to historic lows, and Democratic distrust in sources like Fox News and Sean Hannity has increased to about 61 percent and 38 percent, respectively. This is because of, in part, President Trump’s crusade against mainstream outlets but it has been helped considerably by news organizations’ drive to spark outrage and controversy.

A progressive on a steady diet of CNN and MSNBC will not always be confronted with honest representations of conservative arguments. Similarly, a conservative devoted only to Fox News or the Washington Examiner is likely denying himself both fact and argument.

As journalists rush to claim and defend moral causes ranging from the Black Lives Matter protests to COVID-19-related lockdowns, truth has become personal and malleable. Left-leaning outlets portray the protests as “mostly peaceful” and downplay incidences of rioting and looting; right-leaning coverage emphasizes the unrest and lawless activity.

The truth of what happened lies somewhere between these two takes.

Americans should look beyond the outlets they trust and foray into different ideological territory as often as possible, taking care to guard against the misinformation that has proliferated online in recent years. Doing so could grant a new understanding of the opposing side’s positions on different issues and elevate discussions beyond talking points and browbeating.

Reading National Review does not magically transform anyone into a Republican sympathizer, and recognizing that The New York Times employs many of the best journalists in the country doesn’t imply agreement with their positions, stated or tacit. Reading both only arms citizens with additional information and perspective.