From the Editor: News media: the good, bad and ugly

Facebook’s homepage finally loads. Instantly, my attention is pushed and pulled by the onslaught of articles that my friends share.

On the surface, this does not seem like a bad thing. It simply seems like many more self-proclaimed news websites are spreading across our news feeds. They report on everything from the upcoming election to local news. However, just because a group claims it as “news,” it does not mean they do so in the name of real, reputable journalism. Not all of these websites are reliable.

If someone is not in journalism or communication, it may be hard to differentiate a reliable news source from one that is biased or one that is not accurately reporting information. As these articles float around the internet, someone is more likely to believe what they read, regardless of where it comes from. As both college students and informed citizens, we all need to understand the difference between a reputable news website, and one based on opinion or click bait.

When opening random links on Facebook, before you start regurgitating what you read, check out where it is coming from. If it is coming from an established newspaper or journalistic publication, such as The New York Times or The Washington Post, it is trustworthy. It is also reliable if it comes from a college or its newspaper, a government website or organization.

Avoid websites that clearly display any form of bias. For example, websites that lean too conservative or too liberal are not trustworthy because they may actively write or promote stories that further a conservative or liberal mindset. For example, publications such as The New Yorker or Slate lean more liberal. Fox News and Breitbart are very conservative.

As a disclaimer, remember that this is election season and many publications may outwardly advocate for a political candidate. This is not uncommon, as newspapers like The New York Times have been taking sides in elections since the days of Abraham Lincoln, the first presidential candidate they ever endorsed. What is more important is that their overall coverage of events or incidents is still objective and unbiased.

Of course, the opinion section of any publication or website should be filled with opinions. However, be cautious about news stories or videos laced with opinion. Always remember that journalism is intended to be completely objective in terms of reporting and writing.

In addition, a news story should not be teeming with grammatical errors. Editors might miss one or two errors in an article. But if a story is filled with mistakes, that is likely a dead giveaway that the source is unreliable.

The same goes for stories containing many inconsistencies or factual errors. Again, even big newspapers might miss something. However, if a writer is misreporting something that should be common knowledge or if the story is steeped in inconsistencies, that means that no one is fact checking. Journalism is based in the belief that the public should be accurately informed on important issues and events. Never trust a source that is consistently misinforming readers or that foregoes accuracy.

According to Business Insider, the most trusted sources for both national and international news are usually British news websites or publications, such as BBC. This makes perfect sense to me, as they have no reason to lean in any direction of the American political or ideological system. Besides BBC, they also said that most respondents found The Economist to also be highly reputable.

They ranked news sources based on how trustworthy liberals and conservatives, as well as those with mixed beliefs, found the publication. Again, BBC and The Economist were trusted by all belief groups. At the bottom of the ranking, with all groups distrusting them, was Buzzfeed.

Understanding journalism and its duty to provide accurate, objective news is the key to informed citizenry. And this is as good a time to make sure that we are all informed citizens who understand what is happening across our nation. As election day draws nearer, we should make sure we are staying informed. In addition, as college students involved in higher education, we should feel some level of responsibility to be educated.

As we all find ourselves further engulfed in social media, it may seem like it is easier to be miseducated. But if we know which websites to stay away from, then we should have no problem navigating the expanding networks of self-purported news sources. And if we know what websites to scroll past then there is only one thing left to do — open the reliable links and actually start to read the news.

 

The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.

 

Printed in the 10/26/16 issue. 

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