People around the world turn to at least one form of the news to update themselves about current social, economic and political issues. In the early 20th century, news was primarily obtained through newspapers. This was a relatively slow process, considering that it might take a day or sometimes even more for local newspapers to update about current events. With the popularity of the radio came a much faster means of transporting information, although this form of news was only available during broadcasts. With television came the evening news, the morning news, and the afternoon news.
Today, news is reported 24/7 around the world, in millions of different online and print publications. Updated news takes seconds to transmit and only seconds to read, hear, or watch. There is no end to the number of different news publications or programs that are endlessly reporting the news, so it is no wonder that many news programs are now turning to more opinionated anchors. News programs with more opinionated anchors are much more popular because now, news programs and publications must fight to to keep public viewers tuned in. Dramatic headlines, intense subjects, emotional news reports and buzz words are the new status quo among news reports which are constantly vying for viewer attention. But is the popularity of current styles of news reporting too influential on its viewers?
News should strive, above all, to be two things: informative and objective. Objectivity is one of the toughest goals to strive for when reporting the news, especially when it comes to heated situations like political events, political debates, human rights, and violent crime. News programs should also be informative and inform its viewers about—at the very least—the basic facts surrounding any event. It is only natural for any reporter to give their own opinion, however subconsciously, about the news. However, when a news program decides to present personal opinion again and again as fact, often leaving out details which are disharmonious to that opinion, it can warp the viewers’ sense of events to a great degree. Viewers may not even be aware of the basic facts surrounding an event, which questions the legitimacy of the news program itself.
For an example of a news program which may be considered too influential, let’s look at Fox News. Fox News presents current world events through the eyes of opinionated anchors, reporters and journalists. But is their opinionated style of reporting having a negative effect on viewers?
In a 2011 poll undertaken by Fairleigh Dickinson University, it was found that people who learn about current news events by watching Fox News were significantly less likely to know correct answers to basic questions about world events than those who did not watch news shows or read newspapers at all! Fox News, which presents events in a heavily opinionated manner, is one example of the current news proving too influential on its viewers. The viewers who primarily watched Fox News were not able to state a basic fact about a current world event at the time of the poll—not a specific opinion about the event, but a fact. Fox News’ programming, then, is not only opinionated but also not informative.
To quote the university’s findings:
[People ]who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all … Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news…
If opinionated news reporting like Fox News can keep a viewer in the dark about such an important event, then there is almost no telling what other kinds of influences that style of news reporting can have on their world view. Instead of striving to capture viewers with flashy logos or buzzword headlines, the news should once again turn to providing objective and informative reporting about world events.
I pointed out Fox News in this article, but in actuality, almost all news broadcasts are guilty in one form or another in trying to influence your options on important issues. It is everyone’s responsibility to learn all they can on issues and not just take one news broadcast to make or form opinions on anything.