Contributing writer offers insight on influence of media in politics, culture

By Alex Pinsk || Contributing Writer

Idealistically, the media and news sources inform us about the happenings in politics. Ideally, they give us accurate representations of our presidential candidates, lowdowns of the ever so useful debates, and important information from significant speeches and conventions. Realistically, this is not the case. In fact it is virtually impossible.

The great majority of Americans get their news from social media. According to the Pew Research Center, 62% of adults get their news from media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc. 14% even report to employ Vine as a news source. The reality is that social media has become such an inherent part of everyday life that few people have no exposure to it at all. Social media can be valuable in many ways – it is useful in order to stay in contact with friends, post pictures, voice opinions, etc. – however, in terms of news, it is inaccurate. More often than not, people edit videos, photoshop photos, make fun of different people  – in this case political candidates – on the media. They see the flaws in the candidate that they disagree with and magnify it ten fold. For example, one might post a 20 second clip of Hillary Clinton’s hour long speech – a clip of her, say, making little sense; however, that was only a very small portion of the speech. Those who did not watch the speech in full would have no idea what else she said – and thus would have a potentially inaccurate representation of Hillary Clinton. Yet, this is how it tends to work, people form opinions based on the media’s depictions of different issues.

In addition to social media platforms, news sites, even those that claim objectivity, represent political situations inaccurately. As F&M freshman Maeve O’Brien puts, it news sites “have full influence over which stories they cover, how much time they give to each candidate, and how they frame debates”. Although information in Fox, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, CNN, etc. is not necessarily incorrect, it is most certainly flawed because the editor chooses what to publish, where to put it in the newspaper, and how to structure each article, newscast, or video.

Despite the imprecision of news on social media and news sites, I would argue that the media plays a crucial role in politics – whether or not the information it presents is accurate. These days it is almost impossible to get unbiased news – namely due to the fact that there are no unbiased news sources. Thus, everyone gets information from the media, making it incredibly influential. The media functions as a mediator between the the people and the government. The fact that anyone can contribute to the media gives us the illusion, for some not even an illusion, that we have some power in the governmental process. That is important because it is key in order for a liberal democracy to function. People need to be able to voice their opinions and have them heard by the general public. And what better way to express an idea than through social media platforms that everybody knows and uses constantly. Yes, we have the right to vote; however, I would argue that more powerful is our right to freedom of speech and of the press – both of which we can exercise on media platforms. Additionally, those under 18 who cannot vote and seemingly have no impact on the elections, debates, etc. can use social media to learn about what is going on. In other words, the media is a creative, modern way to get people interested about, absorbed in, and often even heated about political situations.

But really the media is important in politics because it is the only way most people get their information. Few actually attend debates or conventions, so they must use the media and the news to get details and statistics about what is going on. Seeing as there are not any impartial news sources, we must collect from all of the different partial sources – inclusive of Facebook posts, tweets, news articles, videos, etc. – and form our own opinions.

Ultimately, the media is a controlling factor in the way the Untied States government functions and, thus, it is an extremely important aspect of politics to consider. Too often, we disregard opinion pieces, long rants, or videos that do not agree with the opinions that we think we hold about certain issues. However, often those beliefs change overtime because of our exposure to different ideas. We cannot turn a blind eye to opinion pieces and biased news sources because they are all subjective. The only thing we have to work off of – in terms of all news but specifically politics – is subjective. Despite the inaccuracies of the media’s portrayal of different conceptions, those representations are crucial in our understanding of the political world and our role in it.

First-year Alex Pinsk is a contributing writer Her email is mpinsk@fandm.edu.

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