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Give Us the Facts

By Jeff Dutton
On October 12, 2010

There is something seriously wrong with our news media today.  Whether you are a ninth year senior or a first year freshman, in a relatively short period of time the world beckons beyond these university walls.   This world, which awaits your ideas, insights and talents, contains no shortage of issues and challenges for our generation to face.   Just a brief moment of reflection allows one to generate a fairly extensive list: two foreign wars, a slow recovery from a great recession, environmental degradation, dwindling resources, ballooning national debt, terrorism, political gridlock and the list goes on.  

As we obtain our college educations and prepare to face the challenges that meet us in the world, it is imperative that we have the tools necessary to do so.  One of the most important tools I can think of in rising to meet these challenges is accurate information, for we cannot have honest and open discussion and debate on these issues without knowing the facts surrounding the matter.  This brings me to the topic of the news media, where most, if not all, of us get our information regarding the issues of the day.  The role that the news media plays in setting the tone of public discourse is immense, but what type of reporting is being provided to us from this important, eminent source of information?

Ideally one would be able to turn to the news medium of their choice and find a wealth of articles and newscasts providing detailed, accurate, unbiased information regarding the facts surrounding today's most pressing issues.  My own experience as a news junkie tells me that this is not the case, but I decided to review the news to see what is being reported.  My review began with the front page of the Sunday edition of one of Chicago's two major newspapers and ended with a channel surfing session through the world of cable news.  The results of my review were disappointing, yet not at all surprising.

On the front page of the Sunday edition newspaper, the largest edition of the paper printed during the week, the most prominent story was an article discussing how today's young adults have packs of friends, instead of a singular best friend.  As for my perusing of cable news, the most prominent stories I found being discussed were about a reality TV star from a show about a certain East Coast shore being an alcoholic, and a story about landslides in a foreign country.   While the landslide story is indeed newsworthy, I cannot help but wonder why stories about a reality TV star, or young people's social circles, deserve such prominence with all that is happening in the world.

It seems as though, regardless of the serious issues that challenge these times, our news media is bent on sensationalism; printing and airing stories that appeal to the MTV generation and capture the attention of the all important young adult marketing demographic with tabloid-esque fodder.  Facts about the fiscal policy our government is taking during these tough economic times, the happenings in our two war zones and the science behind the notion of climate change are seemingly not the main focus of our news media, and this is disconcerning.

Yet, the news media is not the only entity to blame for this sad state of journalism.  The newspapers and cable news outlets must turn a profit to survive, and apparently sensationalism sells.  Some of the blame falls on us, the general public, for so willingly accepting this tabloid reporting as desirable news and not demanding journalism that reports the facts on the most pressing issues of the day.  If the state of journalism today concerns you, stop and think before you buy a newspaper with a sensational headline and begin to invest your hard earned money in media outlets that bring you quality journalism and relevant news.

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