by Laura Haspeslagh
The media has always been under scrutiny. Many claim that George Orwell warned us of its dangers in his novel, “1984.” Though the book was written in 1949, many see similarities in his dystopia today.
Media has come up in politics more often with the topic of “fake news.” It feels as though we are surrounded by misinformation, making it difficult to find the truth. I think this confusing time stems from a fear that the media is in control of how we think. We’re worried about becoming the common analogy of conforming sheep and the government turning into the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Mass communication studies show that the media isn’t telling us what to think, but instead what to think about. This still worries many, that the elite conglomerates of this county who own mainstream media companies are forcing their agenda upon us. So do we control the media or does the media control us?
Fearing the media would be a symptom of paranoia. To claim that the media has control over us would be to forfeit our abilities and accept that we are gullible. We have the sources needed to keep mainstream media accountable. Fact checking sites work avidly to confirm or deny information that sources put out. The market also works in a way that competitors keep each other in check in an effort to prove themselves to be the more reliable network.
Social media provides an outlet in which viewers can immediately respond in a positive or negative way that effects news reporting. It’s true that media is constantly in our faces within our society but we are the ones in control of the information we accept or reject. To say the media controls us would be undermining our own capabilities.
We know better than to simply accept whatever information is fed to us. Skepticism is important in verifying any information we receive. That’s why it is urged that we get our news from multiple sources. Any information from media should be taken with a grain of salt but that does not mean we must condemn it entirely. The media does have an agenda, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
There are so many topics that people value in hopes of making a difference, it would be impossible for anyone to give a fair amount of coverage to each issue. Media can provide the people with a unified topic to focus on that begins discussion and can lead to change. This isn’t to say that the topics that the media covers are more important than others or that the work that activists do is less important because it isn’t being covered by the media. However, the topics acknowledged in the news reach a mass audience that, in return, can illicit important discussions and change. Getting such a large audience to think and discuss similar issues is a feat in of itself.
Instead of fearing media, let’s embrace it wisely. Educate ourselves on issues brought up by the media and on the ones that aren’t. Listen to our peers and their own narratives on controversies. Have open-minded discussions. Become investigators ourselves. The media doesn’t have the power to control us unless we give it to them.