Polarized by the Media

How the News Breeds Division

Murray NEB-I recently read a CNN article about an interesting idea to help fight polarization, the opposition between viewpoints, in our country. The idea in the article isn’t important so much as the theme is. Fighting polarization. This is a topic which I have found common in major media sources. It isn’t hard to find articles that reference polarization as an issue. Some, like the article I mentioned, even offer solutions for this problem. Personally, I have come up with my own solution. It involves the news sources showing more accountability.

These sources appear quite content to sit back and write about this problem or offer suggestions on what people could do to help. But what they seem to have missed in many of these articles is the fact that they are some of the driving causes of this very same polarization.

News sources have a lot of power over how we perceive the world around us. You can see this when you observe how the world appears in sources like Fox News versus those like The New York Times. Differences such as what topics go to print, how they angle the articles and where their opinion pieces lean.

News sources have a tremendous amount of power over what people perceive as the problems of the day. What a news source decides to cover is what their readers come away believing are the major issues. For instance, CNN has a daily newsletter where they send out a paragraph on five different topics. On any given day, most people probably don’t give a lot of thought to what is happening down in the Amazon, but when CNN says that one of the top five stories is deforestation in Brazil, then people get concerned about climate. This really starts to develop into more of a dividing problem when the differences in topic get political.

While Fox covers a story about Kamala Harris’s niece incorrectly assuming that the perpetrator of a shooting was white, liberal sources didn’t have anything to say on the matter. And while those same liberal sources were all over an alleged money-for-pardons scandal involving some of the higher-ups in the Trump administration, Fox News had nary a mention of that particular detail.

There are a lot of pieces to cover when an influential member of the opposite party makes a mistake, but not so many when it’s their own people. This sort of partisan reporting serves to justify people in their beliefs instead of presenting them with the complete truth. This only pushes them further down the polarizing path.

While the media may be able to point out that polarization exists, it is just as important that they recognize their contributions to it. Without that, it will be difficult to enact meaningful change.