Media in America today lacks objectivity and are extremely polarizing, creating less opportunities for media consumers to develop their own complex, well-researched opinions.
Despite there being countless choices for where we choose to consume media — The New York Times, CNN, FOX News, Twitter, local newspapers, TIME magazine, Facebook, Instagram, word-of-mouth, etc. — there are only a few major media companies that control what and how ideas are being presented to the public (known as “gatekeeping”). Chapter 3 of Croteau and Hoynes’ 2018 publishing Media/Society: Technology, Industries, Content, and Users discusses the oliogopic media system that we currently have in the United States, meaning that a small number of companies own most of our media outlets.
These media companies voice stories that are less relevant to local communities and more relevant to the overall opinions of the company, voicing opinions of some of the people highest up on the totem pole in the media industry, politics, etc.. Because there are so few companies directing media downstream to consumers, there are very few stories, opinions, interviews, and other informational media that would allow for the general public to form their own opinion about news they hear about. In addition to there being a oliogopic media system, people tend to participate in selective exposure. As referenced in the video lecture discussing chapter 9 of Media/Culture, Paul Lazerfeld’s findings that “selective exposure” is, consciously or unconsciously, a tactic for choosing media widely used by media consumers. Consumers choose media that back up prior beliefs in order to support opinions/knowledge that they already have, making it harder to look past biases and easier to confirm their “correctness” in what they believe to be true.
In order to change the issues in American media that were mentioned prior, there are many options; however, one of the easiest ones might be to simply encourage consumers to branch out from their “home” news channels, apps, subscriptions, and social media and take time to research primary sources, other news sources, and take a break from social media. This way, consumers can understand how to push themselves beyond simply being the receiver of information. Perhaps they decide that they would like to create their own media content to fill in holes in top media coverage, talk about their interests, or just add their voice to the mix in comments. On the side of media producers, it would be beneficial for journalists to become more objective with the stories they report, and to promote that style of journalism early on in higher education. Eventually, the goal would be to have media outlets be less intentional about putting out media that will profit them, and more focused on media that will benefit the consumer and widen their worldview.