Walter Cronkite. Barbara Walters. Anderson Cooper. These are notorious newscasters well known for reporting on tough news stories. The public has long been massively influenced by the news industry, from reporting on global tragedies to local news. It is the latter of these two which has an enormous impact on society and the way it views the world.
In the past, it was accepted that reporting was done objectively and without any personal bias. Despite the fact Richard Nixon did not want the Watergate scandal reported on, newscasters still aggressively reported on it. They felt a responsibility to report the truth regardless of a loss of popularity or other potential consequences.
However, slowly over the last two decades, it has become apparent that the news media has lost a sense of that obligation to the truth. Brian Williams, an NBC newscaster, was discovered to have exaggerated as well as lied when reporting news. In addition, corporate influence and the subsequent pressure applied to spin news stories in the name of profits has transformed news from a source of information to simply another form of entertainment.
"If it bleeds, it leads." A common maxim nearly all of us have heard at one time or another. Although it's accurate, adherence to this phrase has played a large part in this transformation. Watch the local news and the world appears to be much more violent than it really is. Of course, no program could possibly report on every single news story out there in a single episode. Focusing on sensational stories or only those that grab people's attention grossly distorts the state of today's society.
Finding one news show that reports both sides of a story is no longer an option. Some come close, but just about every show relies on funding and thus must keep the sponsors satisfied. There are heavily slanted shows toward both sides of the political spectrum, creating a confusing atmosphere where it has become nearly impossible to trust our newscasters.
This is why reading multiple news sources has become more important than ever. Understanding what is being reported, why it is being discussed, and how the information was obtained are all a part of the news. Many talk shows refer to scientific studies, yet grossly misinterpret the data to suit a catchy headline. Such exaggerations cause people to be misinformed and make potentially life-changing decisions based completely on fiction. Often, these studies are not even explicitly mentioned, so a viewer would not be able to easily fact-check the research.
Fortunately, the Internet now gives instant access to many different news sources. Twenty years ago, subscribing to multiple newspapers for delivery was costly as well as impractical. Some people still do get a paper delivered, but the vast majority read it all online. Yet the work of researching where stories come from, and any potential biases, has to be rigorously applied to online publications, especially in an environment where anything can be posted, whether or not there is any truth to it at all.