A Message On The Media

Student Columnist-Zack Siegel

American politics is in a state of turmoil, this is no secret. Politicians have become more partisan, and moderates seem to be forced to choose a side if they want their voices to be heard. The United States has faced political divisiveness throughout history. We have endured the Civil War, the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, arguments over climate change and most recently, the political polarization surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
What sets today apart from the past, however, is the endorsement of partisanship by the media. I am not suggesting that the media is the source of the polarized opinions of U.S. citizens. Discussing and debating differing opinions and coming to an agreement together is the ideal that America was founded on, but encouraging division is damaging our ability to work together as a nation.
Instead of reporting the news, the media has begun to preach to their target audience by determining which issues are important to them. Many people say this is a result of freedom of the press and freedom of speech, but I think it is more than that. Across the country, people are convinced that politics is not about reaching the middle ground, but rather insisting upon their own view of the issues at hand. In addition, it seems that people now choose which news source to rely on based upon which source will provide confirmation of their own opinions and preconceived notions.
On Jan. 13, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employers. Although people are knowingly divided on the issue of vaccination mandates, the media has served to enhance this divide. Two of the country’s most popular news sources, CNN and FOX News, released articles discussing the outcome of the court’s decision. However, the message that each article conveyed was very different. Based on the headlines alone, it is clear which side of the political spectrum each author is trying to reach.
CNN reporter Jacqueline Howard titled her article, “Supreme Court Decision On Vaccine, Testing Requirements Leaves Next Steps ‘In Businesses’ Hands’”. This article begins with an overview of the decision made by the court. I think we can all agree that her recap is inherently news. However, as the title suggests, Howard then quotes various sources and discusses the ways in which businesses, and state and local governments should require vaccinations for employees. Regardless of my (and your) view of the COVID-19 vaccine, it has become a political issue. This section of the article does not seem like news, but instead, a politically driven opinion targeted towards a certain audience. There is nothing wrong with a reporter sharing an opinion. There are sections of the publication dedicated to opinions, such as editorials and columns. However, this article was published in CNN’s Health Section, which is not an openly opinionated section of the news source.
Similarly, FOX News reporter Timothy H.J. Nerozzi wrote an article covering the court’s decision titled “Biden’s Consecutive Losses At The Supreme Court: The Supreme Court Has Handed President Biden A Number Of Blows From Immigration Policies To The Vaccine Mandate”. Again, this article discusses the decision made by the Supreme Court, but then morphs into a piece that takes shots at the Biden administration itself. While CNN used the decision to discuss ways to enforce a vaccine mandate, FOX News used the decision as a way to emphasize the Conservative-dominated Supreme Court’s disapproval of Biden’s policies. Both news outlets’ articles seem to promote the individual and polarized opinions of their readers.
This column is not meant to discredit either publication or to say that the journalists and their respective media outlets are not reliable. It is meant to invoke thought and draw attention to the already well-known issue of partisanship in the media. This issue is not one of right and wrong, it is one that requires all Americans to work together to prioritize truth over individual opinion.