When was the last time you had a civil conversation with someone who had opposing political views to you? In a time where politically-motivated media posts are prevalent, very few face to face conversations occur about these same issues. Polarization of parties and certain issues have caused open-ended political conversations to become almost extinct in contemporary American society. In a survey I conducted with 63 people of a wide variety of demographics—including Yale Undergraduate students, former peers, and any adults I could reach—96.8 percent of individuals said they have a negative outlook on modern American politics. One glaring reason why this is the case: media bias.
The most popular news channels on your television set or news app cover only a sliver of the actual news. According to Statista.com, Fox News and CNN are the first and third most watched news networks in the United States. I will be breaking down the bias of each of those networks.
First off, let us look at Fox News. Fox News was launched in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch, and was initially marketed to the public as a fair and balanced network, with the slogan “We report. You decide.” As the 2000s continued, the channel began to show that it sided with the Republican Party, like when the network donated one million dollars to the party in 2010. When Trump was elected in 2016, opinionated hosts started to take the network by storm, a couple of those hosts being Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. It was around this time that the network dropped the “fair and balanced” slogan and transitioned to the slogan “most watched, most trusted,” while still airing the network as Fox “News.”
We will come back to Fox News later, but first, a dive into the opposing network: CNN. According to Brittanica.com, CNN was launched in 1980 as the first 24/7 news network, and was initially marketed to the public with the slogan ”Go live, stay with it and make it important.” In a study conducted by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University, it was found that “CNN cast a negative light on Republican candidates during the 2007 presidential primaries by a margin of three-to-one. 41 percent of stories were clearly negative while only 14 percent were positive,” leaving the remaining coverage neutral. In 2009, a Pew Research study found that Democrats were more likely to rate CNN favorably, while Republicans were more likely to rate CNN disfavorably.
While CNN may not be blatantly backed by a political party, it is evident that there is bias among their news coverage, which leads to bias among the citizens consuming that news coverage. Bias in the news is dangerous, as it can lead to skewed viewpoints, and those viewpoints lead to how our nation’s policies are shaped. It is not right for a news network to claim they are telling the news and giving the facts when their stories are opinionated or partial. The reason why CNN and Fox choose to only cover a sliver of the actual news while fixating on the topics that draw attention is exactly that: it draws the public’s attention.
For example, Fox’s Tucker Carlson was recently on air to report the story, “Democrats Do Nothing to Discourage Race Mobs.” In this newscast, he asserts multiple antagonizing claims like, “normal people hate the violence caused by protests,” and “law enforcement is controlled by the Democratic party. If you don’t vote for them, you don’t get protection.” These are very evidently antagonizing statements that are made to strike anger or frustration into the viewer, all of them being extremely opinionated fallacies. Keep in mind that, according to Forbes, Tucker Carlson just broke the record for the highest rated cable program this past quarter with 4.331 million viewers. A network claiming that they are reporting the news, filled with this many fallacies and opinions, is also the most watched network in the United States. If the viewers do not consume other avenues of media besides Fox News, these stories tend to shape their viewpoints—viewpoints born from anything but the facts.
While, unlike Fox News, CNN does not blatantly state antagonizing claims against their opposing side, they do often choose to cover one-sided articles where they hide bias among facts. In a quick glance at the “Politics” section of CNN’s website, it is clear that almost every single article written about Donald Trump puts him in a negative light. From “Trump touts ‘environmental accomplishments’ after dismantling key protections,” to “Don’t believe Donald Trump’s pledges to pay for his 2020 campaign,” it is clear to see that many of these articles are written with one political party in mind: the Democratic Party. It is also important to note that none of these articles are defined as opinionated pieces. While many of these articles are based on facts, is it really the news if only a portion of what is occurring is being covered?
That leads us to my final argument: how is one supposed to have a healthy diet if they only consume one food? The same concept applies for what kinds of media an individual consumes. If any American only consumes one of these networks, they are only seeing a small part of the picture. As new channels, networks like CNN and Fox News have a duty to report news, and that includes the full story. With both sides failing to do so, the political spectrum in our country has become polarized, and progress cannot be made. I urge you to consume multiple sources of media from all sides of the political spectrum, and draw your own conclusions from between the lines. Our country depends on it.