MEDRANO: Breeding distrust of journalism dangerous



As a student journalist, there is nothing I enjoy more than to see my peers read and consume the work I have produced as part of Eye of the Tiger.

As a student journalist, there is nothing I want more than for people to respect the field of journalism and understand its role in society.

That being said, as a student journalist, there is nothing more disappointing than having to dissect an article in hopes of uncovering some hint of bias for a school assignment twice a month. For students in any social science course, chances are you are familiar with the concept of Current Events.

For anyone unfamiliar with the assignment, the task is fairly simple: find an article within the last week, summarize it, share your personal opinion on the subject matter, then identify rhetorical strategies and bias present in the reporting.

I can assure you that as a student journalist, when I am covering a news story, I work to ensure I do not show bias in my own reporting and I definitely do not contemplate which rhetorical strategies I will use. My goal with news stories is to relay information. My goal in opinion pieces is to share my opinion. That’s the way journalism works, and that’s the flaw with the ambiguity that comes with Current Events.

That ambiguity stretches to the actual instructions within the assignment. It ask us to identify the rhetorical devices employed by the author, even though the journalist would never consider themselves an author, but instead a reporter. The title ‘author’ covers such a broad spectrum and using any term other than the latter detracts from the true purpose of journalism. Authors write to share stories, journalists write to report.

This lack of direction results in blurred lines and students are left to interpret that the overarching theme is that there is only one thing to learn from or about the media — it is all biased.

The directions do not explicitly state whether or not students should choose an opinion piece or legitimate news coverage of worldly affairs. This lack of direction results in blurred lines and students are left to interpret that the overarching theme is that there is only one thing to learn from or about the media — it is all biased.

Is it too much to ask for a world where students don’t associate the press with propaganda? Is it too much to ask for a world where students appreciate the field that works to educate and enlighten the masses?

What we have failed to recognize is that understanding the forces behind bias and trusting the media are not mutually exclusive.

We can learn how to identify partiality and educate ourselves at the same time. Not all news is bad, and not all news is fake.

Identifying bias (that may or may not even be there) should not be more important than evaluating how covering the news affects the world. Democracy is not as threatened by possible bias in reporting as it is by the assumption all work is biased and that all journalists are untrustworthy. Ultimately, democracy is threatened by the majority living with an inherent distrust in the media.
At first glance, I initially respected the idea of Current Events.

Giving students the opportunity to seek information on their own and formulate their opinions as they educate themselves? Sounds like the perfect task.

But eventually I (and most of my peers) came to the realization that students will consciously select articles written by sources known for their partisan efforts. The most venerable news sources work to establish credibility and disseminate information and yet here we are, associating their reporting with rhetorical devices used in literature. And if the goal is to teach students how to identify rhetorical strategies (that we most times misinterpret in an attempt to complete the task) rather than learn something of real substance, we’re doing pretty good.

Students must understand that not all reporting will have bias and that not all reporting is an opinionated piece under the surface. Sometimes reporting on a three-car collision on Highway 65 is just reporting that there was a three-car collision on Highway 65.

In completing the assignment, students that have identified their “current event” have likely selected an opinion article and are left to attack the writing for the bias present in the piece. Who would’ve thought that an opinion piece would have, you guessed it, an opinion.

But is a journalist using their platform to express their opinion in an article any different than a teacher expressing their views in a classroom setting? If assignments like Current Events require us to analyze an article written by a columnist doing their job, should we be conducting reports on the competency of our teachers? What is it about journalists that make it so easy to berate them?

Their public service serves the masses and the right to a free press is embedded in this country’s very existence.

In objective reporting, it is just as unethical for journalists to explicitly show a bias in their reporting as it is for teachers to blatantly share their beliefs in a classroom setting.

If you expose students to reporting characterized by its bias, is this any different from a teacher sharing information laced with their own opinion?

If teachers can still teach objectively while having their own opinion, journalists can report impartially without showing an evident bias.

We’ve heard it time and time again. Something along the lines of, “Youth are the most impressionable, therefore the most easy to convince.”

For we are teenagers, it is our nature to pick up on what’s around us and learn from what we are told.

It’s why pro-choice activists loiter around our campus. It’s why most teachers refrain from sharing their personal political views. It’s why the media in contemporary society has served such a vital role.

We must teach students about the benefits of being an informed citizen because the alternative is a generation of conspiracy theorists.

Let us not forget. Youth are the future.

It is the youth that will transform and revitalize the world as we know it. It is the youth that will push for societal betterment. It is the youth that will establish the foundation for generations to come.

And it is the youth that must embrace and understand the very concept that has saved us in times of disarray to ensure a promising future.

Let’s respect journalism. But who knows, maybe I’m just biased.