Name of Lecturer
People nowadays spend the majority of their time on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Not only has social media been a source of entertainment, but it has also become a source of news. People will know exactly what is going on, where it is happening, and when it happened thanks to the internet’s global connection. If the years pass, the average millennial’s schedule becomes more hectic, and they barely have time to listen to the radio or watch television. As a result, they’ve begun to rely on social media as a source of information. However, because of the stiff competition among media houses and news agencies on who will be the first to break a certain news item, they rarely verify their sources. As a result, the public is always being fed with fake and unverified news day in day out. However, although there is lack of objectivity in formation of biases and misuse of emotional appeal in news agencies and media, people can still trust the news as long as the journalist and news agency possess enough courage and patience to expose the truth and verify their sources
Most people believe that majority of journalists in the society lack of objectivity. This assumption is bases on the existence of various forms of biases in media and news agencies. In Gladstone’s book, The Influencing Machine, Gladstone explains that the use of a combination of visual and narrative biases influences people’s perspective on certain events. Gladstone gives an example that during the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s Statues in Al-Firdos Square, the Iraqis civilians were not the ones who came up with that idea. Instead, they were requested by a U.S. marine to topple down the statues in order to show US victory in the war. Instead of the media showing us what was actually happening, the media only focused on the Iraqi civilians toppling the statute and “zoomed in to make the sparse crowd look bigger, signaling the war’s end in a swift and unambiguous blaze of glory” (68). The way in which the media reported the news portrayed the Iraqi civilians as brutal, misbehaving figures; while at the same time, protecting the so-called dignity of U.S. soldiers.
Such biased ways of reporting can mislead the public into misjudging the Iraqi civilians. This is because the general public has no means of getting the actual truth of what really happened. Instead they wholly depend on the media and other news agencies for information. Therefore the public passes judgments depending on the information that they are given by the media. In this case, the public judged the Iraqis harshly when they were in fact innocent. These kind of biases could negatively impact certain groups of people if journalists and news agencies continue to use them as tools of attracting more audiences.
Besides the use of biases when reporting, misuse of emotional appeal can also lead the public onto a completely wrong and terrible path. Emotional appeal is always used in propaganda when authorities try to get a response from the public or sway them to think in a certain direction. In Hoffman’s book, Citizen Rising, Hoffman illustrates the misuse of emotional appeal during the Rwanda genocide. He says, “In order to ensure the massacre of larger numbers of Tutsis, RTML needed to demonize, delegitimize, and dehumanize them first” (118). From the text, it is clear that the RTML used the media to spread propaganda in order to persuade more people to harbor hatred toward Tutsis. Although the RTML’s original idea was to promote social changes in Rwanda, it ended up creating extreme violence and caused the massacre of Tutsis. While using emotional appeal is a way to get public response and influence the public to think in a certain way, the media should be careful not to be used to create hatred and violence. If it does, then it gives the people less courage to trust it.
Although the lack of objectivity by the media and use of emotional appeal is prevalent these days, the public can still trust the media to give it the right information. In Gladstone’s book, The Influencing Machine, she concludes by saying that although “the appearance of objectivity can lead to some lousy reporting in American newspapers, official statements come first. Challenges appear way down, sometimes after you turn the page” (110). By mentioning “official statements”, Gladstone’s means that political changes by the government will always be the main focus of news agencies. As people start questioning the source’s reliability, the news media is doing its best in trying to report verifiable information on crucial changes on a national scale and provide people with more information about changes in their social environments. In any case, the news media is the only way that people can learn about what is happening both domestically and internationally.
Therefore, the society should learn to trust social media, news agencies and the journalists who work within those institutions more. Furthermore, in Lunsford’s book, “Everything’s an Argument”, Lunsford shows what the thinking process of a reader should be when reading any type of information. “When you read or listen to an argument, you have every right to ask about the writer’s authority” (45). Even though people may encounter official arguments in the news that may seems reliable, they need to have their own mind and question the credibility of the sources.
In addition, there are situations where journalists possess enough courage to expose the truth and use emotional appeal in an effective manner. A good example is Janine di Giovanni. Giovanni recalled her experience in Rwanda during the genocide on Ted Talk. She said during the interview, “there were bodies piled as high as twice my height and that was just a small percentage of the dead.” Unlike RTML who used emotional appeal as a weapon, Giovanni used emotional appeal to connect to her audiences and let them truly feel the traumatic consequences of war. Besides that, Giovanni also said that while she did not have the power to bring any change to those countries, she hoped that policy makers would read her words and do something.
Although there is a group of people who uses media in a wrong way, there are journalists like Giovanni, who let the world see the negative results of war and try to gather the public power together to bring about significant changes. There also journalists who like to stand and speak up on matters such as justice. They use their influence to try to create peace on the global scale and eliminate violence or any inhuman actions in developing actions. As long as the news agencies and reporters utilize emotional appeal in a positive way, people can trust the news more and actually believe those reporters more.
The debate on whether people should trust news agencies or not has been going on for centuries. However, as more and more people turn their focus on the reliability of social media, more and more news agencies are starting to provide verifiable information. Social media forms a large portion of human lives. Therefore, its influences will keep growing. The negative consequences of misuse of media or spreading of wrong information may still be fresh in some people minds. However, there is a new generation of social media platforms and main stream journalists who are putting more efforts in providing reliable verifiable information.