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The term "media" refers to communication channels that convey information, education, entertainment, and even data (Biagi 8). Radio, television, billboards, and the internet are examples of media tools and aspects (Biagi 9). These mediums are important in the political arena because they are the most effective tools for actors to reach their intended audience. There are opposing sides in every political area, especially in elections, and it is up to individuals to vote for the party that they believe best represents them and has their best interests at heart. For this reason, all media must show impartiality in the reporting of news and events and leave the people to judge for themselves. Currently, there is a significant problem in that, most media are biased and rarely report facts as they are. This thesis will analyze media bias in political coverage and the effect it has on people.
The media is always trusted and looked upon as the source of credible news by citizens (Turcotte et al. 521). The reporting of political news is mainly of interest since it enables people to decide on the parties they would like to affiliate with depending on what the leaders seemingly stand for. The media should, therefore, ensure that it always reports matters as they are so that the people can make informed choices. Media bias is a phenomenon which continues growing, adversely affecting the people’s opinions of some politicians thus misleading them on whom to support. Evidently, the people cannot make informed decisions about public policy matters if they rely on tainted and misconstrued information. Media bias is, therefore, a problem which cannot be undermined in the country.
What is the role of the media in shaping people’s opinions about politicians and various aspects of politics?
To what extent does media bias affect these opinions?
Media bias refers to the wrongful misconstrue of information by journalists and media houses in accordance with the selection of stories and news coverages and how they are reported (Gal-Or, Tansev, and Tuba 93). Media bias also refers to prejudice and partiality in reporting news, a circumstance which sees stakeholders attempt to push for particular viewpoints irrespective of whether they are authentic or not (Groeling 16). The discrimination is most prevalent during the election periods as most reporters try to draw citizens to particular politicians.
There are many reasons why such occurrences prevail. First, individual reporters or entire media houses may be in support of a person whom they believe will best enable them to grow. For instance, if two politicians, one whom supports media freedom and another who opposes it vie for a political seat, most media houses would report in support of the former. An example of media bias is best illustrated in the 2016 United States General Election. CNN, a satellite news channel is widely accused of giving preferential coverage to Donald Trump, a factor that may have enabled him to win altogether (Steff 3). The extensive coverage saw Donald Trump get calls for interviews more than any other contestant. Trump also got more hours on-air with most of his speeches ending up on air while the other contestants barely got airtime (Steff 2). In as much as the news network denied these allegations, it is evident that they persisted.
There are various forms of media bias. These are:
Selection and omission. The bias by omission is highly prevalent in politics. In some instances, media houses and reporters may cover political stories from a liberal point of view, entirely sideline the conservative viewpoint, and vice versa. Fox news, a renowned news network is for instance mostly criticized for its conservative bias while CNN seemingly has a liberal prejudice (Dugger np).
Placement and story selection. Bias by story selection is prevalent when media outlets report stories that support one political side. The media houses and reports, therefore, covers a story which pertains to a particular political party while entirely omits a similar one from the opposition. For instance, if a tragedy occurs, a media house may highlight how a preferred candidate helped the afflicted while fail to disregard or show how the opposing member helped too completely. Consequently, bias by placement occurs when the reporters give more attention to one political side and less time to the other (Dugger np).
Bias by spin. This type refers to the reporters’ subjective tone in the reporting of a particular event. When the media interprets a story to the exclusion of others, then this prejudice occurs. For instance, a reporter can summarize a political story and make one side look better than it is (Dugger np).
Statistically, media bias in the political arena is evidently high. According to the center of public integrity, in 2016, Hillary Clinton received 96% of presidential donations, leaving a measly 4% for Donald Trump (Featherstone np). Here, Clinton received $382000 while Trump got $14000. In the same year, not a single white house reporter was Republican, while nationally, 0nly 7% were republican (Francia 1). With such statistics and evidence obtained, the level of objectivity in political reporting is questioned.
This research will mostly use qualitative research methods which include the use of questionnaires, focus groups, and observations.
The first method will the use of both structured and unstructured questionnaires. Structured questionnaires are precise and do not require detailed explanations while structured ones allow the respondents to explain their points further thus giving a more profound answer. These surveys will be distributed to media students at a local university since they are in a better position to critically analyze current news of political interest and determine if impartiality applied. Further, a few local citizens will also be involved so that there can be the determination of the real effect of media bias on the viewers.
The use of focus groups is also imperative since it will involve the coming together of people with the primary aim of debating on the effects of media bias and getting diverse viewpoints from the people. The focus groups will comprise of thirty respondents, divided into three groups of ten people each. Each team will be presided by a moderator, who will ensure that the discussion goes on as planned. The focus groups will have two hours each, which is sufficient time to talk, debate and address all the critical issues. Further, the entire conversation will be recorded to ensure that the researcher can be able to rewind and analyze all the points given. A transcriber will also be employed to type the audio and each participant provided a copy to verify that indeed, those were their sentiments. The importance is to avoid misconstruing information, mainly when the audio is changed to word.
Finally, observation will come in handy, and we will analyze past information and make inferences from the news reported. The process will, therefore, involve going through print media, listening to the radio and watching clips reported by media houses particularly during different election periods to determine if they represent objectivity or bias.
The media is highly responsible for keeping people informed through the objective reporting of various occurrences throughout the nation. Politics is a particular subject of interest as the people always want to know what the leaders are doing and determination of whom to vote in during election periods. The media can to some extent be said to have failed in objective reporting. Media bias is on the rise and media houses regularly give news which seemingly supports one political side while disregarding the other. In a bid to determine the instances of media bias and its effects on the people, the use of questionnaires, focus groups and observations will be employed to carry out an extensive study. The research will involve media students since they are well conversant with the media as well as a few local people. The local people are essential since they will help give an actual view of how the prejudice affects viewers’ decisions. This topic should be not only a concern to the media fraternity but also members of the general public in that; they need to know that not all news show the actual situation of facts as they are and so they need to think independently, particularly in politically critical times such as elections.
Biagi, Shirley. Media impact: An introduction to mass media. Cengage Learning, 2012. 8-15
Dugger, Ashley. “Media Bias and Criticism: Definition, Types and examples- Video and Lesson. http://study.com/academy/lesson/media-bias-criticism-definition-types-examples.html
Featherstone, Liza, ed. False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Verso Books, 2016.
Francia, Peter L. "Free Media and Twitter in the 2016 Presidential Election: The Unconventional Campaign of Donald Trump." Social Science Computer Review (2017): 0894439317730302.
Gal-Or, Esther, Tansev Geylani, and Tuba Pinar Yildirim. "The impact of advertising on media bias." Journal of Marketing Research 49.1 (2012): 92-99.
Groeling, Tim. "Media bias by the numbers: Challenges and opportunities in the empirical study of partisan news." Annual Review of Political Science 16 (2013).
Steff, Reuben. "The audacity of Trump: how he won and what we missed." (2017): 2-5.
Turcotte, Jason, et al. "News recommendations from social media opinion leaders: Effects on media trust and information seeking." Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication 20.5 (2015): 520-535.
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