Words Matter: A Mess Made by the Media

“White House issues threat to Bolton.”

“John Bolton as backstabber.”

These two headlines feature the wording used by CNN and Fox News, respectively, on their website’s January 29 coverage of the Impeachment trial, and both offer a reminder of the significant impact that the media has on American society. They also remind us of a key concept when it comes to media messages:

Language matters. Tone matters.

And the language used by CNN and Fox could not be more disparate. Politics have always been somewhat divisive, but Fox and CNN’s coverage of Trump’s presidency is an absolute embarrassment. What’s worse is the impact it is having on the country.

If an alien were  dropped into modern American and forced to watch the repetitive drivel that is our 24/7 news media, the possibilities present  a scary, stark contrast. Were said alien forced to watch and read only Fox, he or she would report back to his Martian commanders that the current U.S. leader is nothing short of a gift from God, a divine gift. In contrast, put that same alien in front of CNN, and the report would be something along the lines the president being the spawn of Satan himself.

Some might argue that there have always been media outlets that lean more to the right or more to the left, but the disparity between the two has reached drastic proportions. And the sad reality is that many Americans simply allow themselves to be spoon-fed whatever drivel the talking heads are spouting about or writing on that chosen network or media source. And in the race to gain viewers, “hot takes” sell. Quick soundbites sell. Getting the story first sells.

Speaking of getting the story first, another news story this week highlights another major problem with modern journalism. Multiple media outlets tweeted and reported inaccurate facts about the tragedy that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people. Worse yet, TMZ reported that Bryant was survived by all of his daughters, and an ABC reporter was suspended after announcing on television that all four of Bryant’s children were on the helicopter.

Journalism has always prided itself on placing the truth as its top priority and placing a premium on verification and impartiality

Sadly, however, the 24/7 news cycle combined with social media has created a media culture where getting the story first outweighs getting the story right and where a specific political agenda outweighs a civil discourse that includes multiple perspectives.

In the end, it is the American people who must demand change. If society continues to consume news like zombies, not questioning or demanding accuracy nothing will change. No, in fact, people will continue to view news like mindless followers, indeed, as lambs being led to the slaughter.