Between the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the upcoming presidential election, everyday Americans have become increasingly dependent on journalism to stay informed. However, there have been recent criticisms online regarding lack of coverage on certain topics, particularly peaceful protests by the BLM movement as opposed to the violent riots seen on cable news.
As public support for the movement has waned, some have called for more news coverage of peaceful protests to balance coverage of violent unrest. In many cases these stories are covered, but because they don’t trend online, they go unnoticed.
The Shorthorn urges readers to follow local journalists and diversify their news consumption to get a clearer understanding of current events.
Recently, The Dallas Morning News published a story about a peaceful protest by a student athlete at Southern Methodist University. It appears critics don’t seek out stories about peaceful protests such as these, whether local or national.
In 2011, internet activist Eli Pariser coined the phrase “filter bubble” to describe the phenomenon of intellectual isolationism that occurs when website algorithms produce search results tailored to a specific user’s interests. What this means is that each individual internet user will get search results specific to them determined by their browsing habits. The same principle applies to social media sites and search engines.
If a search engine or social media algorithm doesn’t believe a user would be interested in a specific news story, that story won’t be displayed. Normally this phenomenon is harmless, showing a user who prefers cats pictures of kittens rather than puppies. But it can have disastrous effects on the public's understanding of current events.
Because using social media for news can lead to internet-curated confirmation bias, it is up to individual readers to find the stories that matter, told by the people working to tell them. Stories by local journalists often get lost amid national clamor, but it is these stories that paint the most accurate picture of what is going on in specific communities.
Some could argue that rather than readership bias, media bias is to blame for the lack of coverage of certain events. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, only 41% of Americans trust the media to report the news fairly and accurately. It is easy to point to media bias when certain events aren’t being covered.
However, local journalism still produces more content than any other single medium, including national print and television news. According to the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, local newspapers produce 50% of all news stories, and according to a Knight and Gallup poll, Americans trust local newspapers more than national media, at least for now.
The stories that matter are being told, but it’s up to readers to find them. Look for stories outside of your curated Twitter feed and look toward reliable local journalists to provide them.
The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor Spencer Brewer; Editor-in-Chief Shay Cohen; news editor Angelica Perez; Cecilia Lenzen, life and entertainment editor; sports editor Chris Amaya; David Silva Ramirez, life and entertainment reporter; and copy editor Andrew Walter.