Most of my go-to news sources skew liberal. The publications I work for, Mic and Romper, skew liberal. Heck, I skew liberal. But I’ll happily admit any of those things to anyone. Aside from Mic, I typically gravitate toward BBC, Vox, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, and the Associated Press.
As a journalist, I have an advantage when consuming news: I am used to considering all angles of a situation, all sides of an argument. I know how to gather perspectives from each point along the spectrum and, more importantly, how to appropriately weigh them against each other. So, even though I prefer news that is aligned to my beliefs, I certainly can recognize when one of those sources has made a mistake or when I simply disagree with their report. Both happen often. I have some interesting stories, actually.
None of this is to say I am never plagued by confirmation bias. When it comes to issues I’m passionate about, of which there’s a sizeable list, I have to be extra mindful. Since gun violence is currently relevant and I happen to not entirely agree with either side of the aisle on it, I will mostly be focusing on coverage of the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting… with a little Russia thrown in, too.
I really dislike TV network news, especially Fox. So naturally I picked Fox’s website for this assignment. When I came to their landing page, I’ll admit I was surprised. Aside from the op-ed section, their headlines were factual and didn’t convey opinion.
Most of their body copy followed this as well. It’s written exactly how I learned to write — only the facts, concise, in order of importance. They aren’t editorializing. In fact, some of their phrasing sounds like Mic’s.
This wasn’t a huge surprise, though, because the people writing and working on the articles are typically no different than me. I guess that’s my other advantage — I know exactly what it’s like on the other side of that screen. I know that Fox’s web reporters aren’t a bunch of rich, evil white men conspiring against the left because at Mic we aren’t a group of lazy socialist millennials declaring war on Christmas. We bust our butts to put out quality content. I’m sure the web people at Fox are doing the same (I’m specifying web here because the TV side is a different animal and I could write 1,000 words on why modern broadcast news is terrible).
Then I found Tomi Lahren. Obviously the above did not apply to her. However, this one single time, I agreed with her on an issue regarding Kim Jong Un’s sister. She does claim that the left is portraying her in a positive light, which isn’t entirely accurate, but some sources have. I think if Americans can agree on one thing, it’s that the Kim regime is bad. So there’s definitely common ground there.
In all seriousness, though. Fox online is still very obviously a conservative network, but maybe I expected to find something a bit wackier… like anything from InfoWars or the Blaze. They make Fox look like MSNBC. The Blaze isn’t even trying to hide their opinion, and InfoWars is using a mistake from the New York Daily News (which is already questionable) as evidence of… honestly I’m not sure what. That liberals are evil liars and terrible at writing headlines? Both these sources act as if those of a different political ideology aren’t real people. According to them, basically half of the U.S. population is part of the Illuminati.
Fox did present plenty of opposing viewpoints with a limited bias, and I respect that quite a bit. That’s usually our main goal in reporting, yet it seems so rare lately. I actually wish Mic did more of this, outside of commentary or large features.
For comparison, here is some related coverage from Mic. Mic is geared toward a much younger audience, and we like to be a tad tongue-in-cheek, but we also heavily focus on social issues. I can confirm that our reporters don’t meet twice per week to discuss pushing a political agenda.
In conclusion, I’m thankful my work experience prevents tunnel vision. Nine times out of ten, I exist in the middle ground. But every single day, I watch more and more people become blind to that middle ground. I watch my grandmother, one of my favorite people on this planet, share a Breitbart post on Facebook. A complete stranger calls me a snowflake. People who can’t actually define feminism call me “an ungrateful bitch” for my feminism. The NRA calls open season on dissenting journalists. People my age and younger don’t seek out news whatsoever and stay unengaged. People have lost sight of the gray area, and it saddens me so much.
And, though I’m totally digressing here, this is especially true concerning Parkland and every other mass shooting. The right says, “This isn’t a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue. He was depressed! People with mental illnesses shouldn’t have guns! The dems want to take away my guns!”
Then the left says, “This isn’t a mental health issue, it’s solely a gun issue! We just want to take away some of your guns maybe!” Then the fundamentalists say, “This isn’t about guns or depression! This is about sin and people not respecting life anymore! Violent video games are to blame!”
Just… ugh. Enough.
It’s all of it, or at least most of it. It’s complex. It’s difficult. Personally, when the right side cries out “he’s a psycho punk, he was depressed, it’s about mental health,” I cringe. I’ve got four mental health conditions on my medical record, and even though I’m not ashamed at all, that stigma is all too real. I’m either crazy or I’m just imagining it — I “just need discipline” in my life. So when a mass shooter’s mental health is discussed this way, I feel our culture move backward. Is this kind of discourse going to put a target on our backs somehow? The thing is, depression doesn’t make a person homicidal. Rage does. The kind of rage that comes from a lack of accountability and self-awareness, playing the victim, blaming the world for your issues, an off-the-charts inferiority complex. Violence, hatred, and anger are not depression. On the other hand, I like target shooting with my mom’s revolver. I’m not against guns. I also know that if someone wants to cause harm, they’ll find a way. But it shouldn’t be easier for a 19-year-old to get an AR-15 than it is for me to get the prescription amphetamines that I need to essentially function like a normal adult.
Just for fun, here’s the highlights from the comments section.