Photo by Selena Liu
In the digital age, we are constantly exposed to a rapid cycle of information. Twenty-four-hour television channels offer breaking news headlines every few minutes, we can choose what we read from a plethora of sources, and social media websites allow political accounts to post their views and to connect people who espouse similar viewpoints. All of these developments have led to the speculation of the media’s role in the current political climate.
According to a January study by the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of Americans view the United States as more politically divided today than in the past. This stir from the past presidential election and other events has caused students to reflect on their differing political views and how the media has impacted them.
Jose Ortuzar, CHS Democrats Club president and senior, said, “I think the (political climate) is getting more polarized. People only hear arguments and news they agree with, so that makes it unconstructive and we can’t have an open conversation about any policy matters.”
Ortuzar said he believes the media has been thrust into the spotlight because of the president’s negative relationship with news outlets.
“I think (President Donald) Trump tries to delegitimize the news media by saying things like ‘fake news’ for anything that makes him look bad. He said (the media) were the enemy of the American people, and I think that’s completely wrong, but a lot of people listen to him and also think the media is very biased and not objective enough. Some of that is the media’s fault, not everything is 100 percent accurate, but most (news outlets) correct it,” Ortuzar said.
Photo by Selena Liu
On the other hand, U.S. history teacher Sandy Gardner said the media has continued to play a similar role throughout U.S. history. She said today, more people are focused on the media because of the amount of available information and the question of what sources to trust.
“A lot of people believe the media is playing a more significant role, but it actually played quite a bit of a role in even (President Abraham) Lincoln’s election, to where Lincoln was trying to address what the media was also saying about him,” Gardner said. “I think the issue people are having now is trusting information and verifying if that information is correct and newsworthy. Of course, there’s a lot more talk about it in the White House and in Congress, and so, because of the election, the role of the media is sort of in the forefront.”
Graphic by Jai Sanghani
Sophomore Evan Gray said he identifies as a conservative. He said he also believes America’s political climate is highly divisive, but much of this is caused directly by the media and its coverage of irrelevant topics.
Gray said, “(The media) focuses a lot on what Trump says, but not what he means and his policies. I think the media needs to stop being biased, which I get — they’re private corporations — but I just think they shouldn’t be if they want to be trusted and they want bigger viewership ratings.”
In this sense, both Gray and Ortuzar said they agree the media has covered topics not directly important to the American people.
Ortuzar said, “I think if the media focused more on policy and showed what kind of policies Trump is enacting that affects people it might be better for the country as a whole. Especially the cable news—not so much print— focuses on sensational topics just to get ratings.”
Gardner, Gray and Ortuzar all said students should expose themselves to multiple sources to gather their thoughts and political views. Both Gray and Ortuzar said engaging in conversation with other students who have different political views is important, as long as everyone remains respectful and discusses constructively.
Gardner said, “Some students are very politically active, but there’s certainly a large portion of our student body that (does not) watch the news. That’s not at the forefront of what’s important to them on a daily basis, so we’re trying to expose them to more connections and current events that they’d be interested in.”
“As young people we have the responsibility to hold our representatives accountable and even hold our media accountable,” Ortuzar said. “We are a stakeholder in this discussion, and it’s our future that’s being played with, so every young person should be involved in some kind of civic engagement. I think politics gets a bad name, but we as young people can change that and make it a more sincere and more responsible field.”
Graphic by Jai Sanghani