Laursen: Mainstream news outlets are at fault for polarizing media


UI students gather in the rotunda in Adler Journalism Building on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Voters could vote all day on campus in the IMU. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

At its most basic level, political journalism needs to keep the general public informed. Our mainstream media have epically failed at doing this. A Pew Research survey reveals that the general public’s political values have become more polarized over the past 20 years. Both Democrats and Republicans have become less moderate; overall, there are a lower percentage of people who have mixed political views. Why? Mainstream media.

Millions of Americans receive their news from major news outlets such as Fox and CNN. This is how they stay plugged into United States politics. But major news outlets seem to take their own stances on news that should be unbiased and independently reported. For example, during the discussion over NFL players kneeling, CNN published headlines such as “NFL Players Take a Knee After Trump’s Criticisms” and “NFL players and coaches talk Trump, chance of more protests.” Meanwhile, Fox’s headlines read, “Trump calls on NFL to outlaw anthem protests, blasts Cowboys for kneeling” and “NFL kneeling protests based on false claims and misleading media reports.” Even though these two news outlets discussed the same issue, it is very clear that they have opposing views. Which is all fine and dandy, except it’s causing the breakdown of independent news reporting.

This is harmful to the general public because they are exposed to polarizing media. Perhaps even more harmful, mainstream media practically refuse to highlight or publish moderate views. Analysts, anchors, and writers seem to be Trump lovers or Trump haters. There is no in-between.

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CNN hires Trump lovers who lack credibility to appear on prime-time news to argue with their seasoned anchors and political analysts. A few people such as Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany are paid to speak their unwavering support for Trump. Lord and McEnany become the token Trump supporters, meaning people view them as representing all Trump supporters and all Republicans, even though most Republicans and Trump supporters disagree with at least a few of the things Trump has said. CNN paints an absurdly unrealistic and polarizing picture of what Trump supporters and Republicans actually value.

Meanwhile, Fox News is in the middle of an almost yearlong loving relationship with Trump. For the past year, Fox News anchors have worn “Make America Great Again” hats and aired an almost exclusively pro-Trump narrative. This is in part because of Fox’s media strategy. It attempts to make it seem as if it is the only non-left wing, liberal network in the nation. Subsequently, according to the Pew Research Center, Fox’s viewership is 60 percent conservative, making its followers the most homogenous of all major news networks.

Because of this, when Fox News airs a story condemning Trump, its ratings actually go down. The result is a media outlet reporting that Trump can do nothing wrong.

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