Balanced media consumption can bridge ideological divide


Paul Miller-Schmidt, Opinions Writing Editor

      The United States has always been divided. Whether between rich and poor, White and people of color, Republican or Democrat, the U.S. has consistently partitioned itself into conflicting factions. As of late, the divide between Republican and Democrat (and more specifically those who support President Donald Trump and those who oppose him) has split even wider, creating an environment where two increasingly polar narratives are being established. Americans are living in starkly different realities than one another. A major factor in this disparity is the way Americans consume and process the media.

      The media, for most Americans, is the sole means of receiving outside information whether it be through the morning paper, the nightly news or social media feeds. But the media that people decide to consume strongly affects their political and social views and often acts to reinforce their political perspectives.

      Nearly every media source and reporter has a bias. From the top down, media institutions are built with bias depending on factors such as ownership, top leadership and target audience. Since these sources have internalized bias they often either affirm people’s views or starkly contradict them.

      Naturally, most people choose to consume the news sources that strengthen and accord with their philosophies, often assuming that these are the most correct. For liberals this often means reading the New York Times and watching CNN; for conservatives this might mean reading the Wall Street Journal or watching Fox News and for the more extreme partisans, reading sites like Breitbart News and InfoWars.

      This cycle of only consuming the media that is accustomed to one’s beliefs strengthens opinions and emotions, but leads to the widening of a dangerous rift and subsequently to the loss of empathy. By only consuming highly-biased media, people develop tunnel vision and are only able to see the world through their own perspective. Many critics of President Trump question how anyone could support him, stating that he is ‘racist, misogynistic and bigoted,’ and conflate his alleged prejudices with that of all his supporters. This is blind and lacks empathy.

      The fact is 63 million Americans wanted him as president and clearly not all of them are racist, hate-filled bigots. They are everyday Americans that believe at this point in time this president is better suited to their needs. Writing them off as a truckload of bigots is narrow-minded and simplistic. Trump supporters, as well as Trump dissidents, all exist in their own realities and have a difficult time empathizing with and understanding one another because the media they consume continuously otherizes the opposition and enlarges the rift.

      By only ingesting media that accords with one’s own beliefs, people are contributing to this rift and deepening the divide. We, the Sagamore, believe that a balanced approach to media consumption is optimal. Focus on the outlets that affirm your views, but challenge yourself to seek out ideas and opinions that clash with your outlook on the world.

      Attempt to understand where the other side is coming from and the genuine qualms they hold. While you may not (and should not feel obliged to) agree, it is important to empathize. Combat the polarization of American politics. It is important to take into account institutional and personal bias and to strive for a balanced consumption of the media.