News source biases prevent helpful political discourse



It is important to recognize biases and find methods of avoiding one-sided news.

Graham Krewinghaus, Contributing Writer

In the era of President Trump everyone has something to say.  However, we often fail to see the whole picture due to our biases.

When we rant about climate change or immigration, chances are the ones listening share our ideas. When we check Facebook for an article about Trump’s latest tax cuts, chances are we find and click on the ones we agree with. Author and left-wing activist Eli Pariser refers to this as the “filter bubble” in his book, “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You.”  He claims that filter bubbles are ruining democracy.

Supposedly, a democracy like the United States’ wants citizens to exchange opinions in hopes of agreement. However, when your news source is just telling you what you want to hear, it is hard to have conversations across those divisions, further dividing us.

Pariser suggests that we scarcely see other points of view due in part to an algorithm in many news sources like Facebook and Google. Personalized news is a drawing point for many, but it only supplements our previous biases. Pariser states the disadvantages of this in his book, saying “The filter bubble pushes us in the opposite direction, it creates the impression that our narrow self-interest is all that exists.” If the way we make progress in a democracy is through civil discourse and cooperation, then only accessing news sources with a certain swinging bias is clearly counter-productive.

But, some might argue, customization can only tweak our feeds so much. A liberal filter bubble is not going to ignore a huge conservative win, and vice versa. However, while this may be true, what we actually read and take in is much more skewed than what we see on the front page. Generally, liberals tend to get their news from liberal sites, such as the New York Times. Once there, they hunt for certain statements and ignore what they disagree with.

The problem with these personalized feeds and this isolating mentality is that we do not grow to understand the opposition. An inability to empathize with the other side leads to alienation, causing us to see the stances of others with incredulity. However, eliminating biases can do exactly the opposite.

I enrolled in a debate camp last summer, and our project was to argue both for and against universal healthcare. I went into the experience believing the argument was going to be simple and one-sided. However, the instruction they provided on source selection and evidence gathering allowed me to eliminate my biases. When I researched universal healthcare with a conservative mindset, I found there was plenty of logical, credible evidence suggesting it was not a good idea.  I could put myself in conservative shoes.

This is what we could be seeing in our society: an ability to empathize, collaborate, and agree, instead of distancing ourselves from the other side and labeling their thoughts as absurd.

Clearly, this filter bubble that Eli Pariser discusses are keeping us from conversations that will lead to change. The next time you go onto Facebook or Twitter or other social media, think to yourself, “do I already agree with what I am reading right now?” If so, try something new. Read across the aisle, consider what people with other opinions have to say. There is more out there than you think.