Does media reflect society or does society reflect the media? It’s the timeless question that scholars, critics and media professionals often ask.
As both a member and consumer of the media, I understand that the question can never truly be answered. The media puts on what people want to see. So despite major disasters around the world, such as the Haiti earthquake, the news lately has been more focused on Tiger Woods’ apology.
I recently attended and reported on a Hot Topics event which focused on media coverage of major disasters. While there was a lot to talk about in terms of coverage, the focus shifted toward criticism of the media. Sure, some reporters do not adequately report through the use of fact checking and journalism ethics, but I would hope that a good news journalist would strive for that impossible perfection of accurate reporting.
I have heard many times before by my peers that the media does not have enough coverage of major news stories, such as the war or the Haiti earthquake. But when I ask them if they even watch or read the news, they most likely say no. “It’s too depressing,” I’ve heard, or “I don’t have time.”
They do, however, seem to have time to hear in full length Woods’ apology and even what other “experts” have to say about it.
During the Hot Topics event, one of the panelists mentioned that we, consumers of the media, need to celebrate the good reporting. Instead of debating on whether Woods’ apology was sincere or not, people should change the channel to something that actually matters.
I think a major reason for the decline in newspapers is that people care more about entertainment, and newspapers are not the first place most go to find it. Instead of reading an in-depth analysis of war efforts in The New York Times, many people my age are going to Yahoo News and end up reading a sensationalized headline that gets ripped off an AP or Times article anyway.
It’s no wonder newspapers are dying and major reputable news outlets are going to slowly disappear. Where will Yahoo News, and others like it, get their information if the information gatherers don’t survive? In the future, as news media shrinks and international bureaus close down, will consumers only have access to the pointless celebrity news because it’s most popular?
I can’t imagine that it will ever get to that point, but it is important that we, as media consumers, don’t let it. Instead, we need to follow the panelist’s advice and celebrate the good reporting. We also can’t blame the media for showing the unimportant news, since that is what people want.
There needs to be a fair and balanced amount of news, and at the same time consumers need to be educated. If society is educated enough in the important matters, it is likely that the media will pay more attention to it. And while I don’t have an answer or a solution, I am hopeful that the media will continue striving for accurate stories that reflect what is truly important for society.