Although we did discuss the authority that authors and experts have in class, we didn’t discuss the specific authority that the media has over us. Most people place their trust in the media, just as they place their trust in academic experts. In some cases, this is appropriate, as the events or issues being discussed in the newspaper, online, or on the television may require specific technical knowledge.
The problem is that many media experts use their expertise in a field as a way to present their biased opinion regarding an event or issue. The most obvious example of bias is political news, especially around the time of presidential elections. However, other types of media can be full of bias, too. Often, bias can be hard to pinpoint, but it still exists and affects the sources of information that are available to the public.
In addition to allowing bias to enter into the equation, the media often exercises its authority by selecting what information is available to the public. Media outlets tend to focus on whatever they deem to be the “hot topics”. These topics are written about more than others, which creates a flow of information that is weighted towards a select few topics. Although these topics may also be the ones that the public is most interested in, there exists a danger that there will be shortage of information available to the public. For example, the media may focus all of its efforts and resources on a political race or a hot button controversy, while simultaneously failing to adequately inform the public about other events, or failing to uncover problems which they should be uncovering, as a part of their role as informants to society.
Practically, the media is an excellent source of information. It would be utterly impractical to be present at every presidential debate or to witness international conflicts, first hand. The media provides a streamlined method for the distribution of news and information. However, the public needs to be cautious of the information that they receive from the media. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one should refuse to accept the information provided by the media as true. It does mean that consumers and the general public should be educated about the bias that can be propagated in the media, and people shouldn’t rely too heavily on any one source of information. They should instead consult multiple, reliable sources, and form their own perspective on important events and issues. In many cases, it may even be necessary for the public to take the burden of gathering information upon themselves, to uncover problems or to make sure that their opinions are heard.