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The Milton Measure

Milton Students Losing Trust in the News

by Aeshna Chandra on Friday, November 22nd, 2013

At Milton, we are told that lying is one of the worst crimes a student could commit. We are told never to lie, not to give false information, and certainly not to falsify information. Yet, despite the constant reinforcement that lying is one of the cardinal sins, huge news outlets publish false information in their reports, which reach far more people than any Milton publications.

CBS and CNN, two media juggernauts on both domestic and international levels, have placed false information in their coverage in the past year. Revisiting last year’s Benghazi attack, CBS’ signature program 60 Minutes on October 27 cited a source who claimed to be on the compound during the attack. However, the source was later discovered to be elsewhere at the time and thus supplied false information. The controversy that arose from CBS’ reporting damaged the credentials of the news outlet.

Eight months earlier, CNN was entangled in the same type of debacle. During the hunt for the Boston bomber, CNN prematurely declared that the killer had been found. The FBI, angry at the false information, asked CNN to retract its report. The media company, already belittled for their lack of legitimate news, faced another scandal in the aftermath of this false reporting.

Both companies promptly apologized, but the damage had already been done. How could consumers, after hearing about how both sources had lied, still believe in other news reports? The repetitive violations of consumer trust by today’s media sources are a large result of media sensationalism seeking a larger reader base. Nowadays in this country, accurate and unbiased news sources are hard to find. Liberals turn to MSNBC; conservatives turn to Fox News. And all people, even subconsciously, listen to sources biased towards their own views. The BBC is reliable, though its news is mostly focused on international and UK happenings. The New York Times is regarded as very reliable and unbiased, though most people at Milton do not care to read it. Other newspapers—the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post—are regarded in the same way as the NYTimes, so why do people not turn to these sources for their news?

A widely-accepted trait of Milton students is their general lack of interest in the news. Come sophomore year, all of us are forced to take Current Events/Public Speaking, a class which forces us, for some time, to pay attention to the events of the world around us. After finishing the course, the majority of Milton students let go of this forced interest in current world events. While most Milton students probably would not even have heard about the CBS scandal, the CNN false reporting was so relevant to Boston residents that it is highly implausible that that students had not heard about the false reporting. Could it be possible that many students, with their already minimal interest in the news, are turned away from the news even further because they feel like they cannot believe what is being reported?

In our modern world, the media dominates our perception of the world in so many ways that we are constantly found in a confusing mix of information. As teenagers and high school students, we turn to what makes us happy, what makes us laugh, what is easy. We choose not to read about what challenges us. Articles about the typhoon in the Philippines, Obamacare and its various issues, or the summit in Sri Lanka of Commonwealth leaders are largely avoided in favor of posts about cute cats, TV shows, or celebrities. News companies, by getting rid of any falsity from their news reports, by intelligently delivering interesting, relevant information to their consumers could get around the mind-block of many teenagers.

“If you don’t read the news, you are uninformed; if you do read the news, you are misinformed.” This saying characterizes current media pretty well. Going forward, current events will affect us only more than they do right now. At Milton, easier access to reliable news reports might make students believe more in reading reliable, interesting news reports. If students cannot be bothered to hunt out these sources for themselves, they can, at the very least, listen to the monthly announcements made by Public Issues Board.

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Posted by Aeshna Chandra on Nov 22 2013. Filed under More Opinion, Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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