As the presidential election draws nearer, the world of media is alight with political discourse and pundit debate. The man who will hold the highest position of American leadership will be decided in fewer than 35 days. In the run up, campaigns intensify to reach key swing states and undecided voters.
Among all of this flurry of activity, where do Tech students get their political news fill? What sources are balanced or biased?
Generally speaking, many people get their news from television. It is an easily accessible form of mass communication that is almost universally present in homes.
“When I have time for the news, I will turn on the TV and watch CNN or Fox News. Mostly Fox News because they have a republican slant on the issues and I tend to agree with that,” said Kyle Barnhart, a fourth-year BCHM major.
Major cable news networks, including MSNBC, CNBC, ABC and Bloomberg TV, reach an audience of millions with their twenty-four hours of campaign coverage. However, there are alternatives outside of the US news presenters.
“[I watch] BBC News because it has significantly less bias than American news sources, it views American politics from an external lens,” said Zachary Meeks, fourth-year PHYS major.
While the internet rises in popularity with students, TV viewership has declined steadily over the past decade. Currently the majority of Americans are online, giving the internet an even wider audience than all cable news networks combined.
Popular news websites and blogs generate a popular forum for heated discussion amongst users globally. With countless topics to post under, they cover a wide variety of issues but cannot always be counted on to remain unbiased.
“I primarily use Reddit as they have sources and opinions from everywhere, but I don’t really believe it’s balanced because a majority of the user base is democratic,” said David Elliot, a fourth-year EE major.
It is true to note that a significant portion of politically-active users on the internet are the liberal youth, yet what is gained is a wide range of views from other groups who otherwise would have no airtime on CNN or Fox News.
“I read Aggregate News, because of the ‘punny’ comments from the user base. It is usually slanted to the liberal side, like most internet media, but it is more balanced because articles are user submitted,” said Trevor Gilmore, a fourth-year MSE.
Sometimes a mixture of televised, online and radio media is necessary to truly consider all points of view and generate a personal assessment on issues.
“I read Christian Science Monitor (CSM) a lot, Fox News and NPR. CSM is good about trying to show all sides. Fox News gives me the conservative viewpoint and shows me how their thinking, and NPR does the same for the liberal side. Then I watch CNN if I want to get actual real-time news. This way I can make my own informed decisions,” said Chase Adams, a second-year ECE major.
In the end, it is up to the viewer to select and evaluate his or her sources. News outlets are still operated as businesses and have an incentive to appeal to a particular base or choose to highlight one story over another.
Sometimes comedy is the sincerest form of argument, as portrayed by the wildly popular Daily Show with John Stewart and The Colbert Report. Though they are satirical programs, they bring to the surface legitimate and serious points in both news and political coverage.
With their broad appeal, particularly to younger audiences, these shows have influenced the opinions of many young adults and are a significant force in the larger American conversation.
“Since I don’t ever have time to watch actual political news I would say the Colbert Report,” said Jonathan Heffner, a second-year BME major.