Chapter 10: Can we trust the News?

In the epilogue, I found it really sad that the story was altered to stating that there were only male terrorists. I agree with Gen that it was probably changed to read as a better story, as no one wants to hear female terrorists being killed. It made me wonder about how many major news sources alter their information to fit their agenda. How many times has this happened specifically with terrorist stories? I’m sure Patchett brought that scene up for his particular reason.  This led me into research about the accuracy of major news networks. I came across a site that discussed statistical information about viewer’s perceptions of major news organizations. The public evaluations have been collected since 1985 and provide an overall trend within news networks today. About 29% of Americans say that a news network is factual and accurate, while 63% state that the stories happen to be inaccurate. Back in 1985, the ratio was 55% accurate to 34% accurate. This fall started in the beginning of the 1990s and has continued to stay there for over a decade (PewResearchCenter).

The statistical information also happens to have variation versus different political parties. For example, Democrats have also increased in news media criticism in the past two decades. They are also able to spot favoritism in the media compared to a decade earlier, with 67% stating the press tends to favor one side rather than treating all sides fairly (up from 54%). Republicans happen to view many of the news stations democrats’ view as being false an inaccurate. A majority of Fox news viewers, who happen to be republican, view the channel as 72% positive with only 43% from the democrats (PewResearchCenter). What is interesting is the fact that in 1985, both parties were almost equal in these percentages. The changes began occurring during both Bush administrations, which could be argued as being correlated with both administrations military actions. This is where Fox news viewers began claiming that major news networks were being too critical of America and when democrats were noticing a political side being favored. There are similar trends in political party’s opinions about whether criticism of political leaders by news organizations hinder these leaders from doing their job or prevent them from making rash decisions. A majority of democrats believe that criticism helps to keep leaders in check while republicans mostly feel that it prevents our leaders from doing their jobs.

Overall however, about 26% of Americans believe that news organizations are careful that their reporting is not politically biased. About 60% believe that they are. About 80% of Americans believe news organizations are dependent of powerful people and they also believe that 20% of news networks are willing to admit their mistakes (PewResearchCenter). This remains to be the basic opinion of Americans of news networks for the past two decades, with the exception of a slight boost in accuracy during 9/11 and terrorism broadcasts.

These poll trends led me to research into documented fallacies by major news networks. Several of them are coming from Fox news. About 60 percent of facts reported by Fox News were actually false as of January of this year (MintPressNews). The site itself shows an image of a news anchor with the main heading “No military Action yet against ISIS, despite coalition to fight terrorists” while at the very same moment on the upper right hand bar it says “U.S. has conducted at least 160 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq”. Fox news has also been demonstrated to being obviously biased towards conservative republican values. When compared to other news networks, MSNBC and NBC were received as being 44% false with CNN having the most positive record of being 80% true (sharokman). Now the source of this information has stated that these numbers may not be completely accurate as they don’t take into account the different platforms of information medium each news station uses and how those affect the record.

It’s very concerning that these news networks are pumping out false information on the daily. How can we as audience members discern whether or not we are getting the whole story? Or are we just being manipulated by a group that has enough power to skew a broadcast and steer public opinions?


PewResearchCenter. “Press Accuracy Rating Hits Two Decade Low”. Sept. 13, 2009. U.S. Politics & Policy. (accessed Nov. 18, 2015).

MintPressNews. “Pants on Fire: Analysis Shows 60% of Fox News Facts are Really Lies”. May 12, 2015. (accessed Nov, 18, 2015)

Sharockman, Aaron. “MSNBC, Fox, CNN move the needle on our Truth-O-Meter Scorecards”. Jan. 27, 2015. PunditFact. (accessed Nov. 18, 2015)


2 thoughts on “Chapter 10: Can we trust the News?

  1. Michael Pedersen says:

    More and more companies like Facebook and Google have been built around giving users access to information. Of all the businesses involved in outputting a constant stream of media for users to watch the news has always been in the unique position to most directly influence popular opinion.

    In regards to your specific research I was surprised by the time scales you examined. From 1985 to now is only 30 years which means that in less than generation public opinion has flipped concerning the accuracy of news sources. Of course, there are many factors that probably contributed to this including the onset of the internet and the wave of chat based messaging programs. In general it would be interesting to explore the reasons behind this shift in opinion.

    Your research into how political affiliation plays a role in this opinion was also very interesting. The ability of some news stations to keep an audience’s attention and respect while reporting obviously biased news baffles me. I like the historical context you give by referencing the Bush Administrations. This is an anecdotal thought but I wonder if age is the primary factor in determining these more set-in-stone attitude contributing to believing one news outlet over another.

    Overall, I very much enjoyed your research and the in class discussion we had. These types drastic changes always have some root causes that got the trend going in this trajectory the exploration of which would be an interesting follow up if this wasn’t the last blog post.


  2. dgromels says:

    I too found it alarming that the news organizations would simply erase Carmen and Beatrice’s involvement in the hostage situation. It is interesting how we as a society allow the media to decide what events and people are important enough for us to pay attention to, especially when the media exists within a commercial system in which there is an incentive to slant the facts or sensationalize to get viewers/sell papers or fit the news organizations’ agenda.

    Partisan news groups are very concerning because the news is supposed to be unbiased by definition, and most people aren’t willing to exhaust the time and effort to do their own research and look beyond the bias of the media. Just by comparing the headlines of coverage of the same stories by CNN and Fox, it is apparent that each group puts their own political spin on the stories. Fox News is particularly concerning because as you pointed out in your post, they are notorious for reporting in an irresponsibly biased manner with many factual inaccuracies, yet people still consume their programming. I think this says something important about human nature; the vast majority of us only want to read and watch things that confirm and validate our own views rather than trying to understand the other side. I think one reason why people might be more aware of news media than they were decades ago is because partisanship in the news has increased, particularly with the relatively new practice of hosting political pundits like Bill O’Reilly on news channels.

    If you were to continue with this line of research, it could be interesting to look at how a person’s political party correlates with the media they consume. I would predict that very few people actually watch or read news that doesn’t come from the viewpoint they prefer.


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