Why should we trust the ‘mainstream media’?

By Kyle Chan, Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College
By Kyle Chan, Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College |

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US President Donald Trump (right), has often caused consternation among others with his accusations of 'fake news'. Even on the international stage.

In a poll in 2016, only 32 per cent of Americans said that they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the mainstream media. The number is especially low among Republican voters, with only 14 per cent of them saying they trust the mainstream media.

Why is this? In fact, the whole world has been losing trust in the mainstream media for a long time. However, the situation in the US is far more serious than in other countries. I reckon this has something to do with their new president, Donald Trump, and it is all about politics.

On January 31, a TV station in Detroit reported that “a local business owner who flew to Iraq to bring his mother back home to the US for medical treatment said she was blocked from returning home under President Trump’s ban on immigration and travel from seven mainly Muslim nations. He said that while she was waiting for approval to fly home, she died from an illness.”

However, no mainstream media bothered to verify the source of the news before reporting it because it helped them with their liberal propaganda, which is not a secret to most Americans.

The case above shows that there is nothing they won’t do, even faking a death to push their political views down everyone’s throat.

On the other hand, there is another wave of online news emerging – the alternative media. Some examples are One America News Network and Blaze News. They encourage readers to carry out fact checks, which means checking whether what we see in the news is true or not. In addition, they tend to dig deeper into social issues and political news. Most importantly, they are neutral in terms of politics, so you won’t see headlines like “Is the president afraid of stairs?” which appeared on CNN.

The alternative media is still emerging in the sea of information, not only in the US but around the world. I think that this is the right way to get our news so that we are not blinded by lies and fake news. I believe this is much more than a trend. Instead, this is a reflection of a revolution in people’s attitudes towards information – less bias, more fact checks.

Kyle Chan, Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College

From the editor

Thank you for your email, Kyle. I’m not sure if Young Post falls into your category of “mainstream media” or not. But, naturally, I feel I must respond as if you think it does. I notice that you provide us no reference to this story of the Iraqi woman’s death, so I looked it up online and the first thing I found was a story by The Washington Post – a news source we use often because we trust it – saying that the story is not true. Ironically, it first appeared in Fox News, a media company that is far more supportive of Trump than most. This is an awkward fact, as Trump is the one making the most noise about fake news.

Many people who make these claims don’t really understand how the news media works. There is no agenda, usually. Most journalists would be unable to agree on what to have for lunch, let alone on some overarching plan to push a certain agenda. Some media, though, do lean left or right, and will naturally attract those kinds of staff, writers, copy editors and editors. So they will also attract those kinds of readers. It is true that many media outlets lean left because many people in journalism feel that we want a better world. It’s often why people become journalists – to change the world for good. So, generally – and I am speaking in broad generalisations here – those who are passionate about news are more open to ideas of helping fellow humans, feeling empathy with refugees, wanting everyone to be treated fairly, wanting everyone to be clothed and fed, and taking care of the planet.

Journalists differ on the way they think this goal should be achieved – by helping the rich or helping the poor.

There are other people who have completely different ideas of how the world should be. They are usually the privileged few who don’t wish to lose those privileges – and, sensibly, who would? They understand that resources are like a cake, and that cake can only feed so many people. They like to ensure that they get the biggest slice of cake they can because they believe that greed is a good thing. That is a whole discussion I shall leave for another time.

Mainstream media (MSM, as those against it like to call it), do not have super powers to know when someone is lying to them. They often only have the time and resources to report what someone has said to them. They should report it in such a way that it is clear that it is unverified.

If you think of Young Post getting that kind of story, we don’t have the resources to pop someone on a plane to Iraq to check if the woman died, and make it back in time for deadline. So we will tell you what the man says happened. It’s up to you to check, to judge, to think things through.

Being in the mainstream media does not make us immune to mistakes. People are people and make mistakes all the time. However they do not deliberately set out to mislead anyone. And once we know we have made a mistake, we make sure everyone else knows it too.

If you saw the discussions we have at editorial meetings, you would know how much time we spend deciding which stories to write about, and how to write about them!

I could go on and on explaining the checks and balances that are in place to do our best to get a story right. But it would be better if you came along to Young Post to see for yourself! Do consider signing up for our YP cadet programme this summer (email us at [email protected] ), and learn more about the fascinating world of journalism.

Susan, Editor