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How harmful is the increasing distrust of mainstream media?

BY: Maneh Davityan (@manehdavityan)

If you turn on the news at any time it seems as though our current political state of affairs has only gotten more divisive and alienating, whether it be the conservative Fox News, or the liberal CNN and MSNBC. A recent survey from the American Psychological Association found that more than half of Americans say watching the news causes them stress, and many report feeling anxiety, fatigue or sleep loss as a result.

Furthermore, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report in 2017, 57% of Americans said that watching the news “can have a negative effect on my mood” and 35% said “I can’t rely on news to be true”. If a majority of the American people feel like simply watching the news can have a negative effect on their mood and that they can’t trust the news, then it seems just as important to figure out why this occurs and why have so many people started going to other independent news outlets instead of mainstream media.

In the past, most people would consume the same amount of news from media outlets which showcased similar stories. During this time only a handful of news outlets became mainstream news outlets. Unfortunately for the general public, these outlets used their prestige as leverage over the American people. They felt as though they could leave out the part of the story that was damaging to their beliefs as a collective news outlet. Over the years they continued to share the stories that only cheerlead for their political benefit. Which brings us to the situation today, where a majority of the public feel like they can’t rely on the media outlets like they used to. The wedge between the American people and the media has increasingly been highlighted as the media’s rhetoric has become more and more extreme in order to showcase the existential nature of the situation, which ultimately overwhelms their audience. Additionally, instead of encouraging the American people to engage in politics to create change, the extreme rhetoric they impose discourages their audience and allows for a sense of hopelessness to flourish.

Taking this into consideration, how damaging is this disconnect in mainstream media outlets? This disconnect ultimately allows for the American people to shy away from politics and the daily news, which leads to more people being disconnected and disinterested in politics, but perhaps more importantly in voting. According to the United States Elections Project explain that around 43% of the eligible voting-age population did not vote in 2016. This percentage of the population is only going to get even larger throughout the years, especially with the continued distrust of the media outlets. Due to this disconnection of major media outlets, independent media has been on the rise, as platforms like Youtube and Spotify help elevate perspectives that go against the typical mainstream media talking points. Thus, the importance of shifting our focus away from mainstream media and towards independent media represents a positive shift away from a distrusted, disingenuous, and unhealthy state of media, into a new uplifting, truly informative medium that forces quality due to competition.

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