THE BASICS OF NEWSROOM BIAS
TV news broadcasting has had a lot of influence in the American public for quite some time now. Since the phenomenon of news networks began in 1950’s, it was a social norm for families to sit down in front of the boob tube during times of food, rest, and relaxation. Since then, TV broadcasting has become one of the main ways Americans gain information about the happenings of our ever changing world.
And overtime, the way those newsrooms chose their stories have changed with the world as well. With the growing fields in science and technology, plus the traditional socio-economic and political news, it has become difficult for a news team to really cover such diverse topics; so, they developed a system, called agenda setting.
Depending on how newsworthy a story is- that is, how important it is based on how the values of audience appeal, conflict, and new developments- a network can judge on the method of coverage for the story. Where the story is placed in the segment, how much time is spent on it, and how often it is repeated in the news are all dependant on this system. And as the target audience changes across the different party lines, like in the trifecta of Fox News, NBC (MSNBC), and CNN, so do the agendas and coverage of the issues.
Just to kind of summarize the overall agendas of these media stations, no one could ever say it better than Jon Stewart and Dan Rather.
SO, WHAT IS THE AGENDA OF THE POPULATION PROBLEM?
It doesn’t come as much a surprise to me that overpopulation in the first world hasn’t had much headway in the news. It’s a touchy subject, and touches on some hot social topics, like abortion and other reproductive rights. And with the size of audience that Fox News, NBC, and CNN hold, the pressure is on to keep your particular crowd content with what your reporting. And with the amount of unfortunate truths tied into overpopulation, its just too easy to hit a cord.
That being said, it did surprise me to see less than ten stories total in all of their network sites. This tremendous lack presence in the media makes it immediately apparent that the American public are by and large not informed about how big the problem of population truly is, nor how many aspects of our culture it impacts daily.
The two stories I was able to find from FOX news (one of them not even from the network, they just sponsored it), the most conservative of the three stations, has some contrasting aspects to the agenda. One piece affirming that overpopulation isn’t really a problem at all. The other one blaming teenage pregnancy to be the biggest threat to the stable population.
Not only do these stories conflict in the definition of overpopulation as a problem, but their absence from any prominent placement suggest that the entire idea is not taken seriously. This lack of information, no matter the slant, concludes that Fox’s agenda in shaping audience opinion is that there should be no opinion, as there is no debate. Overpopulation isn’t really news worthy.
The grass on the other side of the political spectrum doesn’t look all that much greener. Of course NBC’s overall frame of overpopulation completely contradicts that of Fox News informing their viewers on some of the many very serious side effects of overpopulation, and also what the future may bring with predictions on how technology can help fix this daunting problem.
But even with the quality of information they give viewers about the overpopulation crisis, their agenda of covering it suggests that overpopulation holds little importance in the overall spectrum of the news, as the stories are often published on side pages of the network, and have yet to be a topic discussed on the actual air. Combine this lack of prominence with a lack of repetition of the story, and you can see them fall into the same disappointing pattern as Fox News.
CNN, although not exactly neutral, lies in a relative middle zone between the two sides of party biases. There is also an obvious prominence to the general topic of overpopulation, as the network covers the subject with both more frequency and diversity in the different aspects of the crisis
CNN’s coverage includes a couple different frames of the conflict, including general overview of the population problem, how people opinions affect the solving of the problem, and even some student learning activities that focus on explaining the different aspects of why the viewer should care about it. This broad education allows their readers to obtain a lot of knowledge about how overpopulation can be a problem, and allows them to formulate an opinion based off that knowledge. By far, CNN’s viewer pool is the most informed about the direness of the population problem.
WELL, THAT DOESN’T QUITE CUT IT, DOES IT?
The lack of information about the population problem in TV news media may not be all that surprising, but it sure is disturbing. We know how awful overpopulation is for our world, and how many aspects of our society it harms. But despite this blackout in TV newsrooms, known liberal-leaning news organizations have been covering the risks and consequences of the population problem. People are slowly becoming more aware about how important having small families can be, and the dire need of responsible reproduction globally.
We also know that if the TV broadcasters affect a lot more viewers, and still have a ridiculous amount of power in the world of politics. If Fox News, NBC, or CNN put more focus on the overpopulation agenda, either negatively or positively, the discussions that would result from that exposure would probably trigger way more public awareness and, hopefully, a public pressure to fix this global crisis.