Confirmation bias and lack of watchdog journalism has led to the rise of partisan news

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 at 2:38 PM

Watching the news nowadays is quite a trying event for some. Liberals watch, mouths agape, as President Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican party dismantle many of the things that Obama did during his two terms. For others, it’s seemingly therapeutic, as many Republicans now get to see their ideologies win out for the first time since 2007. 

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with enjoying success when you experience it, but there is something inherently wrong with the thought behind “fake news,” a relatively new phenomenon, and how it is defined. 

The apparent definition of “fake news” in today’s political climate is something that, even though the events likely occurred, paints the current administration in a bad light. The only reputable news sources in today’s day and age appears to be the ones that act more like a lapdog than a watchdog. 

What do I mean by lapdog and watchdog? Let me explain.

These are the two sides of journalism that one can take, but often times the lapdog is preferred by those in power, as it tends to not challenge the status quo whatsoever. The watchdog function, however, is far less preferable by politicians and those in power, with the main purpose being to fact-check and challenge those in power with concerns and questions. 

When looking at the two, we see that the media started off very much as a lapdog to the government in the United States’ infancy. But soon, it turned into a more investigative entity as early as the ‘20s, with the rise of muckrakers, who then were challenging the rise of monopolies in businesses. 

This lasted well into the early to mid-90s, although a massive decrease was seen when many journalists began to merely take a pro-war stance towards the Iraq war versus challenging it. It didn’t help that many readers were now looking less and less for hard hitting news stories that challenged anything of substance. 

So now that we have a very lapdog type of journalism, we run into the problem of news being extremely partisan because of the desire of its viewers trumping most anything else. This further leads to issues, since being extremely loyal to one party means you are generally completely opposite to the views of the other. 

The problem we’re seeing now is that people desire to have their opinions be reaffirmed by the news media they indulge in, so they only watch one news source. If anything they see goes against their ideologies, they will simply tune it out in favor of something that stays in line with what they believe. 

This process is what is known as “confirmation bias,” and it’s one of the most poisonous things to occur if there is to be educated conversation on politics. 

Confirmation bias is the tendency for people to search for, misconstrue, favor and remember information in a way that confirms one’s own prejudices or preconceived ideologies. Any bit of data we find that might confirm what we think and therefore make us feel good will, in the end, overshadow the bits and pieces of info that say otherwise. 

If you’re wondering how to cure yourself of this bias, it isn’t going to be an easy feat considering it’s wired into you to crave such reaffirming ideas, but it’s necessary in order to change how the news covers stories. 

Just imagine for a moment if Fox News viewers started watching CNN and vice versa, then compared information critically. We might then be in an entirely different situation than we are currently.

When it comes down to brass tacks, the viewers are the reason for the polarization of news networks and publications. When it comes down to it, we are the customers and they are the seller, so why wouldn’t they make their products more enticing to our brain’s pleasure center?

According to a Harvard-Harris Poll published by The Hill in May, 65 percent of voters believe there is an abundance of “fake news”. Of that number, 80 percent are Republican, 60 percent are independent, and 53 percent are Democrats. 

It seems people on both sides are merely watching the same one-sided argument from both their respective sides that keep telling them the other is lying, but in reality, maybe it’s not that one side is lying while the other isn’t. Instead, could it be that you don’t agree with it and would rather admit it is fake than admit you might be wrong?

Roman Sabella is the voices editor for The Spectator. He can be reached at

Tags: voices, opinion

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