OPINION: Media must regain public trust

Local news sources provide accurate, relevant reporting



We allow the media to control our information — what if we as a society regained control of the news?

JUSTIN WASHINGTON, Evergreen research editor

It is getting significantly harder to trust news sources. Yes, this is coming from someone who works in journalism.

It is no surprise that most major outlets for news have begun to lose their credibility with the public. This is because they have a bias, and some media corporations will go as far as twisting the truth or blatantly lying just to get the public to agree with them.

As someone who has recently found a passion for journalism, this is wrong. People read the news because they want the facts of what is going on. When reporters start editing the truth to fit a narrative, it becomes entertainment, not news. 

This is not a debate between liberal media or conservative media either. Both sides have news reporting that has been misguided or blatantly false. It is okay to argue whether or not you agree with what is happening in the world, but it is not okay to suppress information to where people do not have a choice but to follow your side.

While most of us can admit that we are beginning to lose faith in media outlets , there are not many ideas on how to combat the issue. At least, no one has been them into practice.

Graduate physics student Nat Audley (they/them) said that bias and misinformation in news reporting are a huge issue even when the actions confirm their personal beliefs. 

They also said that the news influences social media, and in turn, social media influences the news. 

“I think a big part of the issue is that misinformation is a compounding problem,” Audley said. “One sort of narrative can be used to enforce another narrative, regardless of the source.” 

They said that honest reporting is one solution to the issues at hand. Additionally, they suggested support for local reporting as opposed to national reporting. 

“Letting people know about issues in their own backyards, and reporting those issues with as much clarity as possible, can really instill trust that a news organization has their side,” Audley said. “Large news organizations either have to be really honest, or they have little hope of appearing that way.”

They say they use cross-referencing as a means of learning through the news. It is useful to research things like who else has reported on the topic and the credibility of both the author of the story and the company they work for. 

Doing research when reading the news is not a new idea. So many teachers and professors have told me that researching what you are being told is key to making sure you have the right information.

But are people going to manually cross-reference and fact-check every single point that is brought up in a news article? Some will, but not everyone. We like the convenience of being spoon-fed information without having to do in-depth research.

The media knows this. That is why they get away with what they do.

Graduate math student Brian Becsi said journalists who report the news intend on delivering the truth. However, issues may arise with editorial discretion or falsified stories from sources believed to be reputable.

“While journalists typically intend to deliver the truth, and we can derive a lot of accuracy from reporting, we should be careful about assigning the word ‘truth’ to reporting,” he said. “At its core, even media with the most integrity has an agenda, and I think we can only start to understand the truth once we can evaluate the big picture.”

In terms of bias, Becsi said he is less concerned about bias and more concerned about the lack of accountability for bias.

“Often, the most harmful misinformation is information that has enough credibility or accuracy, so that [it] isn’t labeled as such,” he said. “Basically, the best propaganda is the stuff you don’t have to make up.”

It is important to note that the media has fact-checked politicians and other notable individuals. They have established themselves as warriors of the truth, despite no one holding them accountable for what they say is the truth.

Becsi said he considers himself somewhat politically active and cares about social justice. However, he said that he would rather understand the opposition’s beliefs than always rely on reporting that confirms his own.

“When we lie about the issues we care about, we open ourselves up to be discredited,” he said. “When we lie about our political opponents, we lose sight of what makes them dangerous.”

Becsi said that making news organizations publicly-owned or employee-owned is one solution to making the media maintain an image of honesty. He also brought up the idea of independent organizations with very clear intentions. 

He said that labor groups had been the most betrayed by the major media, and he encourages relying on news sources relevant to working individuals.

I think that Audley’s and Becsi’s solutions can be tied together. Having smaller, locally-owned news sources is probably the biggest step to establishing trust between people and the media.

School newspapers are a good example of this. They are run by students focusing on student voice and issues, so students can generally trust what they are reading. 

Local news organizations try to follow a similar concept, but the issue with them is that people tend to pay more attention to the major outlets than the outlets in their hometown. 

Having independent, employee-owned organizations to cover national news could be essential to developing a more honest image. Major news corporations do not always work in the interest of the American people but rather their own personal agenda. Having employees or the public in charge of the press can help promote authenticity.

But will these solutions actually come to fruition?

As I have discussed during my time as a student journalist, I think that it is up to us as college students to make the changes we want to see in this country, and by extension, the world. That is the responsibility we bear as the emerging leaders of society.

We have the awareness and the ideas. Now it is time for us to push for the solutions that can change the media for the better.