How to Get Smarter About the Partisan Press

In a new IHS-Big Think video, Keith Whittington, a Professor of Politics at Princeton University, considers the evolution of traditional media and how to navigate the hyper-partisan press.

“We have not yet reached a point where I think the traditional media is irrelevant to our public conversation, but they’re certainly challenged in new ways,” says Whittington. “In part, they’re challenged because there is new competition, that there are other people and other mechanisms for communicating to a mass audience than what we’ve traditionally relied on with newspapers and with broadcast media or cable news and the like.”

Whittington also notes that we’re seeing a much more partisan media and press. We used to have expectations of purely objective journalism, and that is being replaced by media that has an opinion. He notes: “We might not see the same kind of pure examples of ‘Let me just tell you the facts’ that we might have expected to see in the newspaper in the mid-20th century.”

Traditional media is also challenged by the way information is conveyed today. People consume news in a different way than before. They may come across news in a Facebook feed, for example. Whittington notes:

“All they [people] know is the headline. And as a consequence, I think, traditional media has been struggling to figure out how to convey the crucial parts of the information they need to convey in the headline itself. They want the headline to be enticing so it will draw people into the larger story, but they also have to be very careful that the headline is not misleading… So that the people who, in fact, walk away with nothing more than the headline are not getting a misimpression about what’s being conveyed underneath.”

Consumers need to recognize this and make sure to consider all sides of an issue. Whittington concludes:

“It’s our responsibility then as citizens and consumers to learn how to navigate that media environment, to recognize the press for what it is, to recognize that we’re getting slants, we’re getting opinions, we’re getting people’s perspectives on the news. And as a consequence, we ought to be more aggressive and take more responsibility on ourselves to read those pieces critically.”

This video is one in an extended series about civil discourse. To view additional videos from the series, visit the Institute for Humane Studies blog.

Prior videos in this series:

Social Media, Tribalism, and the Prevalence of Fake News
with Jonathan Rauch, a Brookings senior fellow

Self Command: Learn This Powerful Thinking Tool
with Emily Chamlee-Wright, IHS president

The Psychology of Moral Grandstanding
with Brandon Warmke, Bowling Green State University assistant professor of philosophy

Why Free Speech Has No Political Party
with Jon Zimmerman, University of Pennsylvania professor of history of education

John Stuart Mill’s Big Idea: Harsh Critics Make Good Thinkers
with Keith Whittington, Princeton University professor of politics

Why Pitting Prejudices Against Each Other Keeps Society Free
with Jonathan Rauch, Brookings senior fellow

Free Speech on College Campuses: A Bottom-up Approach
with Emily Chamlee-Wright, IHS president

See more posts: Big ThinkIdeasIHS NewsVideo 

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