This post is written by Associate Editor Tarah Remy. Opinions and views expressed herein are those of the writer alone.
Have you ever just sat down for a moment, unplugged and considered all the opinions you have–where they come from and at what point in life you decided on that specific point of view? Today’s society is uniquely “informed;” there is a constant barrage of information being soaked in from a range of different sources, all claiming truth. Even now, you are thinking of a few, perhaps Facebook, news channels, Twitter, online news sources, and sometimes even a physical newspaper. However, have you ever wondered how much of that news is tailored to push a “public opinion” and how easily we all fall prey, even when we think we don’t?
We are an isolated people. It is an unfortunate truth, but for the most part, we only know what we read or see or hear, and besides that, we know nothing at all. Most of us are not out in the field discovering breaking news; most people are confined to what they have been given. In his book, Setting the Agenda: Mass Media a Public Opinion, Maxwell McCombs says it best, “[f]or nearly all the concerns on the public agenda, citizens deal with a second-hand reality…” The idea that journalist are the public’s eyes and ears still lives on today. In theory, “there remains a sense that there are many things that news journalism ought to be doing — to monitor, to hold to account and to facilitate and maintain deliberation…,” however, with that, we forget that journalists are only human, just like you and me. And just like this blog suggests, human beings are susceptible to manipulation. Most news sources may simply be pushing an opinion and sometimes it is easier to just agree.
Today, much of the news we take in is from social media. We read articles, watch videos, and even read opinions by friends and other social media connections. But you know, just like Wikipedia, the news on social media is constantly being edited and changed. With everyone being on high alert for “Fake News” take a minute and maybe do the following:
- Think about what you just read
- “Triangulate”—Research other news sources running the story. Compare and contrast what they’re saying, are they saying the same thing? What’s different? Why do you think it’s different?
- Consider why you believe that, and how that belief could change the public rhetoric for the better.
Even though we may not know it, our opinions have an effect on society; why else would news sources and political parties push to convince us to think their way? As lawyers to be, we have been taught to think critically, don’t allow yourself to wonder whether the opinions you have are your own.
 Maxwell McCombs, Setting the Agenda: Mass Media and Public Opinion
 Natalie Fenton, Drowning or Waiving? New Media, Journalism and Democracy