The Interactive Media Bias Chart illustrates bias and truth in media. Photo: Ad Fontes Media

In the year 2024, it is important for students, teachers and voters to remain informed heading into this year’s election. With an abundance of information and a million different ways to consume it, people must yield on the side of caution when exploring different headlines. 

All Pace Academy high school students have access to a phone, which is disproportionately the main way students learn about the news. While these scholars love their phones and social media apps, many don’t realize the harmful effects of learning about current affairs from social media. Social media creates issues when users obtain information from non-credible posts and misleading headlines. Many social media users tend to believe these headlines without checking for the source or evidence, especially after seeing the same misleading headlines multiple times. It is dangerous for social media to be a main source of information for the latest news, because algorithms are serving the user exactly what they want to learn. This may lead to missing out on important information and perspectives, as well as learning false information. According to a study at Oxford University, teens who view headlines in third party spaces do express caution when viewing political posts. But, teens are much more likely to indulge in this content if the posts seem authentic to the social media platform. For example, if I am on the ESPN Fantasy Football app, I may see multiple clickbait links which are in different fonts and styles than the rest of the app. I would never click on these, just because it looks so obvious that it is trying to catch my attention, and it isn’t part of the news I am attaining on the Fantasy Football app. But, while scrolling through Instagram stories, I may see cleverly edited ads for politicians that follow the format of Instagram. These seem more intriguing and entertaining because it feels like these ads are part of the Instagram experience.

Social media has become a major source of news for teens. According to surveys at the Wall Street Journal, only around 35% of teens get their daily news from news websites and live news. The rest of teens attain news from their social media feeds and search engines. For teens, social media is accessible and easy. Users are spoon fed a complicated issue and delivered an efficient, easy to understand explanation. Social media is also preferred as a news outlet by teens because it feels relevant to their lives and daily routines, while reading a newspaper may seem like a chore and distant to teens’ lives. However, the main reason why teens prefer social media as a news outlet is the fear of relentlessly negative news. It feels overwhelming to consume so much negative news, especially when it comes from an uncomfortable and unauthentic source. Users are unable to connect with live news and newspapers, which causes teens to use the much more comfortable and personalized social media. 

Well, how do you know if a source is credible? Upper School Librarian, Marty Hamburger believes researching is no easy task. Mr. Hamburger says, “Question most everything that you search for. It’s good to be skeptical.”  For finding reliable sources, Mr. Hamburger recommends the C.R.A.A.P. system. The method stands for Currency (when has the information last been edited?), Relevance (is the information appropriate to your needs, is it a third party space?) Authority (who wrote it?), Accuracy (is there evidence?), and Purpose (does the information aim to persuade or inform?). While this system is helpful for finding the truth, fact checking is also an excellent way to figure out “who to believe and what to believe,” Mr. Hamburger notes. On the Pace Academy website, there are links to many fact checking devices such as Politifact and the Media Bias Chart. The Media Bias Chart is a very useful tool that illustrates the bias and lack of reliability in many news outlets today. Also on the Woodruff Library page, your Pace email is your access to a free New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Atlanta Journal Constitution subscription. Mr. Hamburger specifically signifies the importance of aiming for the truth. “If you are trying to be a conscientious, informed citizen, it takes a little bit of work. It’s super super dangerous to take anyone at their word. People are manipulating numbers and taking things out of context.”

Why is it valuable to observe multiple perspectives? All students already possess an initial bias in certain opinions, whether they notice it or not. Without entertaining multiple perspectives, people can become fastened with rigid opinions, which are probably not completely true. Consumers who only indulge in one media source lose out on important information that could be left out. The benefit of multiple perspectives is that people can understand why opposing viewpoints think in different ways. This creates flexibility in opinions, which is very important for compromises, changes and a greater sense of unity.

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