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Media Transparency Discussion Series: Introduction

A new study came out that states in big bold headlines that the two sides of the political coin, Democrats and Republicans, hold vastly different opinions of the media. Whereas the political left is inclined to trust the media and have faith in it's integrity, the political right believes the opposite. This has many disturbing implications for both sides. Is that trust in the integrity of media misplaced for the Democrats? Is that lack of faith a sign of something much darker for the Republicans? What happened to make this dichotomy our new reality? In order to properly answer these questions, there needs to be a clear understanding of how mass media functions today, followed by a discussion of how to handle problems with the system, and ultimately on how to reconcile across the aisle.

To begin organizing our framework, let's attempt to define what "The Media" is. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “The main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet) regarded collectively.” That differs from Mass Media, which is defined as “technology that is intended to reach a mass audience. It is the primary means of communication used to reach the vast majority of the general public. The most common platforms for mass media are newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the Internet. The general public typically relies on the mass media to provide information regarding political issues, social issues, entertainment, and news in pop culture.” That is a loaded definition. For our purposes, we define the media according to it's dictionary definition, as the laws regarding how it functions treat it as such, however that definition provides no context for determining the answers to the questions established in our opening paragraph.

We need to understand what this big gloopy thing,"The Media" is and how it functions (funding, information dissemination, ethics, etc.). From that baseline, we get into the nitty gritty and begin unraveling what laws and policies govern what the media can/can’t, or will/won’t do with regards to reporting. It is also vital to explain how different types of media function within these parameters (public vs. private). To do this, we will look at a collection of media case studies and examine them through a designed framework built on established metrics. At the end of this series, we will move into a discussion of media bias, transparency, how the current political climate in America has been impacted, and strategies to counter misinformation.

Our focus is on news propagation which is distributed most often through TV, Radio, Newspapers, and the wide open Internet. Most Americans get their news from television networks, the big three being Fox Network Corporation, CNN and MSNBC. We will be examining those, as well as NPR, and The New York Times which according to studies performed by Pew Research, most of those who identify as the left get their news from those two sources in addition to the three former.

With luck and a lot of research, I hope to make this very complicated and extremely vital topic a little less murky.


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