Author Donny Miller wrote that, “In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.”
Today, news can be shared with millions of people worldwide in minutes. Yet people can still be misinformed. The fault for this lies with both the viewers and media outlets.
Media outlets such as Fox News have regularly misinformed viewers, according to numerous studies. In 2010, World Public Opinion (WPO) published a report stating that daily viewers of Fox News were significantly more likely to believe false statements about the economy, climate change, and the president’s birthplace.
Fox is infamous for misinforming its viewers by skewing information. For example, on July 31, 2012, Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto displayed a graph showing what wealthy Americans would pay if temporary tax cuts made in 2001 were allowed to expire. The chart, however, exaggerated the increase by starting its vertical axis at 34% rather than zero. This made it seem as if the increase was five times greater than it actually was.
This is not the only time Fox has done something of this nature. According to satirist Jon Stewart, “Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers? Fox viewers, consistently, in every poll.”
However, this bias is not only limited to one side of the political spectrum. In the same WPO study mentioned previously, people who watch MSNBC were more likely to believe that “the US Chamber of Commerce [is] spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates.”
However, media outlets do not solely deserve the blame for their viewers’ ignorance. According to Justin Yoon, a freshmen in Centennial High School who follows the news regularly, “While it is true that [media outlets] misinform the public, I believe it is the viewer’s responsibility to make sure that they learn the truth.”
Misinformed viewers often do not fact-check information given to them, not always because they are lazy but often because they have pre-existing notions that make the information seem true. But with incorrect information, these people are not able to make informed decisions. The longer this continues, the more detrimental it will be to our democratic system.
People must take it upon themselves to find the correct information and make thoughtful decisions. Otherwise, the public will be mere pawns in a political battle between ideologies. Media outlets should not let their political ideals interfere with their work and viewers should not blindly accept any information as true.