Staff Editorial – Money perpetuates a cycle of misinformation

Thousands of journalists fight to spread awareness and reliable news to average citizens across the world. A noble effort, but one that is often futile, as there is rarely easy access to truly “reliable” news.

National news publications such as The Washington Post and The New York Times have award-winning content, countless op-eds and educational news, but only for a price. News today costs money, regardless of the need to provide citizens with accurate news. To simply survive, newspapers must leave their “noble” goals behind and operate like a business by requiring readers to pay for a subscription. As a result, readers tend to turn to free news sources, creating a plague of misinformation in today’s society.

The biggest culprit: social media.

With the number of users on social media platforms, misinformation can easily go viral. For those who rely on social media for their daily news intake, consciously or not, this can be dangerous. We live in a society where we will believe anything we read without further questioning. We immediately repost, sharing it with other users, causing an almost never-ending cycle of misinformation. Everyone is just one scroll away from having yet another unreliable news source at your fingertips. Unfortunately, most social media users do not notice, causing them to consume “fake news.” 

During 2016, the Pizzagate conspiracy accused the Clintons of child sex trafficking – allegations that began with anonymous message boards, but the rumors quickly spread. The pizzeria received major backlash, and this misunderstanding led to a man pointing an assault rifle at one of the restaurant’s employees to rescue nonexistent children. Misinformation can quickly spiral and without the proper research, real lives are hurt.

The Washington Post is one of the leading daily newspapers in the United States today. Their official slogan – democracy dies in darkness, advocates for truthful, unbiased information being available to the public, but this noble goal is tainted. Billionaire Jeffery Bezos owns the Post, a clear conflict of interest as Bezos is highly affected by the Post’s publications due to his extensive economic interests. One of our nation’s leading newspapers is being controlled by big tech. The question remains: what would happen to democracy if gullible news consumers continue to turn to biased news?

Democracy may very well cease to exist.

While local news channels tend to remain free to audiences and provide an important community perspective on both local and national events, in order to understand these bigger issues and remain involved citizens, we must search and dig through the plethora of national news information – navigating free and paid, reliable and unreliable news.

The harsh reality is that news publications are self-funded businesses that must pay the entire team who puts together the news production, and to support them they must ask for financial support.  It is critical to take steps – whether by subscribing to a news publication, reading more local news or taking some extra time to stay updated with national news – to stay informed.

Our perception of the world is not only easily influenced, but it is also crucial to our information processing and decision-making. Although the extra web search or article read may require a bit more out of all of us, taking some time to better shape your worldview is well worth the effort.