RFD: The Media-Positive Influence or Cultural Detriment?

Question: Does the Media have a Positive Impact on Society?

The Impact of Media on Today's Modern World Cannot be Undermined: Written by Hussein Usmanrch, Pakistan

In the recent years media has faced extreme criticism and has been a subject of a huge debate. With the Trump government’s clear views against the media due to its hard approach on his policies and ideas as one example, it is clear that many political leaders don’t go well with such mainstream criticism. Analyzing today’s societies reveals that the influence of media has become greater than ever. From social media platforms, whose authenticity can be questionable to mainstream media channels and programs that are run by seasoned journalists and are backed by intensive research, we can easily comprehend that a broad spectrum exists when it comes to identifying its role as either positive or negative.

Let’s probe in a bit deeper on why today's free media is the biggest accountability agent, that creates a pressure on the leaders to play their role rightfully with a fear of their reputation being damaged. This check and balance is extremely important, and no matter the skill of the judiciary, much could be hidden gotten away with if the media weren't there to highlight and investigate that issue on a public level. In Pakistan, the media has played a huge role in strengthening the country’s democratic institutions and highlighting different issues. Over the years the Pakistani media has evolved as a strong entity which has successfully played its role in exposing massive scandals, making it a national issue, and then investigating it in an extremely professional way. A few examples must be quoted here which work as evidence for the media’s role as a powerful advocate when it comes to change.

The recent Panama papers, which exposed the corruption of many world leaders, was one of the most successful mutual contributions by the world’s media. 107 media organizations from more than 80 countries played their role in investigating and then publishing these papers on an international level. In Pakistan after the release of these papers, a huge flood of events took place. The media was a key figure in bringing up this issue even in the face of the alleged government’s pressure. Journalists spent hours each day explaining these documents and media organizations clearly took a solid stance against corruption. The opposition’s protests were heavily covered and highlighted and the Panama Papers were gradually converted into one of the country’s most important cases, 'the Panama case,’ which eventually resulted in the disqualification of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on July 28th, 2017. The media played a commendable role which was heavily based on extensive research. What is the media’s role? Well, it is to highlight issues and to make the common man aware of his surroundings and the events which may affect him. Thus, the media played a great role in making the majority of this developing country aware of the value of a corruption free society and the importance of accountability and transparency.

The media’s hard approach on the government is vital and should be supported. Important social advocacy campaigns would have had no impact if the media had not played its part. From anti-tobacco campaigns to issues like climate change and global warming, all have been put up by today’s media, to make the common man aware of his world. With the technological advancements, the effects of media have increased to a whole new level. With apps, and instant news coverage, everyone is globally connected and aware. People have become politically and socially educated.

Mass media is a key democratic institution (McQuail, 2000) and is vital in improving the quality of other institutions like judiciary, and other branches of the state, as it plays a key role in evaluating their democratic performance.The media has played a big role in different global movements and its positive impact on our society can easily be evaluated by observing its contribution on every level.

Who the Victims of Today's Media are: Written by Kya Chen, California

The media has always been many people’s main source of gaining information, be it from the morning news, celebrity tabloids, or scrolling through our Facebook feed. In this era of technology, when it is so effortless for anyone to publish their opinions on the internet, we’ve made it incredibly easy to be exposed to blatant lies and falsities in the guise of credible facts. It’s come to a point where middle school students in 2017 will believe the Earth is flat just because a basketball player claimed it to be (I’m looking at you, Kyrie Irving). And of course, there’s the entire “fake news” debacle, propagated by Trump over news outlets he simply doesn’t like. There is no doubting that the enormous influence the media has on the masses can be used for positive effect, but when the public no longer bothers to fact-check every politician they listen to, or takes every article they read at face-value, people become misinformed and then harm others with that misinformation.

For years, misrepresentation in the media has allowed for the promoting of racial stigmas and stereotypes of minorities. From 1915’s Birth of a Nation, that portrayed black men as rapists and white supremacists as heroes, to modern day blackface, it’s no wonder why black people are seen as thugs and criminals in society. Even in the news, we don’t hear white shooters being called “possible terrorists”, but instead “mentally ill”. Senator Lindsey Graham even dubbed Dylann Roof, who shot and killed nine black parishioners, as “one of these whacked out kids” (Roof was 21 at the time, by the way). In contrast, minorities constantly face victim-blaming, such as with Fox New’s Geraldo Rivera claiming that Trayvon Martin was just “as much responsible for [his] death as George Zimmerman” for wearing a hoodie. So while white criminals are excused for their actions by the media outlets for being “troubled youth”, black teens face being branded as “dangerous criminals” and “hoodlums”. This in turn affects black people and other minorities in their daily life, them having to deal with “stop-and-frisk” or getting taken aside for a “random check” by the TSA.

There are also the situations where believing everything you hear can be flat-out harmful, such as with the infamous myth of vaccines causing autism in children. Even doing the slightest amount of research reveals a variety of studies proving no direct link between getting vaccinated and getting autism, supported by the CDC, PublicHealth, you name it. Yet because of the documentary, Vaxxed, that promoted this hoax, many parents refused to let their children get vaccinations. Furthermore, people still share facebook posts inviting others to pox-parties, gatherings where kids would be deliberately exposed to diseases and viruses, such as the chicken pox. Whether it be not vaccinating your child or believing the Earth is flat, the consequences of rejecting science are both obvious and drastic. Especially now, as climate change is becoming a topic more prevalent in our conversations, the last thing we need is another documentary about how it’s all a farce.

To top it all off, we have one of the leaders of the free world constantly bad mouthing people and accusing credible news organizations like CNN or the New York Times of being “fake news” on his twitter page. Social media can be a great platform when used correctly, to allow politicians to interact with the public in a less formal manner. But as in the President’s case, we’re often left with influencers whose posts impact the public severely and negatively. Having followers believe the disparaging remarks about trustworthy media outlets only strips those people of a reliable source of information.

There will always be false articles passed around and incorrect facts posted online. What’s important is that the public learns to distinguish between these and the truth, because the damage of falling victim to fake news is detrimental to how we view the world and live our lives.

Now It's Time For Your Input

This is perhaps our most multifaceted debate yet, and we want to hear all sides of it from you, our readers. What role does the media play in your country? Is there censorship or an attempt by governments to control and snuff out criticism? Is the news media considered trustworthy in your country or have people begun to lose faith? How has the interplay between social media and traditional media evolved and has it evolved for the better or for the worse? There's so much to talk about and we look forward to seeing you all in the discussions linked below. Please make your voice heard. The only way to begin to bridge the divide is by having a conversation.

Join the Discussion HERE:


#HusseinUsmanrch #KyaChen #Debate #media #socialmedia

The opinions expressed above are solely those of the author, and in no way reflect the opinions of Bridge the Divide or its affiliates.

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