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The Media Influences the Public’s Perception of Reality

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One problem that plagues us everyday without us even realizing it is media bias. We see it in the news. We see it on our favorite sitcoms. We read it everyday in the paper. Yet, we really don’t recognize when we hear it or see it. The media bias is evident to exist and can provide us with false information and realities. We, the public, should learn to not be as easily influenced by the media and should not let it shape our perception of reality. Three types of very common media biases that incredibly affect our perception are, corporate biases, political biases and sensationalism in the entertainment industry. The mass media is an important cultural phenomenon that we must understand if our cognitive processes are to be informed but not extremely influenced by it.

A study done by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, documents the relation between news source and certain misconceptions about the Iraq war. The poll asked Americans whether they believed statements about the war that were known to be false and what their primary news source was. The study showed that higher numbers of Fox News watchers held certain misconceptions about the Iraq war than others, an altered perception of reality. You may ask, why Fox News? The reason is Corporate biases. In America, media and advertising are some of the biggest influences on a person’s method of viewing and interpreting the world. The media is funded through contributions, sponsorships and advertising so it has to provide something valuable and influential to it’s audience to gain financial support. This is where a Corporate biascomes into play.

A corporate bias is the reporting of issues to favour the interests of the owners and advertisers of the news media. These partialities on a corporate scale exceedingly affect thepublic’s perception. For example, if you were to only watch Fox News Network, you would have conservative perceptions, regarding that Fox News is considered a conservative network. Is it right for wealthy corporate big shots to shape our perceptions using the media? Or to omit necessary information that would influence our opinions? Or provide misconceptions of reality? The news offers prejudice realities and we should be aware of that.

The mass media is not only considered prejudice, but much of it is sensationalised. Sensationalism is a bias in favour of the exceptional over
the ordinary. This includes the practice whereby exceptional news may be overemphasized, distorted or fabricated to boost commercial ratings. Sensationalism is extremely evident in the entertainment industry, where celebrities are glorified and deemed exceptional but, the reality of the lives of these celebrities are twisted and overemphasized to attract an audience. The lives of global celebrities are usually fabricated to the point where the line between fact and fiction is blurred. This gives us misconceptions about the “perfect” persona that celebrities tend to entail. Tyra Banks provides an excellent example of sensationalism affecting the public’s perception of reality.

In relation to the idealized life of Rihanna and the criticism from the recentevents of domestic abuse regarding Chris Brown beating up Rihanna, Tyra stated on the Oprah show,”…Rihanna has been criticized repeatedly for getting back with Chris Brown [going back to him after he assaulted her]. The public, with the help of the media, see Rihanna as a role model, a role model who is supposed to make perfect decisions. But she is a singer, a very famous singer, not a politician, not someone who said they wanted to change the world. Rihanna is an ordinary and imperfect girl.” This quote explains how there is a misconception that perfection is among the ordinaryin Hollywood, when it is definitely not. The public has obtained these misconceptions through sensationalism.

But sensationalism is not only evident in the entertainment industry, but also politics. There is an overemphasis of political figures which leads to crazed fans and a bias towards one political candidate. This leads to political biases in the media. Political biases include biases in favor of or against a particular political party, candidate, or policy. A good example of this is the recent election between John McCain and Barack Obama. This photo was published in the newspaper under the editor’s discretion and it shows McCain making a complete fool of himself while Obama remains dignified. It was obvious that the election was under sensationalist scrutiny, but the news networks and newspapers held a more subtle form of corporate biases. A liberally run newspaper would omit negative information about the democrats as a conservative newspaper would do the same for the republicans. This ultimately affects our perception of political candidates and gives us only a partial view of political issues.

These three common media biases (corporate bias, sensationalism and political biases) influence and can shape our perception, ideas, concepts and theories. This shows that media influence has a considerable impact on our day to day lives. Media biases can be difficult to notice as the media has determined our perceptions for most of our lives and has been cunningly placed in all types of media. We, the public, need to learn to be aware of the increasing affect the media has on our lives. Remember, don’t believe everything you read in the paper.



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