Despite what side of the political fence you stand on, there will always be news stories that you may or may not support. Business professional, Paul Michael Sturt, believes that removing bias from reporting allows individuals to make informed decisions without the weight of subjective opinions.
In the business of mergers and acquisitions, there are a lot of nuances required when it comes to timing, and he claims it is vital that he remains informed to benefit his clients. Paul Michael Sturt discusses the polarizing nature of media and how it influences our perception.
Why is staying up to date with news important?
No matter what industry you are in, the news is a representation of what is happening locally, nationally, and globally. As an interconnected system, everything that happens has an impact on our lives in some way, and being ahead of the curve is crucial to making smart and calculated decisions—especially in mergers and acquisitions. However, I believe that there is a fine line between not enough and too much. While I do think that staying informed is important, I also think it can be detriment when it infiltrates every aspect of your life. Negativity is what sells in media so one must be cautious with the information they seek.
Why is objective reporting important?
The news is supposed to provide us with objective information. From news stories to event coverage, there should not be a political bias in our headlines and stories. I believe that opinion pieces should be stated as such, because everyone is entitled to their opinions, whether they fall on the left or the right, but those opinions should not be what drives journalism. For this reason, there is a growing distrust in journalism and media in general. In the era of fake news, stories are littered with bias viewpoints, and it has a major impact on public opinions and decision-making.
What has changed in media (modern vs. traditional)?
Primarily the medium, scale, and speed. While radio, television, and newspapers once delivered the news, now we consume it from every angle at all times through social media, online, print, television, streamed online, etc. Another primary change is the speed at which news is delivered. As most broadcasting companies and online news outlets rely on a constant stream of content to engage viewers, everything becomes news, which invites sensationalism and biased reporting. It then becomes very difficult for citizens to differentiate between what it news and what is not.
Why is polarization such an issue?
It serves to drive people apart instead of together. Instead of focusing on our similarities as a province, country, or nation, we are focused on our differences, and that is palpable in so many present-day news stories. While populations living in rural and urban communities may have different priorities, we all share the same goals: to live healthy, safe, and plentiful lives.
An important way to close the divide would be to support bias-free reporting. Major news networks funded by the federal government should not push an agenda. Try to support outlets that hold themselves to a positive journalistic standard.
Are some media outlets better than others?
Absolutely. I would say that a vast majority of the information and news you consume on social media platforms like Facebook, need to be taken with a grain of salt. Scientific journals, peer-reviewed articles, and other heavily cited outlets should hold more weight. There are certain journalistic standards that will either be present or absent, and you need to keep an eye out for them.
What can people do to avoid polarization?
I think it is important for people to diversify their news sources. If you rely solely on one outlet, or several, you are only able to capture one viewpoint or perspective. While it may seem counterintuitive, try reading a news outlet that often has opposing viewpoints to your own. Part of the problem is that people become stuck inside echo chambers, and convinced that one perspective is the prevailing perspective that they demonize others. If you are left leaning, try reading right leaning news sources from time to time. And it goes both ways. If you are right leaning, try reading left leaning news sources. I think there is a growing need, especially during COVID-19, to come together and understand one another as opposed to the other way around.
What is the greatest impact that biased reporting can have?
We all use the information we are provided by the outlets we trust to make small decisions like which products to buy, to major decisions, like who we vote for. There are values placed on both ends of the spectrum, and it strengthens the divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Biased news reporting can affect what industry you work in, what school you send your kids to, and the decisions you make for your financial future. As important as it is to teach children a full, whole, and well-rounded curriculum, so too is it important to hold our media outlets to the same standard. You never stop learning as an adult, and it is crucial, now more than ever, to ensure that our ‘curriculum’ is balanced, informative, and strengthens us as a nation.
What final advice do you have for our readers around polarization?
Be skeptical. From a young age, I learned to question every piece of information that was brought my way. No matter the subject, I do my due diligence by seeking out information from trusted and verified sources before coming to any conclusion. Of course, this asks a lot of most people. However, I believe that as a citizen of this province and country, it is all of our jobs to find the purest form of truth possible. Form your own opinions. Verify your sources and keep an open mind through it all.