Most readers who are as old as I am will recall that a “paperboy” (some were girls, but we were less politically correct then) would drop off a newspaper every morning. We also might recall our parents tuning into the news at 6 and 10 pm. In my adult years, I have increasingly consumed news from the Internet and the radio.
During the pandemic, I subscribed (for free) to The New York Times‘ “The Morning.” I have enjoyed getting a synopsis of important events. At the same time, I’ve been frustrated when a paywall prevents me from accessing a full article. Slowly it dawned on me that I could (and should) pay a nominal amount to read the full article. It further occurs to me that if more people subscribe to newspapers, they might be able to hire more journalists and the quality of the information we read would be improved.
I decided that I wanted a Canadian news source and that I would subscribe to The Toronto Star and its “First Up” newsletters. Before doing so, I checked the Star on Media Bias Fact Check. It is reported as being a centre-left news source. I then came to the realization that all of the news I consume is centre-left. This caused me to wonder, “Do my political tendencies influence what media I consume? Or does the media I consume influence my political tendencies?”
I have been unsuccessful in determining the direction of causation, but it appears indisputable that people do consume media that is consistent with their political views. Pew has done some research on ideology and news consumption in the U.S. In fact, about a quarter of Republicans and Democrats consistently consume only news outlets that align with them politically. Further, 20 percent of Republicans watch at least eight hours of Fox News (right wing) per month while 15 percent of Democrats watch the same amount on left leaning networks (e.g., MSNBC and CNN). It appears that this news consumption increases their political ideology. The same research suggests that consuming more variety of news would reduce political polarization and might act as a moderator of differing views.
Whether left- or right-leaning, the factors that best predict one’s ability to determine whether a headline was true or not include “greater levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness, open-mindedness, lower levels of extraversion and fewer hours of news consumption.”
- Please consider paying for at least one news subscription that supports journalism.
- Check your own news consumption. If it’s too heavily weighted in one direction, consider consuming something from the other side.
- Consider whether consuming less news would be helpful.
As society becomes more polarized, it becomes increasingly important that we are more understanding of people whose ideology does not align with our own, that we are aware of our own biases, and that we participate in discussions to learn, rather than to convince.