Nobody has any kind of a demonstrably miraculous internal Magic 8 Ball, and those who claim that they do are often proven to be in error. Minus omniscience or psychic ability, most struggle to make the best judgments possible. This is particularly appreciable when you hear horror stories like the 1994 murders of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, the investigation into the disappearance of Susan Powell, and last year’s tragic murder-suicide in which Josh Powell took the lives of the couple’s two young sons.
Since people can’t have their eyes and ears in all places at once, where do they turn? Naturally, they turn to the media.
Now, does this make people a flock of sheep? Perhaps so, and perhaps not. The important thing to keep in mind is that people investigate the media for the exact reason which was previously mentioned, which is that most people have questions and can’t exactly go raiding through classified police documents.
Despite whatever contempt people may express for the media and whatever bias you feel comes into place during the reporting and broadcasting processes, reporters are nothing if not enthusiastic. They are constantly trying to ‘scoop’ each other, to be the first ones to discover and report any new information. They often do quite a bit of traveling, phoning, e-mailing, interviewing, and so on which the average person is unwilling or unable to take time from his or her busy schedule to pursue. Ultimately, at the end of the day, there is some fundamental trust which the public places in the media.
Does the media ever get things wrong? Certainly. Just take the premature reports in 1888 that Grover Cleveland had been re-elected President, or more related to the subject, articles which reported the Leicester Constabulary’s initial reports that police suspected that Richard Buckland had murdered 15-year-old Dawn Ashworth.
For at least a little while, each set of articles or other reports was formative in the development of public opinion. Now, do people always agree with what the government or the media reports? Absolutely not! There was unquestionable public outrage when Casey Anthony was not found guilty, and some polls estimated the disapproval rating at well above 70%. Additionally, approximately 1/3 of respondents in a poll cited by the UK’s The Guardian claimed that they believed that the Bush Administration actually planned the attacks which occurred on Sept. 11th, 2001. Then again, don’t those numbers also come from the media? While the media sometimes shapes, reflects, skews, or exaggerates public opinion, it is often difficult (if not impossible) to know exactly where that line gets drawn.
While it would be absolutely asinine to assume that all of the stories which the media is currently reporting are ‘factual’, the unfortunate reality is that people sometimes do assume exactly this. The key word here, however, is people. Although reporters do sometimes give false or misleading information, this is not always their intention. Many people might go so far as to say it’s usually not, but given the closely-shrouded nature of the information world, how many people can possibly speak for the media with reasonable certainty?