By Lydia Timmins, University of Delaware
One of the best parts of teaching college students is the continual sense of newness. Every semester, new people and new faces. Some faces are the same, but in different groups and different classes--so while I have the sense that I know the students, they are also always learning and becoming new people.
For the month of January, I teach a class on Mass Media and Society. Because it is a basic course, I often get students from majors outside communication. Engineering, science, nursing, business...these new faces help provide me with a new perspective on how I view the news and media.
One thing that has shocked me this semester is the expectation students have that news organizations are biased. It’s a kind of cynicism I didn’t expect to find in people who are all of 20 years old. In myself, oh yes I expect cynicism--and in those I worked with. But it’s a sad state of affairs when the young members of our (potential) audience automatically assume bias.
Also problematic is that many of them don’t watch the news--they just ASSUME that it is biased because, well, that’s what they hear. From whom do they hear that? Other media, including social media. It concerns me that as an industry the media is feeding into the very thing it should want to avoid--accusations of overt bias.
For most of the kids I talk to, the bias is all about the cable and national newscasts. As a (former) local news producer, I ask them what they think of their local newscasts. You know the answer--they don’t watch them. So they are forming an opinion about journalism based on hearsay. That or they are comparing apples to oranges--local to national.
Now that I have figured this out, I feel I have some duty to change their perceptions. Or at least get them to watch local news and form their own opinions!