Your Media Diet Says More about You than the State of World

I’m going to start with a very loaded and controversial claim that you may or may not have been used to hear on this blog: it’s not the media’s job to tell you the truth.

I actually came to this realization after watching this video some years ago. It was helpful because it stated two very important facts about the media: they’re a business, not a charity, and also the media can have an opinion. In case you didn’t watch the video, here’s what it said that was so eye-opening: media outlets are a business, so their job is to make money by selling more papers and getting more clicks. Also, according to the video, the media has a bias you have to keep in mind while reading.

As someone coming from Finland, especially the latter remark was a bit of shock because media having an opinion feels so alien to me and there’s a good reason for it: the Finnish language is spoken by around 5.5 million people globally and 99 per cent live in one single country. Thus the market is so small and concentrated that no newspaper, apart from literal party mouthpieces, can stay commercially competitive if they only write from e.g. a left-leaning perspective. The larger amount of speakers the language has, the easier it is for one news site to pick its target audience.

So, what can you do about this? Do you have to do anything to change your media diet? It depends on you, and once again it’s a chance to do some self-reflecting – kind of a theme in my blog posts here.

Firstly, ask yourself where you get your news from. List down, if needed, all the sites you follow on a weekly basis and e.g. follow on social media. The more options you have, the better. Even if you would do fairly strict sorting and quality control of your media diet, it’s not wise in any way to stick with just those news sites that claim to be liberal because then you’ll close yourself into a bubble and that will make you unable to see a bigger picture.

Secondly, do some googling and try to find out if those news sites you follow have a specific bias for or against something. It’s pretty much pointless to find an entirely bias-free media, as I’ve already said, so the important thing you should be after is to find out whether the media you’re consuming lets its bias get into the way of quality-reporting. Does the text want you to start thinking in a certain way? Think about e.g. this text. It’s fairly obvious that I want you to think in a certain way about a certain subject after you’re done reading this text: I want you to think critically about your media diet. I’m not a journalist and this site isn’t a news site – I’m a contributor to a political organization’s blog, so naturally we’re biased for liberal policies. Not saying it’s a bad thing; I’m pretty sure nobody comes here to read these blog posts, certainly not my posts, just so that they can say “damn, this reminds me how much I hate liberals!”

The problem arises when you take into account how easy it is to start a webpage and claim to be a news site. In addition to outright fake stories some outlets spread these days, many also warn their potential readers not to keep on reading if you disagree with our views, which sadly is how the news seem to be defined these days. Moreover, countries like China are pumping huge sums of money to buy space from respected newspapers to publish Beijing’s viewpoints on things like Hong Kong demonstrations. Australia’s public broadcasting company ABC wrote a nice piece about how this multi-billion dollar campaign is a “threat for democracies around the world”.  

Choosing what kind of media you follow is an important thing to do for several reasons: by choosing them you can show your support for the kind of journalism they produce. If you cannot pay for a subscription, you at least generate money for them because of ad revenues. And as you choose your media diet, you’re also doing a check on yourself about the values you represent. That’s why I think your media says a lot more about yourself than the media in question.

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