The fine line between news and propaganda

Today’s economy and politics increasingly become dependent on the fast exchange of information. The opinion of voters and thereby the election of governments is also based on information. But information is sometimes supplied only hours before the voter steps into the election booth. It is becoming increasingly difficult to know how information is controlled and if it is biased, which could be vital for the survival of democracy as we know it.

In most cases, TV networks and newspapers simply try to cater to their audience. They will broadcast news that interests their audience based on the advertising revenue they generate. If a Tampa newspaper only covered news from the Far East, its readership would quickly decline because it would not be interesting to the general public.

Space, is of course, always an issue. Such editing of content is a fact that all newspapers, including The Oracle, have to face every day. On days when not much is happening in the news, even small things might make the front page. On other days, so many things happen that important events can end up further back in the paper, or in the worst case, not in it at all.

In more serious cases the newspaper or TV network can edit content based on their own interest, or the corporation that stands behind them. A good example of how complex this can get is the TV network CNN. CNN is owned by AOL Time Warner and often shows this inadvertently in their broadcasts. Like airing a segment that shows how awesome the new AOL software is or an announcement that the new Harry Potter movie, which is produced by Warner Brothers Studio, also owned by Time Warner, opens this November.

How big such influence through corporations can be was seen in Europe last summer. The Kirch Group, owner of several big TV stations in Germany, was facing bankruptcy and the Italian company Berlusconi offered to buy them out. Berlusconi though, is owned by Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Italy. This would have meant that a member of one government could influence newscasts in another country. The problem was resolved by the German government investing money into the Kirch Group, rather than allowing Berlusconi to do so.

To not be influenced by news editing, it is important to rely on more than one news source. It is very easy to read more than one newspaper online, and in most cases it is absolutely free. There are also several independent news sources like WMNF, which carries National Public Radio news but is run independently and often gives in-depth insight.

Also, so called Action News, or five o’clock news that consists mostly of weather forecasts are a waste of time, as much as sensational news shows like Geraldo Rivera or The O’Reilly Factor. Such shows, or the entire Fox network for that matter, can be quite entertaining, but could hardly be called news.

The most important thing to bear in mind, though, no matter what the information, is to think about why news is presented in the way that it is. The way you think and the actions you may take will depend on it.

Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in environmental