2017 ERC Scholarship Essay Program $750 Recipient
Kira Newell, Mercer Island, Northwestern University

In an age of pervasive political dissatisfaction and crumbling international relations due to rampant globalization, media has only one true responsibility: to tell the truth: the unaltered, unfettered, not-for-sale, deceptively rare, truth. As globalization solidifies innumerable complicated international relationships, our decisions, as political actors in a free society, not only impact our future, but the future of our entire world. Simultaneously, the role of media in our daily lives and its contentious relation to free speech has been growing at an unbelievable rate.

Unfortunately, people often forget that the media is a business, not solely a bias free news source; these companies have a product that they are attempting to sell. In order to get people to consume this product, it must be advertised as interesting, even fascinating at times. Thus, flashy, deceptive, and inflammatory headlines are used to gain viewership and increase the worth of the company. These marketed products must not be confused with the truth.

Recently, the media has latched on to the ever-growing fear that has gripped our world. Amidst hundreds of shootings and devastating terrorist attacks, media sources run haunting headlines to manipulate viewers’ insatiable curiosities. These addicting and anxiety-inducing news stories are plaguing our daily lives and creating a distorted reality. This example of product-marketing gone wrong has developed seemingly irreparable dichotomies between races, religions, and even social classes within countries. Citizens must recognize that these headlines are not always conveying the truth.

During the 2016 election, people across America developed a terrifying reliance upon the media. In a normal school day, I would hear multiple contradictory claims from different friends as they frantically read the most recent shocking “breaking news” story from their favorite media source. One by one, each candidate was thrown into massive scandal and taunted by the media, instilling a hostile, divided, and distrusting American populace. The media even became a platform to unjustly affect the presidential race. News stories were strategically released at critical moments in hopes to either crush or elevate one or more of the candidates. Americans may have spent more time debating the nature of truth behind their “facts”, rather than the patriotic esteem and value found in their candidates. How are we, as free citizens, expected to enact just and morally defensible political decisions when we are constantly being manipulated and spoon-fed lies?

As media misconceptions, fake news stories, and fear mongering headlines are stirring citizens of free societies into an anxious and divisive frenzy, only one thing can calm the impending political storm: the truth; in this day and age, the media has a responsibility to cater to its viewers in the most amiable, humble, and constructive form. It must abandon its fear tactics and politically motivated maneuvers so its viewers can form their opinions based on the truth; so they can fight for what they truly believe is right, not what the media believes will make the most money; so they can unite to build a safer country, and thus, a safer world.