2017 ERC Scholarship Essay Program $500 Recipient
Christopher Dierkes, Mercer Island, Mercer Island High School

For many years, the media was traditionally compromised of ABC, NBC and CBS. With the advent of the Internet and cable, the media was transformed. Now, social media as well as many cable stations provide a myriad of alternate sources of news. Today, many Americans still view ABC, NBC and CBS as the most venerated sources of political information. These respected sources challenged and questioned those in positions of power. However, today with the segmentation of the audience, retaining that smaller market share has become critical to the business of these organizations. Nevertheless it is vital in our democracy that these trusted organizations uphold their responsibility to keep politicians and other powerful institutions accountable.

In today’s society, the media acts only like a business, looking to profit, rather than a public service. In The Idiot Culture, Carl Bernstein states, “We do not serve our readers and viewers, we pander to them. And we condescended to them, giving them what we think they want and what we calculate will sell and boost ratings and readership.” The different news stations and social media platforms all have their personalized audiences, and consequentially, each media source now has blatant biases. According to Pew Research Center, 50% of Democrats subscribe to CNN, NPR, NYT or MSNBC, while 47% of Republicans subscribe to Fox. Each of these sources has their own slant, showing only one side of the story. These slants feed into the preconceived notions of their audiences. Maintaining their market share while satisfying the desires of their customers. Unfortunately, this is a grave mistake, and not the responsibility of the media. In our free society, it is essential that those in power be challenged. Additionally, it is necessary that the public be fully informed on all aspects of issues so that informed decisions can be made. How could it be that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump represented the two majority parties, but both had a negative approval rating of greater than 66%. During the primaries both were not pushed on details or their history by the main media outlets, for fear of losing market share. A greater service would have been given to the people if the media had upheld their responsibility, and challenged these candidates. It is likely that America would have seen two different candidates for office.

The responsibility of the media is fulfilled when they media care more about providing information from all sides, rather than information only appealing to their specific slant. A true journalist should always question his own biases as well as the position of any authority regardless if they agree with them. For our society to flourish, grow and remain free, it is necessary for journalists and the media as a whole to challenge and question those in positions of power. Looking at the countries with the least freedom, the first distinguishing characteristic is that they don’t have a strong and independent media.