Political bias of tragedy reporting should be for the victims’ well being

Nobody needs to be prodded into remembering the last time former-President Barack Obama stated his position on increased gun control in the wake of a mass shooting. While this isn’t a direct call from the media for such legislation, the mere fact that Obama stated this opinion certainly was heavily reported on, as opposed to focusing on the shooting itself.

Another example: Fox News’ refusal to condemn the Charleston Church Shooting as a racially motivated attack provided the network with a podium to showcase its thoughts on the alleged “War on Christians.”

Both used a tragedy to further a nearly irrelevant political point. Of course, both instances were heavily scrutinized by proponents of the opposing viewpoint.

Instead of taking advantage of the lives lost to further political agendas, news organizations should foster the opportunity to process national tragedies. An act that would rekindle a connection with others will hopefully create a nation more resilient to such violent efforts.  

National news organizations will typically focus on the larger political implications of a tragedy that specifically showcases their ideology’s viewpoint on a debated issue. Oakland University professor of politics and political communication, Terri Towner, described this practice as a business strategy used in accumulating a larger audience.

“Multiple studies have shown that Fox News covers with a conservative slant,” Towner said. “In fact, this approach has proved a smart business strategy for Fox News, garnering more viewers than CNN.”

The reason for this could be due to the incentive of profit for many ideologically-focused news networks like Fox News or MSNBC.

Also, as explained by OU professor of political science, John Klemanski, people are more likely to consume news that affirms their established worldviews.

“People who already have a certain view tend to find and consume media outlets that agree with them,” Klemanski said. “This is called ‘selective exposure.’”

By providing a consistent political slant that appeals to the worldview of a liberal or conservative audience, news networks are more likely to be consumed with increasing regularity. This results in increasing profit for these large networks, reaffirming the established business model in inappropriate situations like national tragedies.

This conclusion comes after the shooting of eight people at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Miami, Florida, reported by CBS Miami. The local news organization did not immediately attach a political purpose to the shooting, allowing coverage to focus on the victims.

The focus on the victims, I feel, allows a public interest in the well-being of a community after such a tragedy strikes, which is an angle that should be the major political focus of the audience.

Allowing for national attention to be focused on the well-being of the victims provides a stronger network of support among cities and municipalities. And since this could happen in any place, the support would almost be an insurance policy for when a community experiences this sort of trauma.

I don’t see this as a possibility in the near future, but rather a result of a general public that’s increasingly aware of the media’s function in our society – one that knows the power of communication is in its hands.

Just to be clear, I didn’t write this because I hate the media and see it as totally biased. I wrote this with the philosophy that if one truly believes in an institution, then criticism is a necessary component in its progress toward perfection. I also wrote this with the goal of increasing awareness of the system of communication that impacts everyone’s daily lives.