One has only to look at the political map on election night to know that different parts of the country view the political scene differently. The election reporters denote Republican states to be red and Democrat states to be blue. Red States and Blue States are sectional in location. As the votes come in we can count on New York and the New England area to be blue along with the west coast. One could paint the mid-west and the south with one big red six inch paint brush. Those colors denote political biases.
For example, South Carolina is a red state. In 2008 more than 70% of the population voted for someone other than Barak Obama for President. Do you think the news media is influenced by the political leanings of the population it serves? Oh yes! Newspapers are businesses like any other and they make their living on the number of people who subscribe and those who purchase advertisements. They are acutely aware of the biases of the population they serve and strive to give us what we want.
Many of us who live in the south or mid-west take our home town newspaper and, perhaps, a more regional newspaper from a close-by city. The point of view expressed on the editorial page in both newspapers is likely to be pretty consistent. In contrast, if you were to read New York or Los Angeles newspapers you might get a very different viewpoint. A few years back I was working on projects in both California and South Carolina. Reading the newspapers in those two locations on back-to-back days almost caused whiplash.
The point of all of this is that we are human and are subject to being influenced by the news media and by those around us who are also influenced. A few months back I stood at the edge of a discussion of the first Republican Presidential debate by a group from a southern state. Opinions on the various candidates were expressed by the three people involved. Finally, one voice stood out over the others. It said, “I don’t care which of the seventeen candidates becomes president they will do a better job than the one who holds that office now.” He made that statement without fear of disagreement from his friends in the conversation. Had he made the same statement in a group of people from California or New York he might have had an argument on his hands. At a church supper back in 2012 a lady sitting across from me said, “I don’t see how President Obama can be re-elected, I don’t know a person who is going to vote for him.” Living where she lived and associating with the people in her circle of friends, I’m sure she was stating the facts as she saw them. That was right before his reelection.
The people expressing those opinions, like the rest of us, are victims of the news environment and the influences of the media in that environment. Would a person who was influenced by the news media in the northeast or the southwest in our country express that same opinion? According to the 2008 and 2012 election results, probably not. That leaves us to ponder how it will be in 2016.
We have a large and diverse country. As individuals, the broader our sources of information and the more information we get from a variety of national sources the more likely we are to have a well-rounded perspective of reality. More sources of information are better than fewer and variety in news information makes for a better informed citizenry. In many ways we are our own worst enemy as regards forming our opinions. It was the comic strip, Pogo, that said, “We have sighted the enemy and he is us.”
— Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. You will find Hopkins’ latest book, “Journey to Gettysburg,” on Amazon.com. Contact him at presnet@presnet.net.