“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
The presidential election this month has had our minds swirling. As in 2016, the public was transfixed by each news story leading up to this year’s election day. Predictions were updated every day. The debates were unlike any others in history. Controversies continue to rage. The US population – and most likely, many others throughout the world – are riveted to the US news media, staying up-to-the-minute via ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, radio talk shows, and local news outlets.
“For the week of November 2nd through November 8th, CNN finished first with an average prime time audience of 6.124 million viewers, followed by Fox News (5.943 million viewers) and MSNBC (4.757 million viewers), according to ratings data compiled by Nielsen.” (Nov.10, 2020, Forbes.com)
The overriding question is always, “How do you know what you know?” Because we can’t be present at each developing news story, press conference, and interview, we must rely on the media to inform us. But what if the popular media are in cahoots with one of the political parties, or are staunch supporters of one of the candidates, or see their role as shaping public opinion rather than reporting the news? The media can accomplish this bias by selecting (or deleting) specific news stories, the wording of reports, and the attitude of news anchors.
Many people now receive most of their news digitally via apps, social media, and the Internet, with the most popular news sites listed as: Google News, Yahoo News, and CNN News. But what if there are other alternative news sources that better present a conservative point of view?
As of November 10th, the most downloaded app is Parler. “ The conservative-leaning, free speech-espousing social media app Parler rocketed to the top of the charts in the wake of Joe Biden cinching the presidential election. Over the weekend, as counts made it clear that Biden had won the critical state of Pennsylvania and thus the election, the Twitter-esque platform swelled its user base. The Verge reports that the app was downloaded nearly a million times over the last week, with the bulk of those new downloads coming on Saturday and Sunday.” Hmmm. What is Parler? “Parler was launched in 2018 in response to efforts at content moderation on Twitter and Facebook… it marketed itself as a place where users wouldn’t suddenly find themselves ‘deplatformed’ over questionable posts.” (www.complex.com/life/2020/11/parler-most-downloaded-app-biden-victory)
“‘Follow me on Parler!’ has been a rallying cry by many conservatives looking to ditch what they see as the more heavily-censored, mainstream social media and news apps for alternatives. In fact, given the amount of people flocking to ‘alternatives’ like Parler, MeWe, and Newsmax, they are soon on their way to becoming the mainstream… Parler has become the most-downloaded app overall in the United States, while MeWe and the Newsmax app sit just behind it as the top 3 free downloadable apps in the iOS App Store.” (Newsweek.com, 11/10/20)
Newsmax, one of those alternatives, is a relative “new-comer” to this world of news reporting and is available for free via both app and Internet. It has been growing in popularity as conservatives have become outraged over the negative treatment, biased reporting, and partial truths about President Trump on traditional media. There are other such conservative sources, such as One America News Network, Breitbart News Network, Just the News, The Epoch Times, and the Washington Examiner.
Our system of government depends on multiple reliable sources for news. Why not compare news stories delivered via various sources to discover commonalities among them in order to discern the truth?
As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, the people, if well informed, may be relied on to set them to rights… they can be trusted with their own government.” (Thomas Jefferson letter to Dr. Price, 1789)
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
• “What news source do you use for information about what is happening in the world? Do you trust it? Why or why not?”
• “Which presidential candidate did you support this year? Why? On what basis did you select that candidate?”
• “Is it possible to slant a news story? If so, how can it be done?”
• “As a Christian, why is it important to trust our sources of information?”
Together as a family or group, locate a news story from 2 or 3 different sources and compare and contrast these news reports. Discuss whether there was any evidence of bias.
Discuss the important role of the news media in our current culture.
Continue this discussion in the future as an ongoing investigation of news sources.
Note: Share this blog with the church’s youth pastor as a possible lesson for youth group gatherings.
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
#MediaSavvyKids, #ChristianParenting, #ChurchAndCulture, #YouthPastors, #YouthGroupCurriculum, #HelpForChristianParents, #TeensAndCulture, #ConservativeNewsSources, #AlternativeViewpoints
© Sue Summers 2020