I have to embrace my own hypocrisy. As a writer, there are times I struggle to keep my thoughts and opinions out of the piece I am working on, whether it be a piece of fiction, or a local news article. There are subtle differences in word choices that will change the dynamic of the statement. The ability to be impartial is hard when the author feels passionately about a subject.
The last four years have been an eye-opening experience for me on the impact of the written word. While I’m grateful for the resurgence of ambition it’s brought, I’m also disheartened by the mass manipulation we’re systematically embracing. Even I know that sounds like a conspiracy theory.
On CNN, one of the headlines stated ‘How the Trumps spent their New Year’s Eve at Mar-a-Lago’, on Fox a video headlined as ‘Trump delivers optimistic message while hosting New Year’s Eve party, and on Politico the headline was ‘How the Trumps spent their New Year’s Eve’.
While all three on the surface seem like a simple statement to summarize the president’s New Year’s Eve activities, the bias is in the words used. Let’s start with CNN. On the same day, their CNN International released a story with a headline. ‘Trump spent 1 of every 5 days in 2019 at a golf club.’ CNN has a reputation for being a liberal leaning news outlet. While both headlines are factual, they feed into the narrative established by CNN that the president spends a great deal of time, and tax dollars, on his trips to Mar-a-Lago. This enflames their followers who then run to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms to share their new opinions formed for them by an organization making a profit off of what they share.
With a conservative fanbase, Fox News catered to their affection of the president by delivering him in a positive light. The sentence assigns an emotion to the statement by using the word optimistic. Without reading the article an opinion can be formed. Because the statement comes from a reputable news source, the statement is often shared without any independent research.
Politico, another news outlet with a reputation for leaning left had another headline that said, ‘Trump does New Year’s Eve his way’ and directly beside it a headline that said, ‘I’m making white-man money now’. Race-baiting headlines are often used to generate clicks which will help grow revenue.
As an educated human in 2020, I don’t need the thoughts and emotions of a journalist force fed to me through manipulative word choices. As a society, we need to learn to separate the word ‘news’ from the word ‘opinion’. My 2020 New Year’s resolution is to use my voice to help educate through transparent writing and fact-based reporting without infusing the words with personal influence.