Mediums of Power: Addressing Media Bias in the Age of Social Media

BY SHELBY PAULGAARD / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

I spent this semester working on a research project, under Dr. Roxanne Harde’s supervision, related to media reporting on sexual assault and how social media plays into rape culture. The overlap of this project with working on reviving the student newspaper here at Augustana ended up being incredibly interesting, and I wanted to share a few thoughts I had about media bias and how we can hold our news sources accountable for the information they provide.

Of course, the type of news The Dagligtale covers is not high profile sexual assault cases, or even hard-hitting news for the most part. However, it is still our duty as reporters to be aware of the biases we carry and the impact of our word choices. Part of my research that was so shocking was the blatantly offensive and inappropriate statements made in the news media, but perhaps more worrying was the subtle biases and problematic ideologies portrayed in the media representations of these cases.

The events of the past few years have definitely contributed to readers’ more critical eyes and ears when it comes to their news, but these subtle messages are so dangerous because they can be hard to detect, even when meticulously analyzing a source. In addition, since social media has become such a huge part of our lives, it has also served as a platform to discuss and analyze our news publicly. I think this is a great development. In the years of print newspapers and the early internet, we didn’t have access to this platform, and the news could have a much greater influence from biased writers and editors without the immediate accountability of being called out on Twitter.

As I began this study, I worried I was being too critical of the news sources I was using. I figured that because the writers were professionals, they had to know better than I did what the proper decorum for writing about sensitive issues was. This made me question myself on some of my own ideas about what would be an inappropriate statement to make in a news publication, which eventually made me realize that these articles were not following some “proper” structure, and instead were just written with bias. I think this was an important realization to make, as I previously had taken a lot of my news at face value. I read articles for the content, not the reporter’s opinion. But separating that opinion actually takes some practice.

All of this is meant to say that the shift towards thinking critically about our news and the narratives we are given is a good thing. I know this newspaper doesn’t cover a ton of major, sensitive issues, but we can still be held accountable for the stories we produce. If you see something in The Dag that bothers you in the way it is written or feels off–or maybe something that is very well framed!–please talk about it. Bring it to the editors, first and foremost, by emailing asadag@ualberta.ca, but don’t be afraid to discuss what’s being said about your campus and your peers in this paper. Media bias can be in your face, but it can also be so subtle the writer of the article wouldn’t even recognize it. If you notice problematic language or framing, point it out and help us all do better at providing fair and unbiased news in the new year.

Thank you all for sticking with us this term as we get this paper back up and running, and a HUGE thank you to the writing team for all of your hard work this semester. Happy Holidays, and I look forward to writing to you all in 2023!

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