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The Danger of A Single Perspective in Media

Perspective is how we view and evaluate different situations. Our perspective is built on many factors such as our social-economic status, education, place of residency, religion, ethnic background, gender, age, etc. The way our perspective influences issues is that when we’re faced with a situation or we learn about an issue, we may automatically jump to one conclusion or reason. Everyone has their own perspective, so when we read articles or listen to the news, we’re reading the perspective of the journalist. This leads to bias and is something we need to be aware of. It’s an individual, with their own opinion, telling us what’s been happening. We may not be seeing other perspectives. We may be only seeing a single story.

Why are single perspectives an issue?

In school, our teachers have taught us how to identify bias within resources that are used for research assignments. Bias and single perspectives promote existing stereotypes and allow them to continue through time as articles are written and the news is reported. Audiences and readers are limited to a small portion of the picture whether the topic is related to a country or culture. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie discusses her experiences with single stories in her TedTalk The danger of a single story”.

Image is courtesy of TED.

Adichie talked about how she grew up in Nigeria and the children’s books she read all had characters that fit a certain description: “I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples…”. She continues to explain how, as children, we begin to be limited to what is in the storybooks we read. By growing up reading about characters that were very different from herself and the other children she grew up with, she believed that was how all books were. Adichie explains: “Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books by their very nature had to have foreigners in them and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify”.

When we consume media, we follow the story and accept what is being shown/told to us. For example, the media has portrayed Latin American people as criminals who deal with drugs and attempt to cross the U.S/Mexico border. From movies, television series, and political news reports, we’re limited to those ideas and that perspective of them. We don’t see the culture and the actual beauty of the people and country. It’s stereotypes like these that create the plots of films and politics that form articles and reports. It’s mostly untrue as we are only being shown an opinion and one perspective. We don’t get to appropriately learn about international culture and countries other than our own because of the media.

How can we identify if there is a bias?

To recognize if there is any bias in the resource you’re using, it’s important to see what the purpose of the article is. Do they want to persuade? Educate? Promote? Is there a majority of positive vocabulary? Or maybe there is mostly negative vocabulary on the topic. The author may provide a one-sided opinion without including counterarguments. Identify the target audience and if it’s relevant to the topic. A few indicators of bias is that the language of the document is often extreme with statements having all or nothing connotations. The arguments presented appeal more to emotions rather than logic. Things are worded with the intention to oversimplify or overgeneralize.

Bias is to be expected on websites committed to selling you something. Furthermore, websites devoted to controversial issues are likely to be biased. Some questions to consider as you look for indications of bias are: What is the author's political stance? What is the author hoping to gain? Is the author presenting opposing viewpoints? Are those points of view conveyed objectively or with scorn?

The desired outcome

Nowadays, social media has prevented single stories from becoming the only way we see issues. They make us more aware of issues that we may not see on the news. With posts, come petitions, and with petitions, come opportunities for governments to change. When there are people continuing to become aware, the more we refuse to stop talking about it until there is change and help. With the media, we force the higher authorities into a corner until they do something, which they’re not used to. We want to be able to be globally aware without political conflict, racism, and stereotypes controlling what information we absorb. We must continue to do research to separate the false from the truth and continue to share it with others all over the world so we are all globally aware. This way, we can tackle global issues together.

Article Author: Alizeh Qaiser

Article Editors: Valerie Shirobokov, Sherilyn Wen