A Whole New World

When I began this monitoring assignment, I had rarely ever dealt with any news networks on a day to day basis. All strictly news sites were foreign territory to me and I only stumbled upon them when a class required me to. Most of the ‘news’ I received came from my newsfeed on Facebook or from my Twitter feed. By those standards of news sources most people would not consider me an expert in current events. But just for professor Hoag I came out from under my rock and dove into my media outlet CNN.

I anticipated that CNN would contain mostly political information, because during my senior year I used their website for the majority of my government class’s current events. To my surprise, out of every top ten stories there was only one story involving politics. In addition, the majority of stories on CNN fit into three categories; social matters, science, and the economy. Did CNN changed gears to accommodate a new audience and keep up with competitors? I decided to delve deeper into this question.

One major difference I noticed since my last visit to the website was the layout of the page. Originally the layout had the logo in red spanning the entire top width of the site. Below the logo were 16 subcategories that lead to pages on the U.S., World, Entertainment, Sports, etc. The rest of the page varied from headlines to videos to pictures but in no particular order. Today the logo is at the corner of the page with a breaking news scroll rolling across the top. Also, the amount of subcategories are condensed to ten, and the headlines are the first items on the page (located to the left). I found this layout to be more appealing to the eyes because of the different organization. Instead of multiple pictures scattered across the page, there was one large picture that shifts based of the different headliners.  With an easier and concise site to navigate, more people will want to utilize the site for their source of news.                 main-screen              Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 11.26.49 PM

Out of all the media outlets explored by the other groups in this monitoring assignment, Fox News had the most similar page layout to CNN. In addition, both sites reported similar top news stories like information on the Syrian refuge crisis and following the trial of the Kentucky clerk. In fact, the only noticeable difference between the two pages was in bias. When reading the Fox News articles there was an obvious favor towards the republican side, and in contrast CNN took a neutral stand. Because Fox News reports news, it can be considered as a competitor against CNN, but when taking in the extreme bias of Fox News, it is easy to infer that two sites do not share their entire viewing audience. Instead their types of viewer’s overlap in a subject like massive nation or world events. Besides a subject like major events, it is unlikely to fine a devout conservative reading neutral articles about Hillary Clinton.

After noticing this neutral side, I decided to look back at my articles to see if I could find any bias. One of my articles was about a 14-year-old who while swimming at Sam Houston State park on August 13th, encountered the Naegleria fowleri amoeba. What began as a bad headache turned to total loss of brain function which eventually claimed his life. In addition to this story, CNN provides information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on what the amoeba is, how to contract it, how often it strikes, its fatality rate, and how to prevent encounters. The article contained mainly facts and statistics and sought out to warn the public rather than present an argument.

Another article discussed the gathering of 32 physicists at the Hawking Radiation Conference to discuss contradictions in our current understanding of the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics. In this meeting they discussed the theories of black holes and how they are said to absorb matter and cause it to disappear inside the black hole. The issue with black holes is that matter is not only matter, but it is also information. This information is the center of this discussion, because, according to the rules of quantum mechanics, information should never be lost, not even if sucked inside a black hole. Hawking’s announcement is he is countering the claim that the black hole destroys the information by presenting the idea that information never actually enters a black hole. Instead, the information is held on the black hole’s surface –the event horizon. This claim as noted by the article is not precise. There are no papers published on this idea nor has the idea passed through extensive peer review. This article did not seek to present a new theory, but simply provided a new idea that has the science committee buzzing.

The last article I looked at discussed the widespread decline in gas prices and the expert prediction that they will continue to lower. The cause for this fall is because oil is now trading at under $46 a barrel. Typically, when prices fall OPEC has been known to step in and cut production, but this time they did not intervene. Some see this as a move of Saudi Arabia to pressure American shale oil producers. In addition, the supply of oil has exceeded its demand for it. Unfortunately, this drop in costs has some consequences. Companies in the United States disclosed that at least 86,405 job have been cut directly related to falling oil prices. Like the first article, this article utilizes stats to support the findings on gas prices and to infer if prices will continue in this downward direction.

These three articles represent the three categories of news stories and styles that CNN utilizes. Their neutral stand reminded me of the Al Jazeera media outlet. Before this assignment, I had never heard of the news outlet Al Jazeera, so I decided to read the articles provided by the monitoring group that picked the site. As I read their articles, I noticed that there were a couple commonalities between their media outlet and mine. First was the use of statistics to support claims. Like CNN, Al Jazeera used statistics to drive their articles, as opposed to only using quotes or word of mouth claims from individuals. By doing this the articles were able to sway more towards the neutral stance rather than taking one side or the other. Also Al Jazeera had a wide range of stories that they included on their news page. Like CNN there would be a couple of political articles dispersed in the headlines, but the majority of stories were about diseases, social matters, and movements around the world. With these commonalities in mind I wondered why I had never heard of this site, and if they were considered one of CNN tops competitors. My question was answered after googling the site. I found out that Al Jazeera was based in Qatar, and the version of stories I had read were the American version of the media outlet. Because it was a foreign news site, I understood why I had never heard of it and why it never appeared before me as a competitor against CNN.

After monitoring CNN for a week and reading the articles of other groups, I became increasingly interested in how the media reports news. It was fascinating to see how the exact same topic CNN reported on could read as a completely different article on another site just by applying bias.

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