Do you really have your own opinion?
As the rain patters against the sitting room window, the BBC News disrupts my silence with its red and white light beaming out of my TV screen. Immediately capturing my attention, my eyes lock on the reporter who covers the evening news: how the economy is in the rubble, something on unions, and politics being in shambles. I stand there motionless, secretly confused yet nodding along as if I understood everything he was talking about.
The next morning, rushed for school, I prepare my schoolbag and take two bites of toast, glancing at both my mum and dad reading The Times on their iPads. The paper print, lonely enough, lay flat in the middle of the table besides the Telegraph. My eyes flicked across the big words: economy.. migrants.. disaster.. mortgages… Nevermind, I was already late.
That day after class, someone casually asks me about my opinion on Rishi Sunak, I meekly reply: “I don’t know, he’s okay, isn’t he?”
In front of a crowd of classmates, waiting for an explanation, I try to gather my thoughts, searching for reason: “Oh what was the news saying last night?”
My answer had indeed shocked one of my friends, who I knew was well keen on politics. He quickly jumped to my aid and advised me in front of everyone: “no, well you know, he only cares about the rich and the upper class, there are so many issues he avoids and makes no progress on others.”
The others nodded along like a choire around a pastor; I shot him a quick glance of appreciation for helping me out, I could feel the eyes shift away from me.
He then asked me the question that would change my view on news and politics forever: “I thought you were quite progressive, you know, supporting equality, different freedoms and standing up for people; what made you sit on the fence about the Tories?”
Deflated, I admitted honestly: “I just watch the BBC News sometimes, or read the papers, and try to understand what they’re saying.”
Understanding, he gently replied: “they only talk about a particular number of stories, usually without too much of a real cutting-edge opinion, or some sort of analysis, which no one barely understands. It leaves people confused and unable to make their own mind up about things, and that’s okay!! The big topics are not as simple as people make them about to be!”
From that day on — from that one judgement-free conversation — I got a lot more involved in the news and big topics. I was not afraid to share an opinion that I had thought through carefully. I was definitely not afraid to be honest and ask: “I don’t really know too much about that, could you tell me a bit more about it.”
I went on to study political science in higher education, read about some of the most complex issues in our society, and became a bit of a cheerleader for leaders who spoke about change and progress.
I will never forget where I came from though. I never try to take my education and conversations for granted. I will always try to explain things to those who simply do not know — like I hadn’t once. As for my friend in school, we still meet up biweekly to chat about politics, business and society (in a slightly more advanced way now) over coffee.
Understanding media outlets: the key takeaways
They have an agenda
It is so important to understand how mainstream media has a major impact on your life, how you view the world as well as others around you.
It’s called “mainstream” because it is “publishing companies” (let’s call them that) which try to deliver information to the wider public. They own the shows on television, the newspapers and the radios.
There are people behind them, and it’s the same group of people. Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corporation which has ties to The Times and The Sun is responsible for nearly 32% of news circulation.
Those people frame information, stories, or issues in a certain positive or negative light to influence your beliefs. They want you to share the same opinion.
Usually, since mainstream media “channels” are quite traditional, they push traditional narratives to the front of the line over others. For example, you might find yourself unchanged after watching the BBC News because it did not radically try to change the way you see the world. You might then find yourself defending the status quo if you only read The Times. Or you could be thinking particularly negative thoughts about other people, those who experience things differently to you, if you only read the Daily Mail or the Sun.
Be aware, it is no secret that mainstream media is used to sway your opinion.
Information stays the same, but delivery is framed
Unless we are dealing with certain untold histories, information is relatively similar everywhere and it is not hard to find. But it is not necessarily about what is being communicated on media channels, yet how those pieces of information are being framed or talked about.
The delivery of information can change for several different reasons such as tone of voice and where to introduce different snippets of information.
A BBC presenter speaking in a commanding tone, relatively quickly, presenting facts rather than certain theories or opinions is most likely not going to blow your mind.
They will not enlighten you, or make you feel confident with the information they just matter-of-factly dished out to you, unless you are an expert on the topic. Of course, it is worth highlighting that BBC reporters must be impartial as to not intentionally sway opinions.
Yet if they keep talking about information in a watered-down way, they may influence your opinion slowly over time. For example, if all you hear about is economics on the news, you’re more likely to prioritize economic arguments over human rights in debates.
If you only consume impartial news, there will be no room to grow or build on your opinion.
However, a leader who is passionate about a topic, who speaks directly from the heart because they have talked about it so much already throughout their life, will most likely influence your opinion on the spot.
They will motivate you to keep memory of the words they preach. For more progressive stances, this is usually the way people stop sitting on the fence, they’ve been struck by words they will never forget.
Alternative media: news on social media and technology
If you thought you were safe with social media; think again. But it easy easier to find independent news on there.
Today, it is getting increasingly harder to form your own opinion. Everyone seems to have one. They share it in seconds. And you’re left in the middle: smashed between traditional media channels posting their content and individuals posting their own versions of it.
It’s okay if you have no clue where the truth lies.
There is the rise of rather helpful “alternative” media channels which cover news and trending issues too. They usually have a much more opinion-based narrative. This helps diversify the way a subject can be talked about, offering different ways of understanding why it’s important in society.
It’s not always only about “facts”. I particularly enjoy reading theory-based content because it’s much more understandable and challenges the way I think about things. Getting involved does not always have to be scientific, it can be an art.
My favorite independent creators for news and opinions are:
Of course, it’s up to you to figure out your own opinion but try to do it with the help of as many points of view as possible.