As polling results across the U.S. trickled in Tuesday night, media outlets like “The New York Times” and “NPR” were often quick to call election results for several states before a majority of votes (and, in some cases, any votes at all) were counted. To the shock of many Americans, President Trump also declared victory Tuesday night without having anywhere near the 270 electoral college votes needed for election. Media sources and government officials trusted by the public should not spread misinformation nor jump to conclusions without the data needed to support them, but media consumers must remain vigilant to better grasp the truth for themselves. As student journalists and board members of The Phillipian, media accountability is of the utmost importance to us. With information on voting totals continuing to change throughout the week, all people who consume political media must examine their sources with a critical eye before coming to conclusions.
Our personal political preferences often influence the media we choose to consume, as well as how much value we give to different sources. This often traps us inside an echo chamber where we choose only to see and assign value to the beliefs that align with our own while scorning the ones that don’t. For example, the president’s premature victory declaration may have warranted an eye roll for some, but according to “The Washington Post,” his false claim was taken by others as entirely credible at that moment in the night. In order to hold ourselves accountable, we cannot base the facts we choose to accept on our opinions—if we aim to prioritize the truth, we should be basing our opinions on facts instead.
While being critical of election coverage is important this week, it is also vital we continue treating all sources we consume with healthy skepticism moving forward. This year, a common way of sharing information about topics and current events in social justice and international politics among young people has been on social media platforms. Social media is an effective device to disseminate information, but many accounts misinform their readers and leave out so much context that “facts” are no longer the truth. Social media posts should be accepted based on the sources they provide and the accuracy of their content rather than the aesthetics of the post. We might not have the results of the presidential election just yet, but what we do have is the responsibility to interrogate the onslaught of information and pursue the truth.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, vol. CXLIII