Welcome to the Review: A New Approach to Student Journalism

To our devoted readers,

If you’re anything like myself, over the past year you’ve viewed the news media through oscillating waves of nausea and deep-seated rage.  It seems that every time I flip on my television or peek at a news update on my phone, I find myself overwhelmed in my resignation.  For many, the news has become a chore —  something we loathe, but begrudgingly follow under the grandiose visage of “civic duty”.

Who can blame us?  In this groundbreaking era past the horizon of the Internet’s conception, multimedia entertainment holds a pervasive influence on both our own lives and our perceptions of others’ lives.  Even further, the news media’s ubiquity in modern life makes it an easy target for criticism on grounds of factual error or partisan hackery.  For proof, look no further than President Trump and the “Fake News” crusade.  In fact, statistics show Trump is nearly five times as likely to lambast the media than he is to discuss issues like the border wall or NAFTA.

Like it or not, this sentiment of distrust has spread rapidly throughout the populous.  According to The Hill, nearly two-thirds of Americans — 80% of Republicans and 53% of Democrats — expressed difficulty in believing mainstream media sources online.  Furthermore, Americans’ trust in the media as a whole has declined more than 20 points since 1997, according to a recent Gallup Poll.

But are these sentiments supported by the facts?  Utilizing data from PunditFact.com, a project operated by Politifact, we can analyze the validity of statements made by a variety of pundits on various networks.  CNN, a favorite target of President Trump, was found to air varying degrees of false statements from their pundits around 27% of the time.  To be fair, this does not imply that CNN is personally at fault for each falsehood on their network; individual guest pundits like Sarah Palin and their respective statements are not controlled by CNN, and therefore their falsehoods cannot be solely attributed to the network itself.  However, it does show a pattern: fake information is out there and consumers are becoming less skilled at discerning “good news” from “fake news”.

We seek to fight against the campus orthodoxy, publishing opinions that deviate from the norm, while still being based in the facts.  We seek not to achieve an unrealistic expectation of infallibility, but rather to ensure that conversation around society’s most pressing and controversial issues may continue.

What can we do?  Should we stop watching the news altogether?  Will it somehow make us smarter to avoid occasionally misleading sources of information on the airwaves and on our phones?  Of course not.  It’s important to stay informed, to have the statistics and informed analysis at our disposal that are essential to a functioning democracy.  If we can’t even agree on the facts, how are we supposed to solve the problems that plague society?

While student journalism outlets like ourselves at the Review amount to very little in the cocaine-fueled hodgepodge of American media, what we can do is act upon a desire for change.  We can commit ourselves to a higher goal — sharing the diverse opinions of students on campus to a mass audience, ensuring that all opinions are afforded equal credence and scrutiny, and above all else that our published articles are rigorously fact-checked and logically valid.

Welcome to the Michigan Review.

We are a paper of writers, ones that seek to be heard on a campus that too often hampers their diverse views on the world.  We seek to fight against the campus orthodoxy, publishing opinions that deviate from the norm, while still being based in the facts.  We seek not to achieve an unrealistic expectation of infallibility, but rather to ensure that conversation around society’s most pressing and controversial issues may continue.

In an America plagued by excessive polarization, it takes a steadfast commitment to understand to the other side if we are to ever alleviate the damage our constant bickering causes.  We cannot discount our opposers as the enemy when their opinions ostensibly constitute half of this great country.  What we must do instead is listen with diligence, consider the varying livelihoods and experiences of our diverse nation, and evaluate their opinions through the sober clarity of the facts.  What’s more, we cannot shelter ourselves in the comforting womb of partisan media, where our preexisting biases receive reinforcement.  We must expose ourselves to and actively engage with opinions that differ from our own, looking to challenge our existing views in light of new evidence.  I do not purport this to be an easy task, but rather a necessary one.

This is our promise to you, our faithful readers:  We promise to pursue the truth, regardless of what that truth may be.  We promise to share the opinions of your fellow students on campus, even those that I personally disagree with.  We promise to always challenge the status quo, without inciting controversy for the sake of controversy itself.  We promise to challenge you, our readers, to see issues from a different perspective, and hopefully incite a more informed dialogue around our preconceptions.  Above all else, we promise to commit ourselves to a higher standard of fact checking and research in basing our opinions, rather than bombarding our readers with trite and misinformed pablum.

And I, Your Humble Narrator, will be there every step of the way to forge order out of the chaos, keeping true to our values of liberty, freedom of expression, and factual journalism.

We hope you, the readers we value and rely so heavily on, will join us on this brave experiment.

Sincerely,

Jacob N Thorne

Editor-in-Chief of the Michigan Review

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About Jake Thorne

Jake Thorne is Editor-in-Chief of the Review, studying Honors Political Science and Economics at the University of Michigan. He has been an active contributor to the Review since 2014. He can be reached at jnthorne@umich.edu