The Media’s Failure and How It Affects Today’s High School Students

The Medias Failure and How It Affects Todays High School Students

Allison Vieira, Editor

Are you are a social media user, more specifically a Twitter user? Have you downloaded a news app or used the one installed within your phone? Are you someone whose connection to the news outside of your small world comes from your phone or computer screen? If the answer is yes then chances are you logged on this Saturday and quickly saw the image of a teen boy wearing a Make America Great Again hat standing nose-to-nose with an elderly native American man being a drum. What seemed to be important to the story was that the teenager was smiling, which appeared disrespectful.

CNN covered the viral video, releasing it with the title “Video Shows Teens Mocking Native American Veteran” and the New York Times wrote an article with the title “Students in Trump Hats Mock Native American”. You, the interested-yet-speed-skimmer of internet news, see the image of a smug teen in confrontational stance in front of a proud native elder along with the bold article titles that confirm your suspicions that this an outrage. Maybe you watch the video, that three-minute clip of the native elder singing his song while the student stands in front of him with a smile still on his face. And that’s probably all you needed to pass these kids off as little punks in a retweet or “like.” But because of the lack of information that was provided with this video, and because you didn’t look any deeper, you may never realize that the media was wrong.

You aren’t alone.  This controversial image prompted  thousands of tweets from celebrities and politicians alike. The most common word to describe these kids was “disgusting”. Quickly rumor spread that the students were chanting “build that wall.” The fact that the wall is a point of contention surrounding the current government shut down didn’t cause anyone to think this claim was false, although it probably should have caused people to think twice.  Someone tweeted out that the boy in the picture, now identified as Nick Sandmann, had a “punch-able face”.

Now, only 3 days later, the full 1 hour and 30 min video has been released for everyone to see. It can be observed that no such chants of “the wall” were made. It can also be observed that there is more to the picture than just what the media headlines and shortened video had to offer. This is exactly what the New York Times alluded to in a more recent article with the headline “Fuller Picture Emerges of Viral Video Of Native American Man and Catholic Students.” This time, without any of the adjectives painting the students as “despicable” or “disrespectful,” the New York Times reveals something much closer to the truth. But some would argue it’s too late, the students have already been doxxed and threats have been sent to their school causing it to shut down for a day due to safety concerns. So how did this story get so out of hand? Was it the student’s fault, the elder’s fault, the media’s, or the media itself?

It is clear to me now that the destruction of these students’ reputations lies solely on the media’s shoulders and the problem extends to high school students too. CNN was so quick to write students off as people who would mock the Native American man. The entirety of the footage shows that the students were dancing and chanting songs from their school. This seems to be mostly done to drown out insults from a group of Hebrew Israelites who called the group “crackers” and multiple homophobic slurs. They called out the black members of the student group and called them names that are not appropriate for a school newspaper. So why didn’t the news report on this side of the story? Why did teens have to become the brunt of the outrage when adults are obviously guilty for much more severe antagonism than some supposed mocking that turned out to be exaggerated anyway?

CNN and The New York Times along with many more new sites and Twitter personalities have decided that their journalistic responsibility comes second to their fiery desire to further an agenda. An agenda that needs the public to see anyone who wears a MAGA hat as disrespectful white, privileged boys who don’t care for elders or native Americans. This media bias is not new, it has been a constant trend on the left and right alike for years and has been the major fuel for why Americans do not trust the media. This instance, however, cuts a bit deeper and will become a lesson for teens in why they need to demand more from journalists in the future.

The irony of the New York Times releasing a story with a title that admits that there is more to the story than what was initially reported is that, as journalists, it was their duty to do the digging that would reveal the entire context in the first place and remain relatively subjective about the incident. But more than that, this story shows that journalists have become limitless in who they will “expose” to further an agenda. These stories reveal mere teens as despicable without any regard to how it will affect their future. Chances are some readers may not care that they were kids because they were wearing Trump hats or because they were from a Catholic school or because they are white, but none of that matters. If leftist media decides that kids should be subjected to slander, what’s stopping a right-wing newspaper from doing just the same? The major importance of this story is not that leftist media went too far but that media all together has gone too far. With this, they have set a precedent that high school students don’t deserve to be protected from potential mass humiliation, that they should be subject to shame for even the vaguest of accusations. This should certainly cause concern for students who care about their reputation.

But this issue is more than that. It shows just how we can stop the biased reporting done by journalist by just to do a little digging and fact checking. From a broader view, we can see the media backtracking now that they have been called out. There is no way to deny a whole video that reveals the truth in plain sight but there is always the possibility that over an hour worth of footage wasn’t released which would mean the students from that school would have no defense against all the accusations. This reality can cause one to consider how much we read is entirely true. We, as students and the future consumers of news and media must learn that not everything that is reported should be taken at face value no matter what source it comes from, left or right. We must learn to read thoroughly and not skim and move on to the next hot take. We must learn to reject the outrage culture that consumes our news cycles and demand facts. We must learn to demand more from journalists.