Column: Why it's harmful to oversimplify current events

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during a campaign rally at the Sharonville Convention Center, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, in Cincinnati. (John Minchillo/AP)

With constant access to the internet, people have the resources to stay well informed on newsworthy matters. However, the media does not make that an easy task.

It is the main access people have to information about current events but there is a common practice for the media to take a complicated matter and reduce it to a seemingly simple idea. This is toxic for people who try to stay well informed and judge situations for themselves. The common practice to simplify situations makes it difficult for the public to truly understand what has happened.

The media has subjected many current events to this unfortunate practice. Ben Carson, for example, has been labeled prejudiced and his ideas unconstitutional after his interview with Chuck Todd of NBC. In the interview, Todd asked if a president’s faith should matter, and Carson responded “If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter.” When Todd asked a follow up question wondering if Carson believed Islam fit his description, Carson responded with a “no.”

Whether or not Carson was wrong is not the problem at hand for this article. Instead, it is the fact that the media has oversimplified the interview and stated that Ben Carson simply believes that Muslims should not become president. The Los Angeles Times goes far enough to say that his statement completely contradicts the Constitution. 

In his first statement in the interview, Carson points out that the religion must be consistent with the Constitution, as it is part of the values and principles of America. In a later interview with The Hill, Carson further specified that he did not believe Sharia law is consistent with the Constitution. The media has warped these statements. CNN even claimed that Carson wanted to make it illegal for Muslims to become president. Readers cannot make the decision for themselves if the media truncates the interview and paraphrases Carson’s words. 

Hillary Clinton’s emails are another current event that the media has simplified. Many news outlets made the situation out to be a fake controversy. Reporters like the Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast failed to cite details like time discrepancies in their descriptions of the situation. Many more recent articles have left out details like the State Department’s request to delay the release of the emails and documents until 2016 and the FBI’s refusal to cooperate in the investigation. These details are crucial to the public’s understanding and opinion of the matter.

Another topic the media has simplified recently is Carly Fiorina’s time as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. This topic deserves a lot of scrutiny because Fiorina cites her position as a display of leadership skills and a reason she is a qualified candidate for president. Many are skeptical of her success as a CEO. There are negative reports of her business tactics and HP’s stock dropped 65% during her tenure.

Even though it is easy to blame HP’s recession solely on Fiorina, other matters have been ignored. Between 2005 and 2011, HP went through 3 CEOs including Fiorina. This instability displays a dysfunctional board, which must be considered when analyzing Fiorina’s performance as CEO. 

Unfortunately, these are only a few examples of the media simplifying current events. The media should not decide what readers do and do not need to know; full disclosure should be imperative. By omitting facts, the media can warp the reader’s opinion. However, opinions should be based on a thorough understanding of a situation. People expect to gain this when reading an article. Due to an omission of details, this expectation gives readers will a false sense of understanding. 

With the current media, it is necessary for people to read many different articles to ensure a full picture of a current event. People should do this. They should also confront media sources when they recognize an incomplete description of a situation. Perhaps after many people highlight the practice of simplification, the media will stop using it.


Alyssa Luis is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at alyssa.luis@uconn.edu.