News is in the eye of the beholder

Social studies teachers and even these reporters disagree about the current news landscape


Samantha Kinnaird

Mr. Bohn and Mr. Ratel, social studies teachers, both follow the news, but with decidedly different perspectives.

Kurt Stitzel and Andrew Kruszka

What is the definition of news? The definition of news is newly-received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events. We follow the news very closely and unfortunately we both have very busy schedules so the news we do know about we normally read online from mostly CNN, Fox News, and a few other news Websites.

In our current political climate, we began to wonder: are different news sources responsible for creating different Americas?

We decided to analyze the Fox News and CNN Web sites. In addition, we interviewed two U.S. history teachers at Gowanda High School. Both of these teachers are highly respected and both of these teachers are on quite opposite sides of the political spectrum.

As we continued on this mission, our focus became how everyday people interpret the idea of fake news.

Our U.S. history teachers get their news from decidedly different sources. Mr. Ratel reads Twitter daily and gets his news mostly from The New York Times and CNN. On the other hand, Mr. Bohn would say that most of his knowledge of the news is from New York Post, Washington Times,,,  and Fox News.

Another question we asked the two teachers was what came to mind when we asked them about fake news. The two teachers also have different ideas about the concept of fake news. Mr. Bohn said that when he hears the term “fake news” he thinks of CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CNBC, Washington Post, The New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Sun Times, PBS, and NPR. There is a certain term that comes to mind for Mr. Bohn when we say “fake news” as well: this term is yellow journalism.

Yellow journalism is a type of journalism that often doesn’t present legitimate well-researched news but instead uses headlines that catch the eyes of the reader, often including exaggerations of news events, sensationalism and scandal mongering.

On the other hand, Mr. Ratel said he feels that the phenomenon of fake news is centered around our President, Donald Trump, as the President himself likes to throw lies at reporters with whom he disagrees. Mr. Ratel said that the vast majority of fake news comes from social media. He explained that, “Social media didn’t mean much in elections until 2008 and now everyone just wants to diminish their opponent.”  

The teachers also shared their views on two prominent news sources mentioned earlier, Fox News and CNN. Mr. Ratel said he believes that Fox News and CNN have created two separate Americas because they make the reader/viewer think a certain way.

Mr. Bohn offered his thoughts on the networks’ influences: “One is extremely left (CNN) and the other is very moderate and center (Fox News).”

We decided to conduct an experiment of sorts. Starting on Sunday, October 1st and going until Saturday, October 7th we performed thorough checks of the overall presentation of the Fox News and CNN Websites. We will dive into the Politics section of each Website, and analyze the news they provide from there.

The timing of the observations we are making is both interesting and tragic. While observing the two news juggernauts’ Websites, one cannot overlook the the tragedy that occurred on Sunday night, October 1st in Las Vegas.

The first night we examined Fox News and CNN’s Websites was Sunday, October 1st. Our examination of the two Websites took place before news broke of the Las Vegas shooting. What we noticed on the Fox News Website was that the biggest article on their main page had to do with the Iran nuclear deal. Below that, there were two articles that were smaller and had to do with the NFL protests, and Representative Steve Scalise and his return to Congress after being shot in June of 2017.

Stitzel’s stance

On CNN’s main page, the biggest article was titled “Donald Trump’s Whiplash Weekend – Questions About the President’s Competence Grow Louder the More he Ignores Presidential Norms.” It appeared to us that Fox presents a more modest title to the pressing news, while CNN seems to rehash the news from the previous week for the sole purpose of smearing the President’s appearance.

For the next couple of days, the biggest articles on the main pages of the two news Websites were about the shooting in Las Vegas and the new information being released about the shooting. After that, Fox had a smaller article that told how CBS fired their vice president after she said that “Republican gun toters” in Las Vegas didn’t deserve sympathy. This is something CNN did not cover.

We saw no examples of Fox News bias in any way helping Trump’s image. They reported facts about the speech he gave on the Vegas tragedy first, which is understandable because that is news; it is what the President said that day. CNN didn’t have an article about the President’s remarks in Vegas until the day after Fox News did.

Something we found interesting was how Fox News went on to list stories discussing Tom Price (former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services) resigning over his private travel scandal, and the troubles that arose with Ryan Zinke’s (Secretary of the Interior) travel as well. We have to ask if Fox News is so far right, why on their Website do they have two articles very close to the top of their politics page that have to do with travel scandals with two of the President’s cabinet members. We came to the conclusion because that information was news, Fox News reported it, regardless of whose political agenda it helped.

When looking at CNN’s main page, they had smaller articles talking about the Vegas shooting but their biggest article had to do with Russia-linked ads. I found this odd because a few days prior there was the largest shooting in modern day U.S. history, but CNN still made it a major point to talk about Russia. Do I think Russia should be reported on, yes I do; I just don’t see how that is more important than the Las Vegas shooting just days after it happened.

Then, the CNN politics section featured two large articles titled “Trump’s Puerto Rico Visit was a Narcissist’s tour-de-force”and “America has Silently Accepted the Rage of White Men.” While I am sure that whoever wrote this for CNN gives good reason and an explanation of their titles sounding like this, I just don’t feel this is news.

In my opinion, we want to check the news and get the information that is relevant and new. We want the information from these Websites and we want to decide how we feel, what we agree with and why. If I want to go to CNN’s opinion section and read all of those articles I can, but I think CNN pushes their big left-leaning opinion articles a little too much.

I just didn’t see that with Fox News. They certainly did not avoid negative stories about President Trump or Republicans; they covered the travel issues with his cabinet members, and they covered the pro-life Congressman Tim Murphy, who told his mistress to get an abortion.

My observations do not speak for the TV news that Fox News and CNN provide. Remember that this was just the information featured on their Websites and how they presented it. The reasoning for checking their Websites is because technology is so important in the world we live in; not many kids or people in general have the time to sit down and watch hours of news every night.

Both Fox News and CNN are reliable sources of news. The extent of their bias politically will vary depending on who you ask. Regardless of where you get your news, do not let it impact your open mindedness.

At the end of the day, where you get your news is irrelevant if you cannot be tolerant and have a conversation about the ever-so-magnificent topic that is politics.

The fake news we see on social media in a way is a form of yellow journalism, depending on your interpretation of the impact of fake news on social media and the definition of yellow journalism. Some of the political messages are posted on social media for the purpose of making one candidate look bad, and to grab the reader’s attention. All it takes is a handful of people to share it or send it to a friend and before you know it the ignorance and sensationalism that is social media has spread another fake news story.

Kruszka’s commentary

The perspective I take on this situation of Fox News vs. CNN is that both of these news sites have biased opinions. Obviously, most people would agree that Fox News is more right-wing conservative and CNN is more left-wing liberal. I would agree with these stances.

Yes, in the 2016 election, President Trump was bashed some of the time on CNN and other left-wing news sites like MSNBC, but Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton was also smashed on Fox News by reporters.

It appears that both sites have created separate Americas by way of fake news. The media has really tormented both the Democrats and Republicans to the point where if you don’t keep up with current events, then you’re lost and are “forced” to choose a side based on whatever media you choose to consume.

People who watch Fox News are going to think a certain way and people who watch CNN are going to think a different way. Both sites include both sides of the political spectrum. For example, CNN has Wolf Blitzer and Pamela Brown, and and Fox News has Kaitlyn Schallhorn and Harry Kazianis, who are all political reporters.

Having both sides of the stories doesn’t mean that either news organization is moderate. CNN leans more toward the left and Fox News leans more toward the right; neither of them are moderate in their own respect.

People rely on both news sites to relay them information correctly and fake news is a problem. I feel that instead of singling out people and bashing them for their wrongdoings, leaving them alone will produce a better attitude toward the way people feel about our country.

We, as a nation, are divided whether we like it or not. Coming together will take a while and a good amount of work, but it can be done. Fox News and CNN will have to rethink their approach to news coverage if they want to help America become one.