Monday, September 15, 2008

The Influence of Rolling Stone

If you have yet to hear, the 2008 Presidential Election is kind of a big deal. Obama v. McCain has become a modern day “Ali v. Frazier” – the Thrilla in D.C., if you will. The nation has been gearing up for one of the most groundbreaking elections of all time, as well as one of the most tightly contested. And of the many (many) issues surrounding this election, getting young people involved and interested is one of the front-runners. The ever popular 18 to 24 year old demographic has been the main target of both campaigns, as celebrities and professional athletes across the country have been encouraging voter registration among the youth of America. Many corporations and organizations have been working hard to draw light on the candidates from both sides and inform those voting on every issue possible. One of these many organizations is Rolling Stone Magazine.

Rolling Stone is arguably the most notable entertainment magazine in the United States, focusing mainly on music and film. However, the printed issues of late have been taking on a political frame, investing a lot of pages to the upcoming election in November. The magazine has always had stories regarding politics or current events, but the 2008 race for the presidency has been the feature story numerous times in the past year, with one man at the center of it all: Barack Obama. If you have gotten your eyes on a Rolling Stone in recent months, then you have clearly seen the mag’s stance concerning the election. Obama has been featured on the cover twice this past summer, with an “anti-Bush” caricature recently gracing the front as well. While Rolling Stone has always been anything but shy concerning their liberal standpoint, one has to wonder if the overwhelming bias is actually a wise choice.

I personally think it is a good thing that Rolling Stone has devoted so much of their effort toward promoting voter registration and educating its readers on the election. I like that they are pushing for young people and the alternative crowd to get involved and exercise their right to vote, but I am not necessarily a fan of the way they have gone about it. The organization has every right to take whatever stance or viewpoint they choose and be as biased as they want when covering the political race. But is this the best way to inform their population of readers?

Having such a biased viewpoint gives the reader only half of the story; they see only the positives of Obama and the negatives of everyone else. Now, there is nothing stopping the reader from putting down Rolling Stone or reading reports from both sides, but nothing is forcing them to either. The magazine has taken it on as its responsibility to inform the readers on the election and the candidates, but there appears no desire to be impartial in doing so.

Rolling Stone is not, however, the only association that can be accused of taking a bias political position. Fox News is constantly criticized for their more conservative stance, and the New York Times is often blamed for being “too liberal”. Even the media as a whole is habitually charged as being more on the liberal side. All of this leads to the question of whether this bias is right or wrong. If an organization makes it a priority to cover the ’08 Election, should they also have to give a more fair and balanced political position? Is the information truly helpful if it only shows one side? Is it fair for the audience to listen to or read bias information, and not be able to directly oppose or question the source on their point of view?

When viewing the situation as a whole, I feel it is much better to be informative in an objective manner as opposed to a subjective one. I feel it is the responsibility of journalists to give a neutral influx of info to the population, and then allow them to make a decision purely on their own, without pressure or partiality for either side. I believe giving each potential voter complete independence and self-determination in their decision makes for a more well-informed and conscientious vote. Bob Dylan once said, “You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.” People are capable of making their decision all on their own. For what it’s worth (probably not much), I tend to agree with that.

America has been given the ability and liberty to vote in a democratic society, but it has also given the press the freedom to present their information in whatever way they see fit. If they choose to be biased in that approach, then so be it. Time will only tell what affect it may have.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Mitchell Kinnen said...

I absolutley agree with what you're saying when it comes to "serious" news outlets. Having broadcast networks or newspapers pushing hard for one side or the other is a bad thing. However, I believe magazines like Rolling Stone don't necessarily have that same responsibility of impartiality. They don't claim to be "hard" news sources, so if you choose to make descisions based on what they say, that by itself is a choice. Magazines like that are private entities, and shouldn't be denied an opionated voice simply because people might listen. Would we all be better off if everybody in the media was objective? Yeah probably, but that isn't really a fair demand to make.