This was written by guest writer Shreyan Singha.
Wielding words as its weapon, the media can shape public perceptions of individuals or events, potentially marring reputations.
Scot Peterson, the former Broward County school resource officer was widely criticized for hiding during the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in 2018. Peterson was sensationalized and branded by the media as a traitor in not protecting children and being the primary reason for 17 lives lost.
A 2019 New York Times article depicted Peterson in such a way: “As bullets ricocheted and bodies fell in the hallways and classrooms at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, Deputy Scot Peterson was outside the building. Instead of storming in after the 19-year-old gunman, he retreated to a position of safety.”
However, more recent reports on Local 10 News suggests that Peterson’s actions were justified based on the premise of the possibility of a sniper in the area and the unknown location of the shooter. Nevertheless, the damage was already done. Peterson lost not only his job but the respect people had for him in society, all because of the media’s bias against him.
Freshman Yusuf Sheikh admitted that he believed Scot Peterson to be guilty for all the innocent lives lost. “I was shocked to see how the tables have turned and how the media led me to believe in Peterson’s guilt,” Sheikh said.
Matthew Jacoma, another freshman, expressed that the media also serves such a role when elections are around the corner. A 2017 Stanford study found that in the 2016 presidential race, fabricated stories in favor of Trump were shared a total of 30 million times. “It just shows that the media expressed so many fallacies about candidates which people blindly follow, not to even mention about the numerous accounts of twisting words,” Jacoma said.
Not only has the media affected perceptions in politics, but also in America’s favorite pastime: sports. Junior Mudit Marwaha expressed his discontent with the recent media coverage over Dolphin’s football quarterback Tua Tagolavia and a trade talk. “Media totally exaggerated the situation and [Tagolavia] ended up staying with the Dolphins through the trade deadline.”
The media plays an important role in our daily lives. Sometimes, just a few words can go a long way to ruin life, liberty and prosperity.