How to Read an Article you Find on the Internet

By: Lauren Ratliff and Emily Sydnor

Americans get information about what is going on in the nation and the world through the news media. While the media cannot tell us what to believe, they control what news we see and how that news is presented. In other words, the media don’t tell you what to think, they tell you what to think about. Media sets the agenda; they select which stories to report on and which stories to avoid. They influence what we think is important and what criteria we use when evaluating politicians, policies and the government generally. Media can also influence individuals’ interpretation of the news by framing it in a certain way. Support for welfare policies increases, for example, when it is discussed in terms of providing aid to children and decreases when it is discussed in terms of giving handouts to individuals who do not have jobs. Media can even persuade individuals to form or change an opinion on an issue.

Because of all this, the media is a powerful moderator of political information in America. It is important that we are aware of the power and biases that media possesses in conveying this information; therefore, we must read and consume knowledge with a critical eye and an open mind. Here are some things to keep in mind before, during, and after you read a news article.  Continue reading

Public Opinion and Religious Freedom: Learning from Indiana

The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has garnered a fury of public attention in recent days. Despite not referencing sexual orientation, the bill, in its original form, was touted to provide legal justification for discrimination of members of the LGBTQ community. Fueled by the media, public opinion of this bill turned increasingly hostile towards both its supporters and the entire state of Indiana. While the original Indiana RFRA was amended to remove the controversial language, damage to the reputation of Indiana’s lawmakers and residents has been done, showcasing the power of public opinion in America today.

Advocates of the bill argued that the Indiana RFRA was similar to the federal RFRA, which was signed into law under President Bill Clinton in 1993. The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 prohibits the “government (from) substantially burden(ing) a person’s exercise of religion” unless there is a compelling government interest and the least restrictive means of furthering that interest are followed. The federal RFRA law was utilized to uphold Hobby Lobby’s objection with provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) that required them to provide contraception coverage to their employees in violation of their religious views (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores).  Continue reading