Along with a couple of my friends, including one-time mentor, friend, fellow native
Terry Wadeand others, I spent a short time during my first eventful but mistake-filled post-graduate years as a news reporter, state capitol correspondent, and as a daily newspaper editor in Henryetta, Oklahoma, 74437, population 5,937 (it was closer to 7,000 when I lived there, and it no longer has a daily newspaper). I was also editor, for a brief while, of my college newspaper, the USAO Trend (University of Science of Arts of Oklahoma).
I love journalism and am sort of rediscovering it in my retirement years. I have been very critical of the profession's move away from fact-finding and sharing and trusting consumers to make their own judgments, into political advocacy and partisanship.
So, it saddened me in no small way when I read the following op-ed from a former CBS news editor that basically exhorted the media to surrender to its biases and embrace such partisanship and its advocacy role, not in its editorials, but even in its newsgathering and "reporting." Now, we're being told, it is too financially advantageous NOT to engage in fair-minded journalism. I have to admit there is a lot of truth in that.
Somewhere, Vladimir Putin is smiling.
I do not think that's what James Madison had in mind when he drafted and proposed the First Amendment, which included the Freedom of the Press among its five God-granted, government-protected rights.
Oh, sure, the press during the late 18th Century was no less biased and scurrilous than today. Papers were clearly established to pick sides and advocate points of view. But as the nation matured, so did the media, especially with the advent of broadcast journalism in the 1950s and '60s. At least, until about 1974, as investigative journalism helped topple a President. Heads began to swell. Power once obtained and exercised is hard, very hard, to relinquish. Just ask a few governors right now.
I remember my journalism class in the fall of 1974, and how it was evolving to include taking on established powers, and the abuse thereof, on behalf of 'the powerless.' I admit that I bought into that for a while. Now, the corporate media has taken upon itself the role of choosing who, and what political party should rule, and how. Ask Hong Kong how that is working out for them. Worse, they defame, ridicule, and discredit those who disagree.
Read the following carefully, and think hard about the media you choose to consume and support. Here's my strategy:
1) find and financially support, and most importantly, consume honest journalism. I subscribe to Mother Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Epoch Times, the Washington Times, and a few others. Diverse, honest journalism (and some advocacy) exist there. It allows me to make informed decisions.
2) Reject writers and outlets that have a clear agenda and a history of violating norms (relying heavily on single-sourced and/or anonymous sourcing). Buzz Feed, the NY Times, the Washington Post, CNN and most of the broadcast media and other outlets have devolved into this swamp of mediocrity and alarmism. Sadly, so increasingly has the Associated Press and China-friendly Bloomberg.
3) Find the nuggets of truth and fairness that exist out there in the form of daily newsletters, such as John Ellis (Google him), John Solomon and his great new site, "JustTheNews.com" and "Full Measure" media's Sharyl Attkisson among others who are accused of being "conservative" but if you watch and read carefully, ask tough and direct questions of everyone they encounter, right or left. I would add the right-leaning but fair Washington Examiner in that category.
4) Support local media. I subscribe to several local/regional news organs, from my local Delco Times to the Daily Oklahoman, Tulsa World, and even the Chicago Tribune. I find these news outlets to be more fair and balanced in their coverage, and less alarmist and partisan, than most. They are more sensitive to and respectful of their local consumers, some more than others. Many of these outlets have special deals right now, take advantage of them, and get behind their paywalls.
Sorry for the rant. A lot is at stake.
The ‘Liberal Leaning’ Media Has Passed Its Tipping Point
A return to balance would be commercially unviable. The best solution may be an honest embrace of bias.
By Van Gordon Sauter
May 25, 2020 2:21 pm ET
About 35 years ago I was sitting at lunch next to Jeane Kirkpatrick, a onetime Democrat who became a foreign-policy adviser to President Reagan and later U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She was lamenting what she called the “liberal leaning” media. As the president of CBS News, I assured her it was only a “liberal tilt” and could be corrected.
“You don’t understand,“ she scolded. “It’s too late.”
Kirkpatrick was prophetic. The highly influential daily newspapers in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Boston are now decidedly liberal. On the home screen, the three broadcast network divisions still have their liberal tilt. Two of the three leading cable news sources are unrelentingly liberal in their fear and loathing of President Trump.
News organizations that claim to be neutral have long been creeping leftward, and their loathing of Mr. Trump has accelerated the pace. The news media is catching up with the liberalism of the professoriate, the entertainment industry, upscale magazines and the literary world. Recent arrivals are the late-night TV hosts who have broken the boundaries of what was considered acceptable political humor for networks.
To many journalists, objectivity, balance and fairness—once the gold standard of reporting—are not mandatory in a divided political era and in a country they believe to be severely flawed. That assumption folds neatly into their assessment of the president. To the journalists, including more than a few Republicans, he is a blatant vulgarian, an incessant prevaricator, and a dangerous leader who should be ousted next January, if not sooner. Much of journalism has become the clarion voice of the “resistance,” dedicated to ousting the president, even though he was legally elected and, according to the polls, enjoys the support of about 44% of likely 2020 voters.
This poses significant problems not only for Mr. Trump but for the media’s own standing. If Mr. Trump prevails in November, what’s the next act, if any, for journalists and the resistance? They will likely find Mr. Trump more dangerous and offensive in a second term than in the first.
More important, how will a large segment of the public ever put stock in journalism it considers hostile to the country’s best interests? Unfortunately, dominant media organizations have bonded with another large segment of the public—one that embraces its new approach. Pulling back from anti-Trump activism could prove commercially harmful.
On the other hand, how would the media respond to a Joe Biden victory (beyond exhilaration)? Will Mr. Biden be subjected to the rigor and skepticism imposed on Mr. Trump? Will he get a pass because he is a liberal and “not Trump”? The media’s protective coverage of the sexual-assault allegation against Mr. Biden is perhaps a clear and concerning preview to how his presidency would be covered.
The media seems uninterested in these issues of bias. But wouldn’t a softening of its editorial orientation bring new readers or viewers? Probably not. The growth of new customers would be more than offset by the defection of outraged members of the current audience. The news media seems very comfortable with its product and ability to sell it.
There’s probably no way to seal the gap between the media and a large segment of the public. The media likes what it is doing. Admires it. Celebrates it. There is no personal, professional or financial reason to change. If anything, the gap will expand. Ultimately, the media finds the “deplorables” deplorable.
Dan Abrams, ABC’s chief legal-affairs anchor and founder of the website Mediaite, has a novel but valuable idea for the media—candor. Speaking to the matter at February’s Rancho Mirage Writers Festival, Mr. Abrams said “I think the first thing that would help . . . is to admit . . . that the people in the media are left of center.”
It would be delightful if a publisher, an editor, a reporter, would just say: Yes, I am left of center! I’m proud of it. I think our reporting is accurate. It best serves the public. And the credibility of the media. So there!
Publications open about their bias might feel freer to focus on the specifics: story selection, presentation, facts, fairness, balance. Not devoid of subtlety for sure, but manageable.
Journalism affects social cohesion. Convinced of its role and its legitimacy, however, the media doesn’t seem to much care. And the other side can certainly enjoy throwing rotten tomatoes at distant targets.
But America won’t reunite until far more people can look at a news story in print or on the screen and, of all things, believe it.