My Blog on May 7, 2015
Every morning of my adult life arrived with a newspaper. Then I noticed that occasionally a so-called journalist, oh so subtly, with a little word choice here and there, slipped in what appeared to be a biased point of view. As these little slips of viewpoint steadily increased, I began to feel manipulated.
Of course, print media has been doing that for years, going back to the 18th century with “broadsides” and pamphlets. And, to be fair, I can find print media today leaning equally to the right or left. So I took my paper with a large dose of salt.
Everything came to a head when I joined other media to cover a press conference. Now this was the 3rd such press conference I had attended for this one agency, and it was usually pleasant but bland. Not this time. I didn’t expect someone to pose a question about a local hot potato issue, for Pete’s sake. Soon, the local and state politicians, originally there to show support for this agency, engaged in a frank dialogue about the situation.
WOW! Here’s news, I thought as I scribbled notes for all I was worth.
The next day, I looked for the local newspaper reporter’s article about the press conference. What would she write about what had happened so spontaneously, about the candid remarks from politicians who too often dance around pointed questions? I could not believe her only reference to the issue was “the (topic) was discussed.” Really, she could have phoned the thing in—it was that blah.
I was furious. How dare “they” withhold information from their readers? Who is it who decides what I will and will not know about my community? I couldn’t wait to write my article. It would swim in facts, nothing but the facts, so help me Hannah. And it did.
When we got our next bill for the newspaper’s subscription (with a $4 increase) you bet we cancelled the thing.
“Why?” asked the nice lady in the paper’s subscription office.
“You’re biased,” I said, “and report only what suits your agenda. You weren’t worth the money even before you raised your rate. Nothing but ads, anyway.”
My husband said I was too nice.
December 17, 2021
Six years later, it seems we’ve kept the bias and moved on to lies. Did we journalists sell out?
Now “truth” is what the media outlet you favor presents as “facts.” As a result, we cannot agree if something is black or white anymore. Should we believe the research that shows vaccinations work or the research that shows they do more harm than good? Are Covid deaths deliberately exaggerated? If so, why? It’s common knowledge (or maybe not) that some “scientists” do research that favors their clients’ agenda. The average American rarely hunts for the original research papers. (Although if you are so inclined, I suggest The Cochran Report https://www.cochranelibrary.com/about/about-cochrane-reviews). It’s a struggle to question variables, non-variables, statistical analysis, and the way data was interpreted. I simply don’t have the time. I want “Just the facts, Ma’am,” to quote Sgt. Joe Friday.
Worse yet, journalists spread the “facts” they believe, or what their employers tell them to say/write. An editor can kill the best, most fact filled story, a very story that needs to be told. Truth today is clinging to life support. Recently I’ve heard of a few TV anchors across the media spectrum quitting because they were told to report “facts” they knew were not true. Good for them!
In my 21015 blog, either the reporter did not understand that the remarks from our elected officials were as telling as they were, or the editor did not want to highlight the issue because it did not fit the paper’s bias.
Standing in the Gap
I believe there are sincere, capable, patriotic politicians; just not enough of them. We journalists/writers/news reporters must investigate thoroughly, report honestly, whether our outlets like it or not. We must stand for truth and respect our readers/listeners’ intelligence and ability to handle it. I believe most Americans, on the right, center, or left, desire the same outcomes. It’s a matter of priorities and how to reach our goals. We can debate those priorities and goals only when based on a fact that is universally accepted as true.
In my article about that press conference, I quoted the question that set off the debate and the responses of our elected officials. Period. I left it to the readers, who now had enough information, to draw their own conclusions.
I write this today, convinced that skilled reporters of character are standing in the gap between democracy and autocracy. Once facts are unchecked, routinely hidden, or distorted, our nation as we know it will die. Just because reporters are not jailed for what they write, does not mean their work is not constrained. Unchallenged, in time, only might will rule.
Long live the Fourth Estate!
Unfortunately so very true, Sue! I also see where we readers are being manipulated into passionate responses, solidifying the great divide between left and right. I have friends who stalwartly endeavor to view news “from the other side” in a valiant effort to hear all opposing opinions; I admit, I cannot bring myself to do that.
I admit that my views are more liberal and have evolved over time due to circumstances of my lifestyle and from my profession. I frequently question why certain journalists talk out of both sides of their mouths, endorsing untruths so easily. All I can do is pray that these people will experience their comeuppance and fade from the public’s memory.
If only, Cathy!
Well said. I’m sick and tired of news commentators-so called journalists from all networks rolling their eyes and editorializing on news stories at best, and at worst deliberately misleading the public. One tool I found is a site called mediabiasfactcheck.com which is free to use, and allows the reader to search a publication, reporter by name to check their bias slant. It’s also very sad that too many people don’t critically think about what they hear from a reporter.
You bring up a good point (as well as a great site!) Freedom of the press is a two way street. Yes, reporters should report facts after checking for accuracy. But we citizens must learn to think critically. Too often, someone will tell me, with great conviction, something I know to be false. When I ask ask where they came up with their information, they shrug and usually say they don’t remember. Or it’s from some hazy source. Still, it’s hard to critically think because after looking at all sources, we become confused, and rarely have the time to “get to the bottom of it.” I’m pretty sure the elite molders of public opinion rely on that.
“…a so-called journalist, oh so subtly, with a little word choice here and there, slipped in what appeared to be a biased point of view.” What happened to “just the facts, m’am”? I really hated it when we started getting an overload of this sometime in the 90’s. And it will continue because of financial elites who already deny public forums like the ngihtly news freedom of speech-thus leading to “Unchallenged, in time, only might will rule.” TY, Sue!
You hit the nail on the head, Pat. At the bottom, it’s all about money.
I was 16 and the only boy in Journalism class. I desperately wanted to be a newspaper reporter when I ”
“Grew up”. My teacher was Frank Weatherhead. He taught me that, as a reporter, you tell the “What” (What happened) the “Where” (Where it happened) the “When” (when it happened) the “Who” (who was involved in what happened) the “Who” (who was involved in what happened) and, if you can find out factually, the “How” (how did it happen) and the “why” (why it happened) of the story. His other directive was that a good reporter never becomes part of the story. You are just what the name implies – a “reporter”. Sadly, I never became a newspaper reporter but I never forgot the lessons. I wish more of today’s “news media” would have had Mr. Weatherhead as their instructor.
Absolutely! I for one, wish you HAD become a reporter. I would have searched for your by-line every time. So I enjoy your novels instead.