I recently got into a spat with a friend regarding an ugly anti-media meme shared on Facebook.
I was about to absolutely blister this person about how ignorant it was but opted to let it drop because I valued the friendship more than the facts. I’ve since had time to calm down about it (or stew over it, depending on the perspective), but it still bothers me.
I fully understand how and why the American people are upset with “mainstream media” and its biases. I am too, but mostly because of how it reflects on and impacts those of us who work diligently at the local level.
Bias in media is nothing new. In the early days of newspapers it was something they boasted. It was a selling point. People subscribed to a particular paper based on its political leanings. As modern journalism evolved and other forms of media came along – radio and television – there was more of a push for balance and neutrality. That’s what I was taught in college. That’s what I’ve strived for throughout three decades in this business. It’s what nearly every colleague of mine has fought for over the years.
Many of our older readers will recall TV newsman Walter Cronkite. He was considered unbiased, presenting the news in a straightforward manner. Yet privately he was very liberal in his politics. Most journalists are. That’s why I’ve always said the title of my memoirs will be “Behind Enemy Headlines.” I’m a conservative operating in a very liberal field.
In the early days of my career I had to write left-leaning editorials that I disagreed with. I’ve had to write about liberal social trends that go against my beliefs. I’ve had more personal columns censored than I care to count. But when it comes to reporting the news, I do my best to keep personal bias out of my work.
It sickens me to see such blatant bias in reporting when it comes to major media outlets such as CNN, FOX, the New York Times, and numerous others. It’s far more painful when friends paint all mass media with a single brush, casting doubt on everything we do. It’s even worse when they resort to name-calling, telling people not to believe what they are being “told” by the media, and cry “defund the media.”
I honestly don’t think the average person in America today realizes just how dependent they are on the media and the vital role it plays in their lives. To evaluate this it first requires an understanding of what media is and what it is not. In its broadest sense, media is everything that communicates to a wide audience. It’s more than news sources, it includes, books, movies, TV shows, paintings, poetry, photography, the internet, etc. For our purposes here, we will only consider what most people call media – news outlets.
If we did away with mainstream media you would not only lose all political information, but you would also lose all sports, lifestyles, obituaries, business reports, entertainment news and reviews, weather forecasts, local, state and national news, and so forth. There would be no investigative journalism. There would be no government watchdogs. There would be no reporting of community events. Even comics and cartoons would go away.
To get all this information, you would have to personally attend every government meeting and every sporting event of interest, search police blotters, visit funeral homes, attend criminal trials, chase ambulances and fire trucks, talk with teachers and school administrators, contact weather experts, attend the openings of local businesses, and read every book and watch every movie and play that seems to be of interest (without the benefits of reviews or trailers because that’s what you’re doing now).
Get this picture? This is what journalists do. We find, collate and deliver a wide variety of news and information to you so you don’t have to do it yourself. We keep you informed about a great many things. We may not do it right or we might have some bias or slant to our coverage, but in general you’re going to get straightforward facts and useful information.
Just imagine if the only information you received about the world around you each day was delivered in the memes and so-called fake news that you find on Facebook and other social media outlets? (Hint, they’re media too, and extremely biased!)
So, before you go bashing the mainstream media, please stop to consider exactly what you are saying and what you mean. It’s one thing to point out the failures and faults of a single source, but it’s quite another to paint us all with the same brush. In doing so you hypocritically spread the same kind of bias you’re complaining about.
P.S. Happy birthday to my wonderful wife, Sandy Southern!