Is the news media too biased?
That seems to be the consensus developing within the MSM.
For too long journalists have given Republicans a free ride, have been far too tough on Democrats, and if journalists don’t start getting tougher on evil Republicans our democracy could be lost to tyranny.
Christiane Amanpour started the conversation (again-there have been other rounds of naval gazing in the past) with the release of her sweater emblazoned with the slogan “be truthful, not neutral” in celebration of her 40 years at CNN. I wrote about it last week because it was so on-brand for a media pundit to be proud of their bias.
Lots of other journalists are waving the banner of unrepentant bias. Ben Collins, whose tweet I linked above, is a “misinformation” reporter. Brian Stelter has let us know he agrees.
Margaret Sullivan, who now writes a column for The Guardian (a British Left-wing paper), was Public Editor at the New York Times and a media columnist for The Washington Post, has weighed in as well.
Sullivan worries that journalists work far too hard to be evenhanded when we all know that Republicans are evil authoritarians and Democrats peace-loving selfless saints who deserve to have power over every aspect of our lives.
When reporting on The Devil vs. Jesus Christ, telling The Truth does not mean being evenhanded. (Given the Left’s love of demonic imagery though I suspect the coverage might actually skew the other way).
Christiane Amanpour has reported all over the world, so she recognizes a democracy on the brink when she sees one.
Last week, as she celebrated her 40 years at CNN, she issued a challenge to her fellow journalists in the US by describing how she would cover US politics as a foreign correspondent.
“We have to be truthful, not neutral,” she urged. “I would make sure that you don’t just give a platform … to those who want to crash down the constitution and democracy.”
It’s an important call to action. But so far, the American press is failing to meet its responsibility to adequately emphasize the stakes of the coming election. Here’s some of what is going wrong:
Her list of unfair criticisms of Biden, which she just knows is being written about simply to be “neutral,” includes Biden’s age, about which nobody would speak but for Republicans unfairly criticizing him. Impeachment, too, is “evidence-free” and really should simply be dismissed. And, of course, covering Trump without enough reminders of how he is really similar to Hitler is yet another example of how Republicans are getting a free ride.
The big problem is that the mainstream media wants to be seen as non-partisan – a reasonable goal – and bends over backwards to accomplish this. If this means equalizing an anti-democratic candidate with a pro-democracy candidate, then so be it.
The big solution? Remember at all times what our core mission is: to communicate truthfully, keeping top of mind that we have a public service mission to inform the electorate and hold powerful people to account. If that’s our north star, as it should be, every editorial judgment will reflect that.
Headlines will include context, not just deliver political messaging. Overall politics coverage will reflect “not the odds, but the stakes”, as NYU’s Jay Rosen elegantly put it. Lies and liars won’t get a platform and a megaphone.
And media leaders will think hard about the big picture of what they are getting across to the public, and whether it is fair and truthful. Imagine if the New York Times, among others, had stopped and done a course correction on their over-the-top coverage of Clinton’s emails during the 2016 campaign. We might be living in a different world.
The Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman pointed out last week that the media apparently has failed to communicate something that should be a huge asset for Biden: the US’s current “Goldilocks economy”. Inflation is low, unemployment is low and there’s virtually no hint of a recession. But many Americans, according to surveys, are convinced the economy is terrible.
She is so so right. With incomes soaring, freedom of speech on the march in the public sphere, evenhanded application of justice unlike the era in which the FBI and Justice Department were hounding Trump’s political opponents, and the ever-rising test scores of America’s children the only reason Americans can possibly be unhappy with Biden is that he is getting unfairly pilloried in the press.
Time for the media to get serious about telling the TRUTH, not being unbiased as they so clearly are.
“When one of our two political parties has become so extremist and anti-democratic”, the old ways of reporting don’t cut it, wrote the journalist Dan Froomkin in his excellent list of suggestions culled from respected historians and observers.
In fact, such both-sides-equal reporting “actively misinforms the public about the stakes of the coming election”.
The stakes really are enormously high. It’s our job to make sure that those potential consequences – not the horse race, not Biden’s age, not a scam impeachment – are front and center for US citizens before they go to the polls.
It’s hard to get angry anymore when I read such drivel, mainly because it is hard to imagine how the MSM could possibly get any more biased against Republicans.
Of course, as with so many other things of late, reality surprises. Not once has a prediction on my part that things can’t get any worse turned out to be true. Things can and usually do.
The MSM, at least, is going to give it the ol’ college try.