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Journalism or Propaganda?

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

Between fake news, biased news, and no news, the media has come under fire in recent years like never before. Unfortunately, much of it is deserved. It is not easy, maybe impossible, for a reporter or editor to be totally objective. Like it or not, we all have our built-in-biases that can get in the way. But today’s “journalism” scarcely passes for the lessons I was taught 30-plus years ago. As I see it at least, here is a summary of the biggest culprits.

* News today is FAR too biased. Even the most nonchalant reader has become aware that the majority of today’s media outlets “lean left.” This was something some friends of mine pointed out to me 20 years ago, when I was still working as a newspaper reporter. Naturally, I defended my profession and said they were full of hogwash. Today, the problem has gotten much worse.

But it wasn’t always like that. In my day, an editor or J-school professor would not have accepted a story that didn’t have two sides to it. If you were talking to a Democratic candidate and you didn’t get the Republican’s point of view you didn’t have a story. Period. If you were under a really tight deadline, you “might” get away with saying something to the effect that…. “John Smith, Republican candidate for …. office, was not available for comment.” In that way, readers knew that you were at least trying to get a balanced story.

But purposely not seeking anyone else’s opinion was just that in the day, an opinion/editorial piece, and not a news story.

The post-presidential election ruckus is a perfect case in point. Whether you believe the POTUS’s accusations about election fraud have any basis in fact, or not, the point is this: Four years ago, Donald Trump wins the presidency, and the media is SHOCKED. Everything, roughly NINETY-EIGHT percent of what is “reported on” about him for FOUR years is negative. He colluded with the Russians to win the election. And so forth and so on.

Four years LATER, 2020… and accusations the Democrats stole the election pop up. This time, because “their guy” Joe Biden, is declared the winner, about all most media have been saying is to scoff at the allegations, saying how untrue they are. But have journalists been doing ANY digging about it? You don’t have to “believe it” yourself, but what about interviewing poll workers and election officials about what THEY witnessed? I have seen some reports to this effect, but precious, precious few.

Conversely, you know this issue would have been the lead item on the news night after night if the tables were reversed and the POTUS was accused of stealing the election from Joe Biden! And THAT is my point: Four years ago, election allegations dragged on, and were BIG NEWS. …

…Four years LATER: allegations rise, but this time the media is strangely silent on the issue. That is the danger in having a press that heavily reports negativity on one side but buries its head in the sand like an ostrich, on the other. NO NEWS can be even worse than slanted news because the public is led to believe: “There can’t be any basis to what the POTUS is saying because the press isn’t reporting on it.” …. A true journalist checks out the matter further and lets the reader or viewer make up their own mind whether the allegations have any basis in fact – or not.

That is “supposed to be” the media’s job, not disregarding a story because personal biases mean it’s a waste of time to even look into it. That’s not journalism, that’s propaganda.

* News today is too instantaneous. While it’s possible to get a story “out there” much faster than I would have ever dreamed possible decades ago, today’s breakneck media pace and lack of in-depth reporting also contributes to inaccurate, biased media reports. For starters, Ryan Holiday, a media columnist and author of Ego is the Enemy, puts it this way: “You cannot have your news instantly and have it done well. You cannot have your news reduced to 140 characters or less without losing large parts of it.”

News takes time to gather, check facts, proofread, and have an editor look it over for grammar and context. But in today’s mad rush to fill the 24/7 news channels and electronic outlets, it’s more like write first, post first, and don’t worry about “that other stuff” (too messy, takes time you know).

* Today’s journalists aren’t trusted. I’m not sure what the profession can do to get back the respect that used to come with being a reporter. Not that someone like me didn’t louse up a story from time to time! Of course, I did! It was embarrassing, humbling, but you said you were sorry, tried to learn from your mistake, and moved on. But keep up coverage the way it’s been going, and NO paper or station should be remotely surprised when readership and viewership is down – because many people “get it” (that coverage is slanted).

What’s being done to resolve this travesty? Unfortunately, other than a few outstanding publications and media outlets here and there, nowhere near enough I’m afraid. When the bulk of media are more interested in telling people what they want them to hear, than anything else, what other cherished American freedoms are next?

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