I’m so old I remember when journalists at least pretended to be objective.
While they certainly had their prejudices, the journalistic old guard rarely tattooed them on their foreheads or paraded them around like show poodles on leashes. If you looked you might find them, but people rarely looked.
I attended journalism school some time ago, yet I recall well the preaching of objectivity as if it were the Hippocratic Oath for the future guardians of truth roaming the beige halls of my alma mater.
But even then, at the dawn of the 21st century, the writing (pun intended) was on the wall; despite their good intentions, my professors made clear their radically progressive political slants, as was their right, but they never forced their opinions or punished opposing views to my knowledge. Nevertheless, many of my classmates absorbed their politics like a sponge (myself being the rare exception) and entered their professional lives as full-blown advocates.
The chain reaction of indoctrination is now plain to see — the tact of their predecessors must seem like a weakness to today’s openly partisan media class who wear their political philosophies on their sleeves like $1,000 cufflinks.
To be fair, any semblance of objectivity was abandoned long ago, but the finer, final particles blew away with the wind in November of 2016 with the election of one Donald J. Trump. And with them any pretense of professional ethics.
Exhibit A is the recent revelation by the Media Research Center that throughout 2017 and 2018, 90 percent of the coverage of the President by the nation’s three largest television networks was negative, despite an off-the-rails successful economy. Rest assured that if the current economic rocket ride was happening under the management of Bill Clinton or, nay, Barack Obama, the evening news would truly be all rainbows and butterflies. Yet because the Orange Man is in office they would have us believe we are on the brink of the Apocalypse.
Even more disturbing is the fact that many of Trump’s accomplishments involve causes the American left, and the liberal mainstream media, supposedly hold dear: record low unemployment for minorities; the winding down of long-standing wars; prison and sentencing reform; and proposals to protect the children of illegal immigrants.
Yet the expected celebration has been replaced by unanimous demonization.
In mere decades the American press have devolved from semi-sober watchdogs to fanatical foot soldiers fighting on behalf of the Democratic Party’s constantly shifting agenda.
The same networks that helped to elect an anti-gay marriage Barack Obama also helped to elect a pro-gay marriage Barack Obama, just as they once mocked newfound liberal savior Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her insane economic views yet recently bestowed upon her the esteem of a sit-down interview on 60 Minutes.
Anyone who reads the papers and watches a wide spectrum of TV news knows the truth: we’re not getting information, we’re getting all agenda, all the time. Estimates of newsroom political imbalance vary, but all tilt heavily liberal; one study showed that liberal financial journalists at major papers outnumbered their conservative counterparts 13-to-1.
The media landscape is so littered with partisan misinformation that an entire genre of “fact checking” websites have sprung up to do the media’s job for them. Sadly, however, these sites have succumbed to the same bias that necessitated their creation.
The press’s defenders inevitably respond with charges of “Fox News,” which is highly successful precisely for the reason that the public, soaked in propaganda for years, sought out what they knew must be the other side of the story.
But despite the network’s popularity, it is but a cell in a much larger media organism. Over 2018 the Fox News Channel averaged 2.5 million viewers in primetime. Sounds impressive, until one considers the Big Three (you know, the same ones that generously granted Trump the 90 percent negative coverage) averaged nearly 24 million in November of last year during their evening newscasts. Not to mention CNN and MSNBC, which when combined regularly draw approximately the same number of viewers as FNC.
All in all, Fox News garners roughly one-ninth the viewership of its liberal competitors. Throw in the massive reach of left-leaning print media such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and countless local newspapers and you have what any sane person would consider a liberal monopoly on America’s political dialog.
What’s worse it that these days the media freely flaunt their bias and in the same breath bemoan their low trustworthiness ratings among the American public. Admitting you have a problem is but the first step toward recovery; the actual turnaround requires not repeating past mistakes.
But just one month into 2019 America’s Fourth Estate has already botched two huge stories: the debunked BuzzFeed article alleging the President instructed his ex-attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress and the hasty rush to judgment of a group of minors who dared to wear the President’s signature MAGA hats in the nation’s capital. The drug of disingenuity is indeed powerful.
None of this is to say that there aren’t good journalists out there. Certainly there are, but their virtue is a first-class ticket to the back pages of their publications or the backwater towns of their broadcast networks. And many, sadly, have paid the ultimate price of their peers’ ideological largesse.
Just days ago more than 1,000 media professionals lost their jobs. Among the outlets punished was BuzzFeed News, the creator and publisher of the Trump/Cohen fairy tale; liberal stalwart Huffington Post; and newspaper giant Gannett. More reductions will likely follow. If the media wish to survive, they will be forced to choose between their ideological agenda and their duty as objective public watchdog.
Preservation generally trumps party, and the current bloodletting, though indeed painful, is perhaps the only thing capable of restoring the sanity our press lost so long ago.