First, Google and read “Ruben Navarette Exposing Media’s Double Standard.” Navarette is a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, which is considered slightly to moderately conservative. A good friend and former colleague — a thoroughly kind and decent human being for whom I have much affection but with whose politics I could not disagree with more — shared this column via Facebook and gave it two big thumbs up. I’m giving it — not him — my middle finger. Here’s why, specifically and generally:
• The column doesn’t say “newspapers.” It says journalism. Journalism today comes in many forms and through many outlets. Few people today get their news primarily from newspapers.
• As for “fake news,” I would ask, “Was the early reporting on Watergate ‘fake news?’ Are stories regarding connections between the Jared Kushner and Russian officials ‘fake news?’ Is it ‘fake news’ when confirmed falsehoods by this president and his cohorts and minions are pointed out?
• “Egregious reporting errors’ do not flow exclusively left to right. Google “Politifact which news channel lies the most?”
• Regarding the assertion that “Americans want their news straight up,” I’ve found no peer-reviewed, non-partisan study that indicates this. By the way, what does “straight up” mean? How is it defined as per the research, if you can find any?
• The terms “reporters” and “anchors” are not interchangeable.
• Journalists/reporters have always sniped at each other. Anyone who has ever worked for a newspaper knows that.
• All journalists do not come from the same socioeconomic backgrounds, go to the same schools and live in the same cities. Last time I checked, Longview, Lufkin, Lubbock and Laredo all had newspapers, Internet and radio and television stations. All of the reporters in Longview and Lubbock did not attend Columbia or Harvard or Missouri or UT-Austin.
Nor do all reporters work in or out of New York or Washington. Although I do not know this to be true, I would bet that major network reporters, especially White House correspondents, earned their posts through rigorous education and expansive experience.
The media landscape is more diverse than ever. It is not dominated by any single political persuasion or entity.
• For more than a decade, the most watched news channel has been Fox News.
In 2016, the 10 most listened to talk radio personalities were Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Dave Ramsey, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Howard Stern, Michael Savage, Joe Madison, Thom Hartmann and Mike Gallagher. Madison and Hartmann are liberal/progressives. Stern is essentially a shock-jock pornographer who might seem to lean left but is mostly apolitical. Savage is an alt-right conspiracy theorist. The rest are conservatives. Talk radio, from which millions receive their “news,” is dominated by conservatives.
The Wall Street Journal is also owned by Murdoch.
• As per the assertion regarding “thin skin,” it’s worth noting that Trump has called the media is the “enemy of the American people” and the “most dishonest” people.” By “media,” he means The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC. He does not mean the most watched news channel for the past decade, and he doesn’t mean Limbaugh or Hannity or Heritage Foundation or the Heartland Institute or Breitbart or InfoWars.
Because he disagrees with certain media outlet reporting, Trump has suggested that the FCC might want to examine its licensing procedures. Imagine if Obama had done that in regards to Fox or Limbaugh.
• As per the assertion that journalists are “too comfortable with hypocrisy,” I must ask, “How many times has Donald Trump played golf since taking office? Frankly, I don’t care, but many on the right cared quite a bit when Obama played golf. Now, they don’t seem to care. Nor do they care that Trump has refused to release his federal income tax statements or that he has made no attempts to sever conflicts with his financial interests. Nor do they care that the new tax law will increase the national debt by more than trillion dollars.
• Google “ John Oliver whataboutisms.
• As per the assertion that “[A reporter’s] job is to constantly try to tell better stories.” What constitutes a “better story?” Is a feel-good story about a soldier returning from Afghanistan to his wife and family a “better story?” Is this a “worse” story: a soldier, injured in Afghanistan, can’t receive the medical assistance he or she needs? I believe “better” stories help people understand the complexities of society, culture, technology, politics, science and economics. Better stories reveal and explain the forces conspiring against them, such as attempts to defund public education on all levels, to remove consumer protections, to poison the environment for the sake of quarterly profits. Better stories provide facts and context that produce truth—or, at least, the latest version of it.
• Regarding “truth.” Journalists cannot force people to believe truth—or, at least, the latest version of it. Though people believed it, it was never true that women are unequipped to serve in the military. Though people believed it, it was never true that African-Americans are intellectually inferior to whites. Though people believed it, the sun does not revolve around the Earth.
Though people don’t believe it, climate change is real. It is verifiable by scientific means. It is true. According to NASA, 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activity.
However, according to the Pew Research Center, fewer than 24 percent of Republicans believe that. Nor do they believe in something as obvious as evolution. During one of the 2016 Republican presidential primary debates, not one candidate admitted to believing in it. And, before you respond, “Well, it’s just a ‘theory,’” go to this link:
• News tends to come from Washington DC because Washington DC is the nation’s capital. The president lives there when he’s not at one of his private properties at the expense of the American taxpayer (see hypocrisy above). News tends to come through New York City because New York City is the world’s media center. News tends not to come from Brenham, Texas because the Brenham Banner lacks the resources to cover Washington D.C. or even Washington County. It does well to cover Brenham ISD.
• As per bias in the media: An equal number of journalists are anti-Clinton and anti-Obama and pro-Republican to the point of supporting Roy Moore, and they don’t bother to hide it.
• As for “deplorables,” it’s a term Hillary Clinton used to describe the kind of racists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville. John McCain is not a deplorable. Nor is my friend mentioned above.
• How does the media get back on track? Not by serving as a punching bag for the president, regardless of who he or she is. Legitimate news outlets — those that hire actual journalists rather than political commentators — can regain some credibility by providing incisive, analytical, aggressive and courageous journalism.
• We are a good country, but we are not a perfect country, and we never will be. We certainly have room to be a better country. We need journalists whose reporting makes it better. We need more informed citizens. We need citizens who don’t believe every Facebook meme created by some Russian company with ties to the Kremlin. And that’s not “fake news.” It happened. It’s been verified.
• We do not need more grab-ass idiocy and shameless hucksterism. It is not the media’s job to make feel people feel better. It’s to make them think and act more responsibly for the sake of their children and grandchildren, and the sake of the rest of the world’s children and grandchildren because we are not in this alone. And when we — and by “we,” I mean journalists and journalism educators — look at ourselves in the mirror each morning, we should see an informed, skeptical but not cynical professional. We should not see a stooge, a lackey or a gushing cheerleader.