News media failing with blatant bias

by Jane Briggs-Bunting

Just spent the past three days surfing in and out of the GOP’s Isaac-shortened convention. PBS carried it a lot. The commercial networks gave it just an hour a night.

The armchair commentators of the networks, with the exception, of course, of Fox News, was subtly and, at times, blatantly biased against Mitt Romney and Republicans, in general.

For several years a neighbor of mine, who is far to the right, has complained about liberal media bias. As a journalist, I have been a staunch defender of news coverage which on a local, daily basis is often as fair and accurate as can be expected. I know how eyewitnesses can observe vastly different versions of the same event, how politicians can spin a message then deny saying it, how covering sad and gruesome events like plane crashes, tornadoes, hurricanes, car accidents and violence can be difficult and how hard I used to try, and my colleagues, too, to do our jobs with accuracy and thoroughness.

However, the 24/7 news cycle on cable and online have changed the game entirely. All that dead space and air seemingly requires flapping lips of talking heads to fill the void, and the networks are equally guilty. Much as I hate to admit it, my neighbor is right. The bias is blatant.

The focus of last night’s coverage between the speeches and after the balloons fell was more about Clint Eastwood’s quirky monologue (must have made his day) and less about the GOP’s presidential candidate’s acceptance speech other than, he did a good job “for Mitt.”

Little mention was made of Marco Rubio’s introduction, of the comments on education and schools by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the video (which I didn’t see) on Romney himself.

There was grudging consensus that Romney became a little more humanized in the three day sprint.

I am not a Republican or a Democrat. I sport no bumper stickers on my car or signs on my lawn. Journalists shouldn’t do that. I admit to doing serious due diligence on candidates and issues in every primary and election, local, state and national, before I cast my ballot in the privacy of the voting booth. That’s not necessarily part of my job as a journalist, but it is an important responsibility for me as a citizen.

The Democrats gather in Charlotte this week. Isaac is likely to make a weak appearance as it heads eastward. I’ll be watching the coverage. I expect Fox to snipe and the others to wax eloquent.

Sadly, U.S news media has regressed  to the early 20th Century model of rag tag, sensationalistic, biased newspapers. I know bias has always existed and truth telling is devilishly hard, but at least in the second half of that last century, it was a goal and an aspiration, and it felt like a journalist’s moral obligation and responsibility to readers and viewers.

What news media should be doing is holding both candidates and parties accountable for what they say and what they do, asking the tough questions and seeking answers to the very difficult issues of the day.

Forget the scripted sound bite coverage. Do the job the First Amendment entrusted to the press.

6 replies »

  1. I’m the last guy to defend major corporate news networks, but there’s a side of the story you’re simply ignoring. Let’s begin with with the myth of the “liberal press.” Each and every one of the organizations you’re indicting are fully owned and controlled by wealthy Republican interests. Unless you’re willing to argue that ownership is irrelevant – and I’m going to assume that you aren’t – then there’s a layer of meaning and nuance in what’s happening that’s not being commented on. Specifically, what does it mean when wealthy conservatives allow their employees to clown a wealthy conservative candidate who is, by every measure, one of THEM?

    As for the media’s focus on the sideshow, it should be pointed out that it was the GOP’s decision to stage a sideshow in the first place. Trotting out an 80 year-old actor to argue with a chair? If the GOP wanted the focus on the nut of Mitt’s message, they’d have put the focus on the nut of Mitt’s message. The argument here isn’t that the media devoted too much time on the circus, per se, it’s that the media should have spent more time asking why is there a circus on stage.

    I’d have given anything to see more real journalism aimed at Jeb Bush’s speech, of course, which was more seriously cynical corporatist nonsense about educational “choice” wrapped in a pretty package that was intended to sound like it was benefiting the poor and non-white kids of America. In fact, it’s the policies of people like Bush’s brother that are responsible for so much of what has gone wrong for those kids in recent years. No, that isn’t the whole issue, but when privatize and test are the problem, it’s unlikely that privatize and test even more are the solution.

    And so on. So sure, I agree with you that coverage of the RNC – hell coverage of fucking EVERYTHING – is a medicine show. On that you’ll get no argument. But please, summing it up in a “liberal media” argument is shallow and misleading. There are very real, very deep and nuanced dynamics afoot here and as educated cultural thinkers we have to do a better job on the media than the media is doing on the election.

  2. Blatant bias is an exceptional claim. Where is the exceptional evidence? Even a single quote? A link? A search term, even? I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that, given the lies and distortions coming from Romney and Ryan, both well documented (use your Google-fu), *facts* have a liberal bias.

    Sadly, far too many “liberals” will turn out to the polls and vote for the Wall Street shilling DINO with a kill list because somehow that’s the “lesser evil.” Any so-called liberal bias sure as hell won’t be putting an actual liberal in the White House this year.

  3. Journalists should be doing journalism and that means covering the news. It’s the commentary that creates the bias. Sure bias occurs in the selection of what stories to cover, how and where to present them and why they should be covered. It’s the talking heads that spout most of the drivel, liberal and conservative.

  4. From the outside the U.S. media seems a supine, vaguely right-of-centre group. Until one takes Fox into the equation.
    The sheer concentration of lies that Romney/Ryan are spouting maybe tilting the coverage as it equivalent to two elephants in the room and that is really hard to ignore.