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On News Media

I haven’t written anything in about a week, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying. It’s not that I haven’t had time or that I’ve been distracted.  It’s simply that every time I sit down to write, be it about the Trayvon Martin case, the “war on women” or even the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it turned into a discussion of how the media was treating each story.  And when I tried to write about the news media, it turned out  that I dislike so many aspects of it that I had trouble organizing/keeping brief my thoughts. And while I have many other interests and points of view that I would like to share, I’ve been preoccupied with trying to figure out how to even start my discussion of the media without rambling down a long road of circumstantial critiques.

So I’ll start with this: if you as a reader, viewer or listener find that the source from which you get your news always agrees with you, that source is biased. I’m sorry to break it to you, but it’s not that you’re just SO smart. It’s not that your points of view are all just SO correct. It’s that your news source is biased.

It seems that most news media outlets have done away with the old adage of reporting facts and letting viewers decide.  The front page and the editorial section have merged. Everything is an editorial, now. Opinions, when not blatantly stated, are hidden in the facts or the stories that have been selected to be reported, or in the subtle word choice used while reporting.  And before anything can be said about the news you read, listen to or watch, this first must be acknowledged.

A secondary element to this discussion is the ridiculous notion that is pushed by the right about the liberal bias of the “mainstream media.” Now, I have already stated that most news sources show a bias. Some stronger than others.  Some are actually completely factual but because those facts fly in the face of one ideology or another, those facts are considered biased.  However, it is patently absurd for the number one cable news network in the country according to Nielsen ratings (Fox News), along with  two of the top listened-to radio programs in the country (Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity) NOT to consider themselves mainstream media.

It is just as absurd for those same mainstream media outlets to claim any lack of bias.  I am not writing this as a hit job on Fox News, though I might argue that they deserve it, but I watch a lot of Fox News and once upon a time (three years ago or so) I listened to Rush Limbaugh frequently. It does not take a media expert or any kind of expert to identify the biases present in both.

Personally, I like my news to come at me in the form of a debate or a conversation.  Because this is so difficult to achieve, I find that the best alternative I can recommend is to flip back and forth between CNN, Fox News and MSNBC depending on the story being reported. Check different websites for their editorials on the hot-button issue of the day. Try something other than NPR to get your radio news… no wait, don’t do that. I love NPR.

The point is that if you only watch news that reaffirms what you already feel, you will never learn anything about the changing world and the issues that face it. In order to open your mind to all possible outcomes to a particular event, consumers of the news will have to diversify inputs on their own, to make up for the fact that news outlets themselves have ceased to diversify their outputs.

While I could go on for pages about my issues with the media, those are going to be conversations for another day. I think this is a good starting point. Let’s simply acknowledge that most news comes with a bias or opinion built in, and that Fox News and other conservative-leaning news sources are completely mainstream and have no room to boast of some sort of moral high ground against any liberal-leaning outlets.

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