In the 1980s a phenomenon began in talk radio with the rise of Rush Limbaugh and a variety of other conservatives. These talk radio hosts were opining on the news of the day taking a right-wing view in an effort to counter the tendency in traditional news to lean left politically. This talk radio explosion had started to become a source of news for many conservatives wary of the leftist mainstream media. Unfortunately the talk radio hosts were not truly journalists, in fairness, they usually didn’t suggest they were. What they were and still are is editorial commentators. This is all fine and well.
The rise of internet news however, is a whole different animal. The internet has become a place where volumes of information rarely filtered for truth, is permeating our culture. It is so easy to share articles and “information” on social media and blog sites. Suddenly the truth is hard to find. Up until just recently the traditional ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NY Times, etc were reliable if not somewhat biased. The mainstream media may have put a slight liberal slant on things, but they rarely if not ever, told an absolute untruth. They remained a source of accurate information filtered through the lens of journalistic best practice.
In fact in back in 2000, Gallup’s poll on news trust in America had the News Media rated at just over 50% with a near even split among Republicans and Democrats; 47% and 53% trust respectively. Today that overall trust is only 32% and not surprising it’s Republicans and Independents that have completely lost faith. 14% and 30% respectively. Also no surprise is the fact that Democrats favor has only dropped to 51%. Generally it has been the Republicans and conservatives that have gotten the short end of the stick with America’s news organizations. The Gallup poll and related article is here.
Things seem to be reaching a rather dark and disturbing crescendo here in 2017. Tactics used by the hacks in the blogosphere are now being used by so-called Journalists in the mainstream. This goes beyond a liberal slant as this is simply dishonest. President Trump continues to drumbeat his displeasure in the “dishonest media” and frankly so far this year, they are proving him right. The press has every right to go after the President to get to the truth, to ask hard hitting questions. President Trump needs to suck it up and deal with it like every other president before him. But the lies and deceit, the lack of integrity, that is unacceptable.
The bloggers have been using the social media viral angle for several years. They simply misquote or even flat-out lie and then publish it and it goes viral. Before anyone can refute them everyone has seen it and many believe it. This is the “fake news” that people are talking about this year. It pushes whatever narrative the writer wants with little or no truth to actually support it. On its face it is what it is and most people know that social media stories are suspect. But now we have the traditional news agencies engaging in this fake news.
Let me cite a few examples:
Ari Fleischer was completely taken out of context by ABC News with a deliberate editing that resulted in a gross mischaracterization of his comments. This was an EGREGIOUS lack of journalistic integrity. They issued this correction statement, buried somewhere in the sea of their website. it took me a few minutes to find it.
“Nightline aired a segment Monday night about the first three days of the new administration including Sean Spicer’s statement to the press on Saturday. As part of the report, we interviewed former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. In editing the piece for air, his quote was shortened and as a result his opinions mischaracterized. We are fixing the piece online to include his full quote and context. We apologize and regret the error.”
Time Magazine erroneously reported that Donald Trump had removed the Martin Luther King bust out of the Oval Office. In fact the bust had not been moved and the story had gone viral across social media before Time issued a retraction. The link to Time Magazine’s Editor reporting the mistake is here.
The hacks at Buzzfeed published a known to be unverified dossier on Trump, purported to be from the Russians. This is no surprise, but when CNN decided to talk about it, they added credibility to it as an issue. Despite CNNs clear citation that it was unverified, people trust that CNN would not talk about something that didn’t at least have some underlying merit. The Buzzfeed decision to publish was criticized by the Washington Post in a well written article that outlines exactly why it was not a Journalistic thing to do. That article is here. As for CNN this was not nearly as grievous as Buzzfeed or the other two above as they did not, I repeat, did not, publish the saucy details but only summarized its contents.
There is a clear narrative being pushed by a significant percentage of the traditional news outlets. Some may think that retractions make up for it. WRONG! Let’s be clear, for a journalist, the need for a retraction represents an epic fail. It is akin to a quarterback fumbling the football and the defense returns it for a touchdown. Journalists are supposed to have the facts before they report. That is an underlying tenet of journalistic integrity.
As for those that feel a retraction makes it all better, I will call bullshit and remind them this is in fact the 21st Century. The damage is done long before the retraction or apology is issued. In our instant news and social media viral society the MLK bust story was around the world and back long before the retraction was made. The damage was done and the racism narrative continues.
What these reporters are doing is the same thing a criminal defense attorney might do in the courtroom when his client is facing empirical evidence against him. Since criminal justice requires the jury to be certain when rendering a guilty verdict, the defense attorney simply needs to create some doubt. The attorney may use testimony he knows to be ‘hearsay’ but it casts serious doubt on the guilt of his client. The defense knows that hearsay is inadmissible but presents it anyway. The prosecution then objects and the judge sustains the objection likely ruling that the jury disregard the inadmissible comments or testimony. But the jury however, cannot un-hear what they just heard. The seed of doubt may linger and that was the intent all along.
This is journalistic heresy. I for one am sick and tired of these wretched trolls that parade around as journalists taking the high and mighty tone of superiority and claiming to be objective, when all around us at the very institutions of journalism, under the protection of our constitution, they spit on us with deceit and malice. To those with whom they disagree they use tone and inflection to strike them down and warmth and cheer to those with whom they agree. Never has this country faced a more subjective press than we have today and it is eroding our very security.
All of this bad reporting is leading America to become disenfranchised with the news media. This is very dangerous. Why on Earth would the mainstream news organizations drop to the level of blogosphere hacks? These titans of news, NY Times, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS. Fox, etc. are supposed to be the foundation of truth, the eyes and ears of the American people. They are our check against corruption and power. They are protected by the first amendment to protect us from lies and deceit, government corruption, greed and corporate misdeeds, and uphold the values for which the founders entrusted to them with the gracious rights afforded by our constitution.
This election of Donald Trump truly seems to have penetrated our news people to their core. They really can’t seem to fathom that their preferred political party has been severely beaten, despite their best effort to prop them up. To go after President Trump with falsehoods when he says and does some pretty stupid stuff almost every day, is just ridiculous. For those who don’t like the President, there is plenty of legitimate stuff to write about him. Why the hell are they making things up?
This is not just a couple of mishaps. The sheer volume of bad reporting is worse than I have ever seen. It seems like every day some news agency is having to apologize or retract something. It got really bad as this 2016 election started heating up. But it all began back in 1968, when trusted CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite ended his news report of the Tet Offensive with an impromptu editorial that completely missed the point that the North had been decimated in the effort and omitted critical facts of that engagement. From there the press continued with a slow and steady tendency to lean to the left. Simply looking at the difference in the delivery of the news between an icon like Dan Rather or Peter Jennings in the 1980s and the fluffy little snowflakes we have today is disheartening. Today there is so much editorial opining in the news that it is difficult to separate the facts from the opinion.
Liberals and Democrats seem to be just fine with this trend in bad behavior among reporters. After all they are on the “winning” side of the faulty news. But if it continues and our nation starts to completely ignore the mainstream news organizations, we all suffer. Where will we get our truth if the “journalists” decide to continue this failed path of destruction? Liberals fear Trump is all about crushing the American spirit and stripping them of constitutionally guaranteed rights. Just suppose they are right and he is some kind of Nazi-incarnate, if Americans distrust the news because there is so much corruption in the news media, we won’t even see it coming. In other words, the liberals need to stand up against this complete lack of journalistic integrity just as much as conservatives. The more the “legitimate” news media plays in gutter, the less people will trust them. Soon no one will believe anything they hear or read. It will be under the watchful eyes of a corrupt and distrusted media, that a tyrant will rise. I never thought I’d see the day where the “boy who cried wolf” would be a fable for the American News Media.
Some want to blame President Trump for his “attacks” on the press. Despite the overwhelming evidence of corruption in the media, they think it is somehow his fault. Perhaps the President’s assaults will actually bring some sanity and truth back to the trade. Perhaps it is the desire for ratings that drive the news organizations to a frothing frenzy of falsehoods. Whatever the root cause the danger is real. As the news media sinks deeper into activism and editorialism, their audience continues to shrink. They are chasing our young to the internet and to sites like Buzzfeed. One need only to watch the ads on CNN or Fox News to see that their core audience will be dead in the next 10-20 years. “If you have an erection lasting more than four hours, seek immediate medical attention…”. “I get my catheters sent directly to my door…”, “Get cash from your annuity today…”. These are not ads targeted at our young people.
Our nation’s universities should shoulder a great deal of blame for this sad state of affairs in journalism. It is they who have taught the journalism students, and they who have clearly failed us all. The problem is that the overwhelming majority of journalism students are either liberal or converted to liberal at he institutions that “educate” them. Radical liberal professors seem to be teaching each generation of “reporter” a little more of the leftist ideology and that journalism and activism can be interchanged. They cannot! One must choose to either be an activist or a journalist but one CANNOT EVER be both.
How far must the news media in America fall before they realize that American freedom and liberty depends on an honest and objective press. They stand at just 32% of the people having a “fair” or better amount of trust in them. My god more than 2 of 3 people don’t trust them! Here in 2017 we can watch the mainstream news reporters nailing the coffin lid shut on American Journalism. When the fourth estate is dead, who will be our advocate for truth? Who will shine the light of of day upon those mired in corruption? Who will warn us the tyrant is rising?
When our free press fails and journalism is dead, so shall America die. Journalism is breathing, with short and shallow breaths, only the liberals can save it. Until the left stands up and joins the right in demanding our press be fair and objective, it will continue the slide into oblivion, and we shall follow her in.