Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Demise of the Fourth Estate?

The Demise of the Fourth Estate?
A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
If there was any doubt in your mind that the mainstream media in the United States is bias toward the political left the very fact that two of the major broadcast networks in America recently refused to air any ads that were not favorable to ObamaCare should erase even the slightest among those doubts.

Talk about a “Fairness Doctrine”! Fair is when you present both sides of an issue, isn’t it? Where are the howls of protest from the government about this obviously unfair position on the part of these networks? Do you hear the commissioners at the FCC complaining about the one-sided policy of these networks? No, and I dare say you will not!

Years ago, I found that to get anything approaching a balanced report of news in America one had to go to “off-shore” sources. Many Americans frequent news sites in Australia, Israel, and Western Europe, including the UK in order to get reliable reports on what is happening in America. How sad IS that?

“Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist” is the title of an article you’ll find HERE. I think you will agree, after reading the article, there was little of a surprising nature in it – especially if you happen to be a conservative.

In the not too distant past, the late 19th century, and early to mid 20th century, many American newspapers made no pretense to lack of bias, openly advocating one, or another political party. Not too long ago, the press didn’t mind allowing their bias to show. They did not deny them. In fact, they claimed them. They would push the platform of the political party they liked and the candidate or politician they liked. The larger towns and cities would have more than one newspaper and those papers would compete. Now, here is one of the differences between then and now. Back then news and editorializing were kept separate. Back then they kept the news reporting as neutral as possible, and as factual as possible. On the other hand, their editorials expressed the opinions of the publisher of the paper. Often they’d have editorial cartoons, which would support the publisher’s opinion as well. These days, however, editorial comment is mixed right in amongst the news items, sometimes within the news stories themselves.

As a result of these changes in the way media presents the so-called “news” the credibility of the news media has plummeted. In a recent survey, Pew Research found that ”just 29 percent of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63 percent say that news stories are often inaccurate.” You can learn more about this in an article by Geoff Metcalf titled “Credibility of Biased Media Sinking.” HERE.

In his article, Mr. Metcalf quotes David Limbaugh as having said: “the mainstream media have finally been reduced to sputtering incoherence, as they've observed the un-deification of their anointed messiah and experienced firsthand their own diminishing relevance.” However, media malfeasance is more than just the reality check of a begrudging epiphany. The wounds suffered by the mainstream media are all self-inflicted.

As we survey the newspaper industry in America today we find that a number of leading papers are in financial trouble. There is even talk of a government bailout for newspapers! Of all the bad ideas to come out of Washington, since the election of last year, this ranks among the worst! It seems to me that for newspapers to take money from the government would make them beholden to the government. If you take the government’s money, you play by the government’s rules. How then could they ever hold government accountable to the voters? Of course, many of us are asking why the press is not holding government accountable today. The answer is simple – left wing bias.

If the press were not biased in favor of the Obama Administration, the Obama birth certificate question would have been settled a very long time ago. Africa and Hawaii would have been virtually crawling with reporters from the wire services, the broadcast media, the print media, reporters from “news” shows, etc. If he, or she, had press credentials they would be on the story right to the bitter end. But it did not -- and has not -- happened. Somehow, the media seems to think the public did not notice. But we did. Their reluctance to say, or do, anything that might reflect badly on Obama, or his administration, has damaged what was left of their credibility immeasurably.

At the moment I cannot see how the media can regain any of it’s lost credibility. If, perhaps, they returned to the olden ways of presenting the news, as balanced news, with editorials reserved for a specific part of the newspaper, and broadcast media separating and clearly defining editorials within a “newscast, that would certainly be a start -- but ONLY a start. As so many other commentators have already said the wounds the news media is suffering are self inflicted. If there is to be healing, the healing must come from within the news industry. Unfortunately for the media, they have yet to acknowledge their own culpability in what may be the demise of the news industry, as we know it today. As an old “news hound,” I find that very sad, indeed.

J. D. Longstreet

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