I know that people manipulate statistics to suit their own needs, but I get very annoyed when our supposed news media does it to further their own agenda. Since that has been happening all week, I’m suffering from a persistent case of media irritation. Specifically since Obama completely tanked his first debate, the left media seems to be trying to help him out by making it sound like the right media is manipulating the job statistics that came out afterward. To accomplish that they have to ignore the fact that the right media has been interpreting the job statistics in the exact same way all year and that the sudden change is actually coming from themselves.
They have to paint the right media as suddenly arguing with the released statistics in order to favor their candidate, which is exactly what the left media is doing. It’s a clear ‘blame the other side for what you are doing’ kind of issue, and it’s really got me irritated. Maybe it’s because I’m a numbers person (how could you get an accounting degree without being one?), and I paid attention to the way in which the statistics have been reported on for the last year or so, that I noticed how obvious it is that the left media changed the way they discussed the job numbers right after Obama went down in flames in his speech.
Now we know that the majority of television media is left leaning or completely far left, and that most of radio media is right leaning or completely far right. Actually, let me amend that: ‘We’ meaning people who are very interested in the daily news and keep up with it enough to distinguish the bias between media sources. I know that ‘we’ is actually not reflective of the average person, because most people aren’t news junkies and choose to spend their time doing possibly more productive things – which is fine, that’s actually how it should be in an ideal world.
Unfortunately the news media of today isn’t the news media of 25 years ago and they are no longer the party-neutral place to go to get ‘actual’ news that hasn’t been tainted by personal bias. Of course we can argue whether the news media was ever truly that place, and while I think perhaps there is always some wiggle-room for human perspective, that when speaking in general it was typically the case. The Op-Ed has become the front page in our world and, directly due to that, it is no longer a place where people can expect to spend all day doing whatever they like and then turn on the television news at 5pm to get the ‘facts’ in 30 minutes. To be fair, it is also legitimate to say the reverse would be true for right leaning radio media.
Since we don’t live in that world of fair news right now the choices are limited to either spending a lot of time fact-checking everything the news says, to listen to it and become brainwashed by the perspective being pushed, or to just pull away entirely and give up on knowing anything that is going on at all. All those choices are lousy, and most people are going to do either 2 or 3 because they don’t have the time to fact-check the news. I believe the news media is counting on that because whether they pick option 2 or option 3 doesn’t matter, they both lead to a less informed society.
Maybe I’m delusional and old-fashioned but I believe in a news media that is as non-partisan as possible, that is about reporting the news not making it, and that does their own fact-checking and reports on the truth no matter who it favors.
If that doesn’t make me bizarre enough in these times, I also believe that the news reporters need to remain totally impartial as well (or at least as much as is humanly possible) and that means that their news reports aren’t laced with inflammatory adjectives which make it obvious which side of the fence they prefer, it means that they don’t speak neutral words while their face and body language tells a totally different tale, and it means that when they interview someone they ask the same hard questions and push to get an answer no matter who they are interviewing.
However! (And this is a big ‘however.’) I completely believe that the Op-Ed has a role in our media, but I think it needs to be clearly labeled as such. There should be plenty of room for opinion pieces and interpretive pieces, because we will always want people who are going to take the sterile news (something that exists in my view of a perfect world) and re-interpret it through our choice of lens so we can see how it would apply to our lives. Maybe this means a little ‘Op’ symbol (to indicate it is an opinion show) in the corner of any show on tv which is an interpretation of the news. Regular news shows would have to be neutral as I described above for this to have any relevance at all, since leaving the ‘regular’ news in the current state would only reinforce bias because people would see the Op on some shows and assume the non-Op shows were ‘real’ news. Barring that, maybe media stations could instead decide that the whole channel or station is either ‘reporting’ or ‘opinion’ and then it applies to the entire thing.
I’m not sure what the solution would be to enforce something like this, it may actually have to be a mandate something along the lines of disclosure, but I think that even a person who dislikes regulation can look at what kind of circus the media has been and come to a decision that if it continues to just throw all the old rules of journalism out the window, it will become one giant uncontrollable propaganda machine which can be just as dangerous as any that we’ve seen in other countries. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that our founding fathers intended for us to create a world where a handful of media organizations pick our leaders for us by turning us into a people of ignorant voters that never are told the ‘real’ story behind anything.