Conservatives often decry the Main Stream Media for their left-wing bias. I have long contended that the problem is not bias, but dishonesy about their bias. Commentator David Harsanyi agrees:
“As much as it pains me, let me take a few moments to defend MSNBC. Last week’s much-talked about testy exchange between anchor Thomas Roberts and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus has been predictably negative. Media bias is a perpetual grievance of the Right — for obvious reasons. But maybe the only way to improve on the situation is to champion more openly ideologically driven political journalism? By any measure, it’s a lot less destructive than what we had for decades: a media feigning impartiality.”
I have long contended that ‘America’s anchorman’ Walter Cronkite was a much more malignant influence than Kieth Olberman because Cronkite concealed his extreme left-wing views while Olberman was forthright about what he believed in. How many of you know that Cronkite was a one-world-government enthusiast?
“We all know where MSNBC or FOX News stand. It’s establishment media masquerading as impartial that has the real impact.”
That’s right. MSNBC is not the problem. It’s the only honest news broker currently on American TV – besides Fox. CNN, with its (barely) concealed leftism is much more insidious. And the slickness of broadcast news is much worse.
One of the ways Canada is superior to the US is that our news media never developed the tradition of ‘objective journalism’ that took hold south of the border. For instance, Toronto has four newspapers: the Sun (populist conservative), the National Post (high-brow conservative, at least under Conrad Black – it has been backsliding in recent years), the Star (lowbrow left) and the Globe and Mail (establishment liberal). When I was growing up there were two main TV networks: the CBC (government funded and very left-wing), and CTV (privately owned by the partisan conservative and Trudeau-hater John Bassett). With Bassett’s death CTV has also backslid, but we now have Sun News, which makes Fox look tame.
I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) but the US used to have a vigorous partisan news media as well, but in the 20’s and 30’s overt partisanship was submerged to increase sales with a less offensive product. This outward objectivity was subverted by the left in the 60’s so that by the 80’s, it was little more than a veneer for the left-wing views of the sixties generation that had begun dominating the news rooms. If this synopsis is correct, the rise of the alternate media (both on the left and right) can be viewed as a return to America’s journalistic roots.
But say, isn’t objectivity better than bias?
It would be – if it were possible for people reporting on current affairs to not hold opinions of their own. Personally, if such reporting were even possible, I don’t think it would be worth reading. And having a bias - that you are concealing - is the polar opposite of honesty.
No, honest journalism does not mean faux objectivity. It does mean treating facts honestly, separating reporting and opinion journalism (as much as possible), giving the other guy the opportunity to rebut your views and being honest with your readers about where you are coming from. So how can that be achieved?
“Having a point of view doesn’t preclude a political journalist from being honest or curious or a critical thinker …, but journalists believe, or act as if they believe, that their work is immune from ideology. With few noteworthy exceptions, of course, that’s impossible. And that’s fine. The key to making it work isn’t impartiality; it’s diversity.”
Harsanyi is absolutely right. A diverse media, propagating diverse points of views keeps everybody in check. It isn’t the editor or publisher with the same point-of-view who does this best, it is the Other Guy who will take you to task – publically – who keeps everybody on the straight and narrow.