Sunday, February 19, 2017

Can I be serious for a minute? Let's talk about media bias ...

I generally like to keep things light-hearted on this blog. I like to blog about music, movies, TV shows --- things that can help take my mind off of the real world. I don't bury my head in the sand, avoiding the world's issues, but I work in the media and I get enough news during my daily 9 hour shifts.

It's gotten to the point that I don't even like watching certain movies, like London Has Fallen (not the best plot anyway), because it's just too close to reality with some of the various terror attacks that have happened across the world.  House of Cards was a fun show, but I'm not sure if the next season will, again, seem too close to reality.

I use my entertainment to be entertained and to escape the partisan issues that seem to be spilling over everywhere online and on TV.

Again, I'm not dodging the reality of the world. I just get enough of it at work. I know a lot of my colleagues in the news media can relate to that sentiment.

But today I do want to blog about the real world.

I'm not late to the party on the media bias discussion, the divisive rhetoric or the contradictory actions and words that some people have displayed and used.

It's not something I want to harp on every day though.  Who wants to stress out about that on a regular basis?  It's easy to get caught up in that kind of thing.

Whether it was when there were the 12+ Republican candidates going head-to-head(-to-head-to-head), when the allegations of the DNC helping Hillary Clinton to defeat Bernie Sanders divided some of the Democrats, or during the war of words that occurred when Donald Trump and Clinton were officially nominated last summer, one thing is for sure: it's been a long election cycle for a lot of people.

Maybe you had to delete a Facebook friend or unfollow someone because of a difference in opinion on an issue or not agreeing on a candidate?  We've all probably been there at some point during this election cycle.

I had Facebook friends who were very pro-Republican, very pro-Democrat and very much Independent. Others didn't vote. Others were insulted that people didn't vote.  Others rallied after Donald Trump was elected.

I tried to expand my own mind by reading posts of my friends with very different views on my Facebook timeline.  I did delete one person though.

Every single post ( was politics. To make matters worse, this person had far too good of an Internet connection (I really should try to get that cell network) because there were probably two dozen posts a day. I felt like I was being bombarded by those Facebook posts. Too much! Less is more sometimes.

I made it a point to try not to be that person in 2016's election cycle, so I didn't post about politics. Unfortunately, some of the same problems that bogged down 2016's election cycle seems to be rolling on into 2017.

It's just gotten to be too much for me to keep inside, so I'm going to go ahead and voice a few opinions here.

I'm not going to bash one specific party or make light of the very personal choice anyone made inside that voting booth because those really aren't the main issues. It's a bigger picture situation here.  I want to talk about media bias.

This is the big topic for me. This is the issue that hits home the most because I probably dissect news differently than someone who hasn't worked in the media.

There is sometimes a theory that everyone in the 'media' is conspiring together against one person or a particular party. That's not the case. It's not one big, giant conspiracy theory.

A recent Huffington Post article by Christina Nicholson did a great job highlighting some gripes about comments you tend to hear when working in news.

It was a great starting point, but she did miss a few topics.

Number one: I do see media bias. I see it a lot actually. It's there in just about every media outlet and every format that is offered up to you.  Go to NBC?  It's there.  Fox News?  Yeah.  CNN.  Sure.

Donald Trump made a lot of people in the media angry with his tweet a couple of days ago (and the press conference a few days prior to that) in which he called the media (and 'fake news') an enemy of the American public.

I'm not about to talk about my position on politics because I'm certainly not an all Republican or all Democrat person.  I find that very few issues are that simple.  My views do not fit into one party or the other.

However, media bias is a problem.  CNN clearly leans left. Fox News clearly leans right. If you dispute that, you're just not paying attention to the entirety of their news programs or the content they generate on their websites.

For that bias, I blame the media.  All of them.  I blame CNN, ABC, MSNBC, NBC, NPR, and any other news agency you can name.

All the websites --- Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Vox, Breitbart, etc., etc.  They've all had a hand in the situation we have today.

When it comes to television coverage, the big two with the most blame are CNN and Fox News.

24 hour access to news isn't a bad thing. It's one of the great aspects of technology.

 If I work until 3 am on a crazy, breaking news kind of day, I can go home and read the latest review of the new Marvel movie or maybe get sucked into watching dozens of Jimmy Fallon or Ellen YouTube videos.

I love the instant access! The problem arises when CNN and Fox News repeat the same sound bites hour after hour and spend hours on end talking about the same thing.

Sure, one hour you get Bill O'Reilly talking about it. And the next it's Sean Hannity. Or it's Anderson Cooper and then Don Lemon on the CNN side.

Either way, the topics stay the same. Same, regurgitated information. Same carefully selected guests on every night.

Instead of bringing the experts on to explain things and provide actual facts, these news channels claim to be fair by presenting both sides. Sure, they bring on someone who is pro-whatever topic they are talking about and someone who is against it. But that doesn't factor in the anchors own bias.

It ends up being a two on one or a three on one verbal attack rather than an interview that dissects what's going on and presents a complete and clear picture of the story.

And that brings up another point. When exactly did journalists become personalities? That's the point in time that I started seeing journalism take a back seat to things like ratings and 'entertaining' news programming.

It ruins the credibility of an anchor when they chime in with their two cents.  You should be the moderator -- the presenter of the news -- not the news itself.  If your opinions mattered, then you'd be the expert guest on the panel.

These days the anchors don't even bother trying to hide their balance. And I'm fine with that --- if they'd present themselves as an opinion show.

Let Jake Tapper present his own views, but don't you dare try to pass it off as impartial, unbiased journalism because it's not.

Judge Jeanine is pro-Trump.  Fine.  She's a televised columnist.  She's got an opinion.

Therefore she's not a journalist, but she's blurring the line between unbiased television news anchor and a TV personality with a formed opinion on President Trump.  She works at Fox News.  She has her own show.  She's not the news though.  She comments on it.

I think blurring the line can be very dangerous because it's hard to know who to trust.

Another way journalism has been blurred is thanks to misleading tweets.

Time Magazine or the Huffington Post or other publications on Twitter.  They'll tweet a headline and a link to what I presume is a story.  I start reading it's filled with one-sided comments and biased rhetoric from the author.  Then I scroll back up and realize it's an opinion piece.

There is no disclaimer in that tweet or in the headline that says 'Opinion: America misses Obama' or 'Opinion: Trump is most successful President ever.'  It just has the headline.  It's presented as a fact.  Then thousands of people retweet and share it on Facebook and all those people think it's fact.  Yet it's just the opinion of one man or woman.

The opinions should be inside the quotation marks.  Let the experts and the real people have opinions.  As the journalist, you should be reporting what the facts are.

Then again some journalists seem to cherrypick their facts.  You can find some report out there published at some point in time that supports whatever argument you're trying to make.  As people, having discussions, it's natural to do that.  You want to find something that backs up what you're saying.

As a reporter, you shouldn't be doing that.  You should report whatever the latest unbiased statistics say.  Don't do 'fact-check' and use data from 3 years ago.  Or at least acknowledge that there is other, more recent data, that doesn't match with the previous report.

Worse yet, with social media, these so-called 'news' agencies republish their own tweets 6 hours later and then 12 hours later and then 3 days later.  What?  There's so little news in the world that you have to send out the same tweet for the same article again and again and again?

Are you interested in delivering the news or promoting your most click-worthy articles?  There's a big difference.

A great example of certain members of the media seeming to take a side on social media is CNN's Hala Gorani.

British news columnist Katie Hopkins ended up having an very defensive interview with Gorani back in November (or late October?).  Hopkins is a columnist, so she's allowed to have an opinion (no matter how much I agree or disagree with it), but Gorani, as an anchor and occasional field reporter, shouldn't.

The fact that she, in her interview with Hopkins, seemed so focused on arguing the idea that CNN isn't biased was laughable.

Take one look at Gorani's Twitter feed.  Anti-Trump retweet, anti-Trump tweet, anti-Trump retweet of a CNN article, etc., etc.  Again, that's fine if you're a columnist and write opinion pieces.

If you're going to be a reporter and proclaim to be a journalist, then keep your opinions to yourself.  Oh, but wait.  She's a host, too.  So I guess opinions are allowed??

See the blurry line there?  I'm not a supporter of that at all.

At least Gorani doesn't have that nonsensical 'retweets aren't endorsements' statement that so many journalists like to use because that's, very often, not true.

I'm all for the media reporting the truth, no matter how ugly it ends up being.  It shouldn't matter how much power the subject of an article has.  If there's a report to be done on something and a truth that is out there, then it's up to the media to do it and find it.

However, when you're only retweeting negative stories, that's not to be commended.  You're not some kind of super hero saving the world from the corruption of the world.  You're adding to it.

I'm not specifically talking about Gorani here, but you can probably all name so-called 'journalists' who fall into that same pattern of reporting and tweeting just one side of an argument.

That's not journalism.  Your job isn't to go out to find a soundbite that happens to fit the story you're trying to tell on that particular day.  It's not about telling a story.  It's about telling the truth.

Politics is messy.  Sometimes there isn't an obvious truth.  Most of the time we don't know the full truth due to national security.  It can be difficult to find the truth because, yes, the President, every Senator, every lawmaker -- they all have their own spin doctors.  They have their own media team.  They don't want negative stories.  They want the positive stories.  So it's not as though they will volunteer information when the politician they are working for puts his or her foot in their mouth or makes a mistake.

You sometimes need these unnamed sources.

If someone within a particular Washington agency gives the media information as an 'unnamed source,' it's likely because it's against that agency's guidelines to give out that information and there are no plans, whatsoever, to release it.

So, that whistleblower or news leaker would likely be fired if they were caught.

But the way a lot of stories are presented today (about any kind of politics -- national or local) make it obvious that there is bias.  It's in the headlines of the newspapers and lower-thirds on your TV screen.  It's in the amount of ink or time given to the 'other side' of the argument.

The condemnation of the possibility of media bias that Jake Tapper and Don Lemon and Chris Wallace have makes it clear that they just don't get it.  They're not seeing the bigger picture because they're too busy staying in their defensive mode.

People are tired of having to go to 12 different websites and watching 4 different news channels to get a glimpse of the truth.

The more they spend air time pushing back against Donald Trump instead of reporting on additional stories, the more they're giving Donald Trump room to criticize them.  Don't give him ammunition!

Do the TV personalities (instead of on-air journalists) make for heated televisions conversations?  Yes.

Are they better serving America for it?  No.  It's just taking up more air time in another day of the cycle.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

After dishing out all of this criticism (hopefully in a constructive way), I must say, David Muir does it right.  I don't know if he's a Democrat or Republican.

I'm assuming maybe Democrat due to the fact that he was on the list of reporters invited to dine with Hillary Clinton's campaign staffers, according to one WikiLeaks email.  But his name being on the invite list certainly doesn't prove his party affiliation.

You wouldn't be able to tell his opinions based on his reporting.  Maybe there is some bias in his reporting, but, from what I've seen, he does his job well.

He doesn't interject his opinion into the introduction or tag lines of the stories that are presented on World News.  He doesn't use his Twitter to sway the opinion of his followers with biased tweets.  He presents the news of the day.

That's the way it used to be and that's the way it should be.  If there were a few more journalists who could put their opinions aside, some less click-baiting headlines, less TV personalities and more journalists, I think the three-way realtionship between the media, the American people and the President would improve greatly.

End of the real world.  Back to entertainment-based reality.

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