Edition: 022117a – Words: 968 – Audio: 07:51
Every president since the beginning of this country has had some issues with the media. In some cases it’s outright disdain, like our current president. Over the decades the polls have shown a gradual “discomfort” with the press from even the general public. In general the press has been accused of being liberally biased, presenting
news as being less than factual (like fake news), and totally more concerned with ratings than reporting facts. Yet the press continues to represent that so-called Fourth Estate in our democracy; the other three estates are those provided by the Constitution as being the three branches of government that provide the checks and balances for our democracy. The press represents the epitome of our freedom of speech. Yet more and more the public is feeling at odds
But here’s likely the real story behind the “hate the press” mood of our president and his supporters and it’s pretty simple. I’ve boiled it all down to two concepts… tone and context in current reporting. I’m guessing right about now you’re thinking, “You’re smoking something illegal there, Dougie-boy. The press presents fake news all the time, truth is biased too, with a liberal slant, and they can’t be trusted.” Ok, let’s explore this.
Point 1: Does the press have an official mandate from somewhere to report the news accurately? Of course not. Reporting the news is a service of the companies owning the print, TV, radio, or cable stations. Yes, freedom of the press is addressed in the Constitution but there is no stipulation on how news should be presented any more than there’s a stipulation that any other freedom of speech must contain truth. . and that’s a big BUT… reporting the news is not some vast wild west of “just say anything”. Obviously there are civil libel laws that keep most of that in check, but there is a built in check & balances in that news companies are in business to make money and to do that they need to sell advertising and the cost of advertising depends on the number of viewers/readers/listeners. If the public perceives a credibility issue, adverse reporting style or format, or even unpopular news personalities, with the news being reported by one news entity, viewers/readership will drift over to another news entity.
Point 2: What about tone and context? Well, that’s set by the programming gurus of the respective news agencies by introducing a reporting format that likely fits some marketing demographic. Right now the cable networks report the news and at the same time include editorial opinion from guest talking heads. Marketing studies have shown that the public wants the news and then input opinion in order to form their own opinion rapidly. Remember… we are an instant communication world now and that includes our wanting instant news with instant input as to how that relates to our life. We have less time in our lives to mess around with balancing our news input sources. In the old days you sat down with the newspaper before work, listened to the radio on the way to work and back home at the end of the day, then caught the evening news on TV. Who does all that anymore? It’s the main reason print news sources are slowly dying and cable news networks are flourishing. Radio is full of talk and news opinion now and that remains still a “captured audience” medium when we are in our cars. There’s less music stations these days. Radio personalities are defined more by their politics rather than their flamboyance in introducing the next song like in the old days. True news reporting on the radio is limited to five minutes on the hour in most cases.
Point 3: News reporting is always adversarial. Not always,, but generally. Why? Because of the desire to report the story behind the story, even if a story doesn’t have a back story. Because political stories always have a back story, if for nothing else other than we have a two-party system and if one side is happy about something that means the other side should not be and we better find out why. This is why presidents get frustrated with the press. They spend 6 months trying to convince Congress to vote for a seemingly great bill for the people and when it happens the press slices it up to see how it might affect us. Since every bill is not 100% good for everyone, the press will dredge up the one person negatively affected by it. In the meantime the White House is trying to celebrate the victory in helping the people at the same time the press is wondering what senator succumbed to what lobbyist in order to get him to vote for the bill.
Point 4: But the press is so liberally biased. That’s because what we designate as liberalism in this country is in fact the general feeling of most of the country. Humans, by definition, tend to be liberal in thought and deed… when the time and benevolence can be afforded. Reporters ask probing questions because if they didn’t someone somewhere will ask them why they didn’t. But given Trump’s nature to straddle both sides of political thought in presenting his policies, it seems the definitions of political liberalism and conservatism is being re-written anyway… or reverting back to some ideology from the 40’s and 50’s.
MORE TO COME IN PART 2 (click here to go there)
Carry on, America.