As is typical of most Facebook “discussions”, comments on a recent post concerning bias in the press and President Trump’s reaction to it wandered into a maze of irrelevance. I refer to those types of comments as “associated irrelevance”; they are associated with the conversation at hand, but irrelevant to the core issues being discussed.
This particular comment string was in response to a report that approximately 100 newspapers would be publishing editorials concerning Trump’s anti-press rhetoric. Trump goes off the rails frequently with his accusations, but with respect to media bias, he’s on the right track. The question isn’t whether a news organization is biased, it’s the way are they biased. There is perhaps no better evidence than the following excerpt from a letter written by the publisher and executive editor of The New York Times shortly after the 2016 presidential election- “As we reflect on the momentous result, and the months of reporting and polling that preceded it, we aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism.”
“Rededicate” to the fundamental mission of Times journalism? If that isn’t an admission of bias and sloppy reporting, I don’t know what is. The Times isn’t the only publication guilty of less than honest news reporting. Virtually every news organization has succumbed to sensationalism, bias and to some degree dishonesty as a means of making news as profitable as possible. It appears that “news reporting” started its downhill slide many years ago when media companies determined that news would be more profitable if it were merchandised like entertainment. The first step was a concerted effort to transform news reporters and anchors into “stars”. For the most part, stardom wasn’t based on competence or integrity, but on appearance and having been in the right place at the right time. The latter consideration became so important that prior to his exposure as a fraud, NBC news reporter Brian Williams claimed to have been in numerous places at exactly the right time, even if that time was prior to his birth. (That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but just a bit.)
After a platoon of stars was in place, sensationalism was the next tool in the “let’s make news more profitable” shed. At this point, there’s probably no turning back. Sensationalism builds readership/listenership and that’s the goal. The reporting of “news” is has become nothing more than a means to a more profitable end. Left-leaning media naturally sensationalizes to appeal to liberals, right-leaning media sensationalizes to appeal to conservatives, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
With the majority of the most widely distributed news outlets being left-leaning, President Trump receives an over-abundance of contrived negative press. And Trump being Trump, he isn’t shy about criticizing an organization for publishing “fake news”. However, he would be well-advised to tone down the vitriolic nature of his comments. In making highly provocative comments, he is sensationalizing sensationalism. That plays directly into the hands of the media by providing additional material to sensationalize. In so doing, much of the media seeks not to report, but to inflame.