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Bias, real or perceived, hurts all journalists
Submitted by Kevin Wuzzardo on Thu, 02/21/2008 - 9:11am.
The big story that is already dominating the news today is an article in today's New York Times that questions Sen. John McCain's ethics and also accuses him of having a romantic relationship with a lobbyist. As McCain's camp strongly denies all the accusations in the story, it is tossing accusations of its own that are not at all unexpected; accusations that will surely swirl around the political world today that the Times is a left-leaning liberal rag that has it out for the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee.
Sadly, these sort of claims have become the norm in the world of news and politics. If the New York Times supports a liberal/Democrat or attacks a conservative/Republican, conservatives say it's typical of the newspaper's political agenda. It's the same reaction from the left whenever FoxNews boosts a Republican or casts aspersions on a Democrat. Both media outlets must accept some of the blame. While they claim to have "All the News That's Fit to Print" and be "Fair and Balanced," neither has done much to dispell the widely-held belief of their internal politics. In fact, you might even say they relish in it.
The cynicism and skepticism of the media, while somewhat deserved, is also disheartening. The age of corporate ownership of newspapers, TV stations, etc., has certainly been a big factor. Recently I was on a panel about local media that featured colleagues from WECT, WHQR and WAAV radio and the Star News. The panel was part of the Adult Scholars Leadership Program at UNCW. I think most of us on the panel were a bit surprised by the fact that seemingly most of the highly intelligent and informed people questioning us truly and ardently believed that our news decisions are dictated by our front office. Believe me, nothing could be farther from the truth. The vast majority of us in newsrooms couldn't care less about how our work affects an advertiser as long as the report is factual and accurate. And it's been my experience that most of the managers and sales people have our backs, even as a story could cost us an advertiser and their money.
We have come a long way since the days when CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite was the most trusted person in America. And that's too bad. Like any industry, there are certainly bad eggs in our business. I've worked with people over the years that don't believe in letting the facts getting in the way of a good story, as we like to say. But those people are definitely in the minority. Most of us have the best intentions and work hard to make sure what we report to you is not only fair and balanced but the truth.
Who knows if the Times story is true or not? In the end, in our current political climate, it really doesn't matter. McCain supporters will use it as a chance to blast the paper that was once considered the bastion of journalism. McCain detractors will use it to, well, detract from McCain while also accusing his supporters and conservatives in general of making excuses and attacking the First Amendment. The bottom line is that there will be no winners. Instead, we all wind up the losers.
By: Kevin Wuzzardo