The Sad State of America’s News Media

I spent a significant part of my life in the news media—most of it as a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. I did my best to report stories accurately and fairly—as did most of my colleagues. It was part of our DNA.

That attention to fairness and accuracy was reflected in the trust the public had in the news media. During the time I’m talking about (the 1970s and 1980s) 76 percent of the public said they trusted the media to be fair and unbiased.

Today, that number has been turned on its head. Two recent Gallup polls have found that almost two-thirds of the American population believe that the news media are biased, inaccurate, and full of misinformation.

One poll found that 62% of U.S. adults believe that the news they see in newspapers, on television, or hear on the radio is biased and 44% say it’s inaccurate.

An accompanying poll found that 40% of Americans believe that the news they see on television, read in newspapers or hear on the radio is misinformation, which is defined as “stories that are made up or cannot be verified as accurate but are presented to readers as if they are accurate.”

To say that I am disappointed to see this erosion in trust, is an understatement.

I am also disappointed that the Democratic National Committee has decided to exclude Fox News from hosting its 2020 presidential primary debates because it feels its news division is too close to the Trump administration. That is ridiculous.

As someone who worked as a journalist for 25 years and who taught journalism at the university level, I watch news shows critically. I can tell you that the news division of Fox News is a professional operation—no less so than those at CNN or NBC. There is a Chinese wall between a news organization’s news gathering operation and its opinion/commentary operations. I have seen nothing at Fox that contradicts that.

Professionals such as Chris Wallace, Martha MacCallum, and Bret Baier are the equal of, if not better than any reporter CNN or any other network has. (MSNBC, which doesn’t even pretend to be an impartial news organization, does not belong in the same class as the others).

To imply, as DNC Chairman Tom Perez did, that those three Fox reporters cannot be fair to a Democrat candidate during a debate is ludicrous. Sure, they will ask tough questions. That’s their job. Now, apparently, they won’t get that opportunity and the voting public will be less informed because of it.

I am disappointed that the mainstream media are silent and not standing by one of their own when Fox is facing this kind of blatant manipulation and censorship.

Fox has supported CNN reporters when they were banned from the White House. It filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the cable news network’s lawsuit over the revocation of reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass. Acosta was accused of behaving disrespectfully during a November 7, 2018 press conference–which he did.

In another case, Fox came to CNN’s defense when a CNN reporter was barred from attending a Rose Garden press event. CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins, was accused of “shouting” and asking “inappropriate questions” during President Trump’s meeting with European Union commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker.

So where is the outrage when the DNC pulls the same stunt on Fox News?

There is none because CNN, MSNBC, NBC and many other mainstream news organizations are more concerned about derailing President Trump’s 2020 reelection than they are about practicing impartial journalism.

The result of that kind of journalism is reflected in those two Gallup polls.

Meanwhile, the news media continue to lose the trust and respect of the people they are supposed to provide with accurate and unbiased information.

It is sad to see my old profession falling into such an abyss of dishonesty and incompetence. Unfortunately, the damage appears to be self-inflicted.

Where are the cranky editors and the tenacious producers who once kept reporters from inserting their biases and opinions into stories? Where are the professional journalism organizations that should be providing direction when news organizations lose their way? Where are the journalism schools that should be hammering rectitude and reportorial competence into the craniums of the next generation of journalists?

Gone—and with them, fair and balanced journalism.

Comments

comments