What Ever Happened to Impartiality and Objectivity in the Media?

I know it’s no longer de rigueur to talk about objectivity in the news media. And if you do bring up the concept of objective news coverage, you are likely to hear rejoinders like: “Objectivity in the news is impossible because human beings are not objective creatures.”  

Okay, I get it. We are all subjective beings. All of us carry biases with us wherever we go. No argument there. Every news story is influenced by the attitudes and background of its interviewers, writers, photographers and editors.

But during the 30 years I worked as a reporter and editor, I always felt it was my duty to make every effort to achieve the journalistic ideals of objectivity and fairness.

I believe most of my colleagues at the Chicago Tribune did the same.

And if we didn’t, some crusty and crabby editor would come over to our desk and yell at us.

“Keep your opinions out of your stories, Yates. Nobody gives a (insert appropriate noun here) what YOU think.”

It took just a couple of interactions like that with a few legendary Tribune editors to learn to keep my opinions to myself.

Sadly, too many reporters today aren’t given those marching orders.

As a result, I see stories that are filled with the reporter’s biases. Even worse, are stories that are incomplete, one-sided, or just plain deceitful.

Take the coverage of the so-called “protests” that are still ongoing in places like Portland and Chicago.

Mainstream media outlets have consistently failed the public by refusing to focus on the devastation left behind by rioters in those and other cities across America, according to independent journalist Michael Tracey.

In a self-published article titled “Two months since the riots and still no ‘National Conversation,'” Tracey traveled to cities affected by violent protests and documented his findings using photographs and conversations with store owners and residents.

Those he interviewed told him media outlets like CNN, the New York Times, MSNBC and all of the networks, didn’t want to hear about the destruction Black Lives Matter agitators and ANTIFA thugs were causing because it didn’t fit the narrative that President Trump was at fault for sending in federal agents to protect federal property.

Just a few days ago several hundred people dressed in black and carrying BLM signs descended on Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best’s home in an effort to intimidate her because she has condemned the violence and destruction caused by BLM and ANTIFA.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best

As the protestors approached the police chief’s house, dozens of neighbors, some carrying rifles and shotguns, came out and formed a perimeter to protect her home. That would have been considered a major newsworthy event 20 or 30 years ago.

Not in today’s highly subjective news environment.

Monday, Best begged the Seattle City Council not to cut the police budget by 50 percent and to forcefully condemn the rioting and destruction in Seattle.

She implored the city council “to stand up for what is right. These direct actions against elected officials, and especially civil servants like myself, are out of line with and go against every democratic principle that guides our nation.

“Before this devolves into the new way of doing business by mob rule here in Seattle, and across the nation, elected officials like you must forcefully call for the end of these tactics.”

The response from the Seattle city council? Crickets. More importantly, this incident was NOT covered by the mainstream media.

This is not journalism. This is what Nazi Germany’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels would have called “news management.”

It is bias through selection and omission. An editor or producer expresses a bias by choosing to use, or not to use, a specific news item or story. Within a given story, some details can be ignored, and others included, to give readers or viewers a different opinion about the events reported.

I am seeing this again and again in the American news media. If the story doesn’t fit the preferred narrative, don’t run the story—no matter how relevant and significant it is.

Recently, the Media Research Center conducted a study of how the media cover President Donald Trump. For anyone who watches CNN, MSNBC, the networks, or who reads the nation’s newspapers, the results were not surprising.

The Center viewed some 1,007 evening news stories about the Trump White House on cable news channels, ABC, CBS, and NBC for three months over the summer. That’s the equivalent of about 36.7 hours of coverage, by TV standards an eternity of news time.

Here’s what the Media Research Center found:

“Over the summer, cable and broadcast networks have continued to pound Donald Trump and his team with the most hostile coverage of a president in TV news history — 92% negative, vs. just 8% positive.”

Joseph Goebbels would be proud of this kind of faux journalism.

The news media no longer even pretend to care about journalistic standards of objectivity, integrity, professionalism, or the well-being of this country. They think the American people are a bunch of naïve blithering idiots.

Sometimes I wonder if they aren’t right when I talk to people who regurgitate the propaganda and lies that saturate cable and network newscasts.

I make it a point to watch all White House press briefings. I know. I must be masochistic. But I guess once a journalist, always a journalist. You can take the journalist out of journalism, but you can’t journalism out of the journalist.

Anyway, it’s an amazing show as reporters drop all pretense of objectivity and fairness and interrupt, rant, and rave as they ask press secretary Kayleigh McEnany the most ludicrous questions I have ever heard.

Recently I heard these gems regarding our nation’s battle with the China coronavirus:

–“How many deaths are acceptable to President Trump?”

–“You’ve said many times that the U.S. is doing far better than any other country when it comes to testing. Why is this a global competition to President Trump, if every day Americans are still losing their lives?”

–“Is it possible that President Trump’s impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope?”

And finally, this brilliant bit of questioning about the ripping down of Confederate statues by a masterful CNN reporter:

“Does President Trump believe that it was a good thing that the South lost the Civil War?”

That’s when Kayleigh McEnany shook her head and walked out of the briefing room.

Good for her. No press secretary should have to endure such a journalistic clown show.

So where do we go from here? It all depends on who wins the presidential election on November 3.

If it’s Trump, expect more of the kind of ersatz journalism that abets the Democrat party while it assails Trump and his army of deplorables.

If it’s Joe Biden, expect a breathless media love fest the likes of which we haven’t seen since the sainted Barack Obama occupied the oval office.

In the meantime, stay tuned, if you can stand it.










About Ronald E. Yates

Ronald E. Yates is an award-winning author of historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy. Read More About Ron Here