Beef with media hard to swallow

Carrie Click

OK, I’m ready to tackle a gigantic can of worms this week. My topic? The Media. The Media with a capital “T” and a capital “M.”

We hear it all the time. The Media is unfair. The Media is biased. We’re good at blaming The Media for all that ails society. But what does this really, truly mean?

It’s not just an “us versus them” phenomenon. I, too, blame The Media at times for blowing issues out of proportion, for ignoring other issues and for not fully disclosing all aspects of a story. But when I do that, I’m actually pointing a finger directly at myself because I am, after all, a journalist. I am The Media.

So maybe it’s not all that easy to blame The Media. After all, it’s pretty difficult to generalize that all individuals who are part of a particular avocation are completely distrustful, or conversely, totally virtuous. Try applying the same generalization to say, all educators or all scientists. You can’t do it and be accurate.

But with The Media, the prejudice seems to prevail. What’s at the bottom of this?

Part of it is a belief that The Media slants to the left. The Media is liberal and it’s filled with left-wing Democrats, right? Maybe not.

I’ll never forget reporting on the last presidential election and what I discovered when researching editorial endorsements from newspapers across the country. After an extensive investigation, I found across the board, the majority of newspaper endorsements favored Republican candidates and right-wing policies. I was shocked. I had always assumed The Media – you know, the liberal, left-wing media – would collectively lean way to the left, but here it was in black and white: The Media was proving that assumption wrong.

I’ve talked with journalists over the years about their own political bents, and if those bents affect their coverage. People are human and not robots so it’s natural for individuals to form personal opinions. But most of the journalists I know and all of the journalists I admire leave their opinions out of their stories (unless they’re writing an editorial like this one, of course).

When I was a little girl, I used to watch football with my dad. I’d see the players line up and smash into each other. I remember asking Dad if the players on one team hated the players on the other.

“No,” he said, “It’s their job to fight against each other. That’s just their job.”

Then, I’d see one of the players from one team help up a guy from another team after he’d tackled the guy and I’d realize the difference. It was their job. They kept one separate from the other.

It’s that way with journalism. Of course, there are exceptions. Some football players let their dislike of a player on another team get in the way of the game, and some journalists let their personal agendas creep into their work. It happens, but it’s not the ideal. Good players and good journalists strive to avoid letting those emotions cloud their work.

Sometimes, The Media is at fault. Last year, child abductions seemed to be at an all-time high in the U.S. Every time you turned on the TV or radio, or picked up a newspaper or magazine, there was another horrific case of a child being kidnapped and sometimes killed by a predator. Everywhere, parents were on the alert. But according to Michael Moore, a documentary filmmaker who was recently interviewed on National Public Radio, there were fewer child abductions last year than in 2000 and 2001. The Media’s reporting of these abductions had increased, but not the actual phenomenon.

Like a lot of occupations, journalism has a code of ethics. “Seek truth and report it” is the main premise. Being honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information is at the core. And being able to listen to the public, get feedback and factually respond to that feedback is key. I can’t speak for The Media, but for me and for those journalists I admire, that’s the goal we strive to achieve every time we come upon a story that needs telling.

So what’s the solution? We live in a complicated world, filled with people with wildly varying belief systems, ideals, ethics and points of view. But in that world, it is possible for us to think twice before blaming The Media for all we deem unjust, unfair and bias. Yes, inaccurate reporting does exist. But so do stories that can tell the truth and provide valuable, factual information to society at large. Don’t underestimate The Media by lumping the whole of it into one mass. There’s more to it than that.

Carrie Click is a Post Independent staff writer. Her column runs on Tuesdays.

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