Friday, August 10, 2007

I Heard the News Today, Oh Boy

I was attracted by a headline in an electronic newsletter I subscribe to that pointed me to an article with the following provocative headline:

U.S. public sees news media as biased, inaccurate, uncaring: poll

To this former journalist and still an American citizen, this was depressing news, indeed. More than a century of the highest possible standards of fairness, accuracy, knowledge and courage have been swept into the gutter of Intertainment, Drudgery and blogtriol.

There is only one large news medium in America I can think of that meets the criterion of “biased, inaccurate, uncaring” and it is Fox News, owned by the progenitor of print populism, Rupert Murdoch. He now owns the venerable Wall Street Journal.

But to the larger question: Are the news media biased and inaccurate? Of course not, not on the whole, anyway.

Although inaccuracies do happen, and are usually corrected immediately, there is no reason for an American journalist to be inaccurate. His or her career depends on accuracy, down to the correct middle initial of someone’s name. What really happens is that 99.5 percent of a daily newspaper can be accurate, but if the error occurs about YOU or something you know, that newspaper (or TV station) is forever inaccurate in your mind. As for bias? It needs not be said again, but bias is in the bias of the beholder. No two people will see the same thing in exactly the same way, but if you were unjustly charged with a crime, would you want a jury of 12 news people or a jury of 12 randomly selected members of your community?

Put this another way: Did you believe the “biased, inaccurate, uncaring” news media or did you believe Richard Nixon? Did you believe David Halberstam’s reporting about the Vietnam War or did you believe Lyndon Johnson? Do you believe we are winning in Iraq or do you believe George Bush? Do you believe Barry Bonds used steroids or do you believe that he increased one hat size, three shoe sizes and 411 home runs after age 35 just by weightlifting?

I am tired of explaining all this, but I know one thing from a lifetime of paying attention to journalism, politics and public affairs. The reason we have an unresponsive morally corrupt government is because the same public that demeans the news media also votes. Call me an elitist snob, but the American grassroots are as natively stupid, ignorant and entrenched in dirt as, well, grassroots. The Pew organization, which did the survey, is highly regarded for its methodology. It has also found that half of Americans do not believe life evolved over time and only half of those who do believe in evolution believe it occurred through natural selection.

It has been said the American people get the government they deserve. Well, they also gets the information they deserve. As proof, here were the “latest news” video clips listed on the same Web page where I found the article about the poll.

  • Weeks-Old Puppies Tossed from Moving Car
  • Wild Pit Bulls Shown Attacking TV News Staff
  • Shocking Images Of Slaughtered Gorillas
  • Back to School...With Bulletproof Backpacks
  • Feline Frenzy: Woman Takes in 130 Cats
  • Monster Trucks Careens Into Illinois Crowd
  • Beckham Takes the Field

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:05 PM

    Ira babbled:

    "but if you were unjustly charged with a crime, would you want a jury of 12 news people or a jury of 12 randomly selected members of your community?"

    Well, let's see, if I was unjustly charged with firebombing Dick Cheney's house, I'd want 12 journalists. If I were unjustly charged with manslaughter while defending my home, I'd want 12 members of my community.

    If I were unjustly charged with trespass of private property to stop loggers from cutting down trees, I'd want 12 journalists. If I were unjustly charged with disorderly conduct for disrupting a 'stop global warming' rally, I'd want 12 members of my community.

    I think that answers your silly question.