Monday, March 18, 2013

All the News That’s Fit to Print (or Speak, or Digitalize)

The other day I listened and considered the Fox (at least on the radio) News slogan:  “We report, you decide.”  Since the “yellow journalism” days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, news outlets have professed, and inconsistently worked toward, the ideal of being factual and unbiased.

It is, of course, impossible to be completely unbiased.  But making those biases open and recognized, and trying to get the facts straight, is an admirable set of goals.  The problem is that even these noble ideals in some ways hide what goes on in today’s “news reporting.”  What I am about to mention is especially the case with radio news, TV news, and any format that tries to condense the news into the smallest space possible.  It is also the case that this happens with all networks, wire services, and news outlets.

We can understand this problem by thinking about the slogan, “We report, you decide.”  Even if everything reported is completely accurate and unbiased, there is something important hidden here.  You can see this if you think about the unstated corollary of the slogan.  Consider what would the slogan would have to say IF the intention was to be completely open:

“We report, you decide, BUT we decide what to report.”

Fox News is supposed to be somehow different from other major networks.  But at least when comparing the daily radio reports, Fox News tends to report on almost exactly the same things reported on by all the other news services.

It’s not that there is nothing else that could be reported.  There are a few little outlets you find here and there that do decided to report different things from the mainline news services.  When you listen to these and are accustomed to the usual mainline reports, it is striking the wildly different perspective one gets when listening to “the news.”

One final note:  mainline news, including Fox News, tends to report political news in terms of what some politician says about the matter at hand, and very little else.  This is just another example of “we decided what to report.”

This whole system seems to be ingrained beyond reform.  But it’s not fair, and it’s not balanced.  It’s not even close.

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