I was in Washington, DC yesterday and after I finished my business there I had a few hours of free time before my flight home. I had been wanting to visit the Newseum, and here was my chance.
At this point I should come clean. I must admit that I have an addiction. My name is Tom Balek, and I am a newsaholic.
There, I said it. Ever since high school journalism class I have had a fascination with news – the process of investigation and reporting, the incredible importance and power of freedom of the press, the technology, the ethics, the relentless pace, the pathos of a great story well written. I spent many hours working on my high school paper, and after college I taught journalism for a couple of years in small-town Montana.
Back then journalism students learned that impartial honesty and accuracy were sacrosanct to a reporter or editor. A journalist was duty-bound to report the facts and nothing else. Facts must be verified and double-verified. Opinion was not allowed outside the confines of the editorial section. That was that.
It was the “Edward R. Murrow” school of journalism. Murrow has been credited with creating radio and television news as we know it. Or, I should say, knew it. Modern news reporting came of age during World War II, and pioneers like Murrow set the bar high.
Then, as we all know, journalism changed. Some years ago I had an animated discussion with a top news producer for ABC about what I felt was a growing liberal bias in news reporting. He very candidly told me that as far as he knew, at least in his own news division, there was (at that time) no left vs. right bias. The mission of his department was to produce news stories that would increase ratings and thereby maximize ad revenue. Period.
That caused me to ponder whether the news is a reflection of real life, or real life is a product of the news. I concluded that the question is really not that deep: the news media merely pander to the latest whims of pop culture in search of ratings.
This was just before the first Obama election, and we all know what happened to the news media since then. Chris Mathews’ “thrill up my leg.” The defense of blatant lies by the State Department about the Benghazi embassy attack. The blind eye to the attorney general’s Fast and Furious scandal. The refusal to report the IRS targeting of opponents of the administration. While talk radio and Fox News built a thriving industry on the popularity of conservative opinion and news analysis, the liberal media bias in hard news reporting became almost universal. Ratings were no longer the primary objective. Networks like MSNBC and CNN persisted in their liberal propaganda campaigns despite plummeting viewership.
Nowhere is this liberal bias more evident than at the shrine of the news industry, the Newseum. It would be naive to expect anything else. Study after study has determined that modern journalists are predominantly liberals and any pretense of adherence to the Edward R. Murrow rules of journalistic propriety is routinely sacrificed to the mission, as defined by Peter Jennings: “Those of us who went into journalism in the ’50s or ’60s, it was sort of a liberal thing to do: Save the world.”
While the Newseum does point out some ‘errors in fact’ produced by the news media over the years (Dewey Defeats Truman), it has no criticism of MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, who remains immune from a history of outrageous lies, including his totally fabricated story of the rape of Tawana Brawley by a group of Boston police officers and an attorney. Only fleeting mention is made of the pioneers of conservative media, such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Andrew Breitbart, who had a profound effect on national politics and culture. And that fleeting mention is pointedly disparaging.
At least half the displays in the Newseum were dedicated to the civil rights movement, featuring compelling stories, photos, and video of Ku Klux Klan rallies and violent abuse of southern blacks. But there was not a single mention of the ties between the Democrat party and the Klan, or the Republican leadership against segregation.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.” Unfortunately, the average citizen today is not very discerning – only 36% of adults know the three branches of government – and the news industry does not hesitate to take advantage of our ignorance.
The Newseum aspires to be a “champion of the first amendment” and promotes the value of freedom of the press. It admits, in one display, that bias can exist in news reporting, and then points to Fox News as an example. If only it could see this failing within its own left-tilting walls.
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
I make my living off the Evening News
Just give me somethin’, somethin’ I can use
People love it when you lose, they love dirty laundry
Even idiot rock stars can’t resist taking a shot at Fox News: