They aren’t even trying. With as important as their role is, and with as much as many of us want them to take seriously their responsibility to rebuild the public trust they have squandered with activism and editorializing taking the place of thorough and credible journalism these last several decades, any fair-minded observer has to conclude that it’s not happening. It’s not close to happening.
Either this is because the mainstream media is so overrun with bad eggs being laid from toxic college journalism programs that the few good ones can’t wrest back control of their industry, or it’s because they are so blinded by ideological dogma that they can’t even identify their own bias. But whatever the reason, the case for blowing up the entire media industry and starting all over gets stronger by the day.
Here are just three headlines from the last few days that exemplify the problem.
First, covering the Oklahoma law that allowed faith-based foster care facilities to operate according to the dictates of their own conscience (in other words, a law affirming the First Amendment), the Associated Press ran this headline that was then filtered to all the subsidiary newspapers that use their service:
“BREAKING: Oklahoma governor signs law that LGBT groups say will allow religious-based adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.”
What is that? Regardless of your politics or feelings about LGBT issues, how can anyone look at that headline and not see advocacy rather than journalism? Consider the alternative headline that research scholar Ryan T. Anderson pointed out could have been run:
“BREAKING: Governor signs law that everyone else says will protect faith-based adoption agencies from coercion, discrimination or punishment because they help orphans find homes with a mom and dad.”
The very same day the AP was promoting LGBT propaganda in the name of news, NBC did a little bizarre story framing themselves. Reporting that Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to become CIA Director, was headed for confirmation, NBC floated this headline:
“Gina Haspel seems likely to be confirmed as CIA director without apologizing for the torture of terror suspects during the Bush administration.”
Good heavens. I suppose if there was some prominent lawmaker demanding such an apology, writing a story about that would be one thing. But it still wouldn’t make sense to thrust it into a headline about her confirmation. The fact that Haspel did not go out of her way to apologize for a legal policy decision that was made by another person several years ago is not germane to her confirmation announcement. Not to a news agency, that is. This is a headline you would expect from the Huffington Post. That it’s now so common at NBC that the two are essentially indistinguishable, represents the problem.
Finally, CNN got into the action just a few days later reporting on the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem:
“US set to break with tradition and open embassy in Jerusalem.”
There is literally a law from 1995 called the Jerusalem Embassy Act where by a House margin of 374-37 and a Senate margin of 93-5, Congress declared Jerusalem the proper capital of Israel and allocated funds to move the American embassy there. Given that reality, the headline could have easily, and more accurately, been written: “After years of delay, US will finally open embassy in Jerusalem.”
That it wasn’t tells us all what we already know.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The media doesn’t have to be one-sided and irresponsible. They don’t have to surrender to bias and advocate without shame. But they continue to regardless, either because they think average citizens don’t notice or that they can avoid the consequences of their betrayal.
We do, and they won’t.