For a long time,Liberal I’ve endured conservatives berating how the Media has a liberal bias and therefore the world is unfair to them. It’s not true, but they take it as such a point of gospel that one finds it impossible to dissuade them. Loudly, I’ve heard them they declare that the Media is part of the great liberal conspiracy to subvert these proud United States and put us all in FEMA camps…or something.
I know I will never convince a diehard conservative of anything. Because facts (as I will explain herein) have been replaced by the siren song of fake news and have less weight than ever before in our culture. Still, for those of open mind, I do have some observations to share about the Media and its bias.
First of all, I must state for the record that The Media does not exist! That’s right; there is no “capital M” media. Even the Associated Press is only a loose conglomeration of independent newspapers and broadcast outlets at best. As a giant monolithic conspiracies go, the American press corps fails completely.
Sure, you can point to the cooperate ownership of many media outlets and try to make a case for a giant with tentacles and typewriters that controls the information landscape. However, it is seldom the case that these business tycoons try to meddle with their news properties. As long as a given paper is making money and not undermining related businesses, the big wigs tend to keep hands off. The reason for their behavior is not egalitarian but rather profit. You see, people buy papers and watch TV news because they trust that they are getting the real scoop. The fact is, that the paper that wins the greater trust of the public sells more copies than the paper that’s an obvious shill for big oil, big pharma, or whatever.
In short, the editors of the “lame-stream” media outlets don’t meet in some secret basement to smoke cigars and plot what politician to target for annihilation. Instead, they stay in their own offices and each tries to best the other in getting an exclusive story or staying on top of whatever trend the public seems to want to know about. In this sense, Fox News, CNN, The New York Times and NPR are all competitors in a field that’s called “the media,” without caps.
My next point is that the media is in fact biased, but not toward the liberals. To refute the conservative claim, however, I must employ nuisance which tends to turn them instantly deaf. So, please bear with me. The media’s actual bias cannot be summed up on a bumper sticker for your Uncle John’s pickup…but it exists none the less. The media’s culture is biased toward sensationalism, conflict, violence, sex and celebrity. Why? Because that’s what sells newspapers in America, friend.
Imagine you’re a reporter and you just handed a story to your editor about two local politicians politely disagreeing over school funding when, suddenly, your co-worker brushes past you to hand in a scoop on a celebrity who’s dress tore open in public. Can you guess which story will make page one? This is not even a hard decision for your hypothetical editor, by the way, who’s faced with declining subscription rates. Page one is Jenny Starlight’s boob, and maybe page seventeen will have your blurb about school funding.
Now, that’s actually the part where the average citizen loses the whole darn media game. School funding issues affect thousands of people in any given town. The decision’s that local politicians make regarding our children are of extreme importance. Whereas, a movie star flashing her boob means nothing! Our lives are totally unaffected by Jenny Starlight’s mammary glands! Thus, we have a right to be frustrated when media outlets don’t serve the public good. But, sadly, we have no one to blame but ourselves. After all, we are the ones who choose which paper to buy, and our eyes are drawn to the sensational over the substance almost every time.
This leads to a phenomenon I refer to as “top forty news.” Like the radio stations that play the same forty songs over and over again, media outlets all tend to cover the same stories until we’re sick of hearing them. After all, if the Moring Bugle just sold a bunch of papers featuring Jenny Starlight’s boob you can bet the Daily Times will follow suit. Right now, I bet you can go to the New York Times front-page, compare it to the Washington Post, and see the same darn stories, front and center. Neither paper will have anything different to say about these subjects, facts are facts. However, they will both cover them simply because that’s what’s trending in the news right now.
Are there other stories being neglected by this top forty news phenomena? You bet your butt! Just like there are hundreds of great bands whose songs you will never hear. And this problem has been getting worse for a long time now. With so many local newspapers going under and the big guys printing thinner and thinner editions every year, there is only room for the top forty anymore.
This brings me (regrettably) to Trump.
Why did Trump get such a lift from the media when more worthy Republican candidates waited in the wings? I think by now it’s rather obvious. Trump was a celebrity, who did wacky and sensational things. Put his ugly mug on the front page, and the newspaper is sure to sell. What about Hillary? Well, sure, the famous wife of an ex-president who’s the subject of scandal sells equally well.
But wait…Hillary’s scandals were all bull-crap!
True, Hillary was never found criminally liable for ANYTHING. She was exonerated by the Benghazi hearings (all of them), and nothing in her e-mails ever revealed anything other than a few minor missteps. So why was the story of her “scandals” all over the media? Because of two reasons: 1) it was top forty news, and 2) the media was trying not to appear biased.
I know, it’s weird, but the right’s constant accessions of liberal media bias have had a cultural effect on the press. For decades now, Republican pundits and politicians have so decried the “left leaning media” that a large portion of the population has started to believe it. Therefore, in order to keep the public trust, reporters covering the election did their best to provide “fair and balanced coverage.”
The only problem was the situation they were reporting on could not possibly have been more unbalanced! On the one hand, you had a steady, liberal politician who’d made a few minor mistakes in a thirty-year career of public service. And on the other hand, you had a nutcase whose bankruptcies, adulteries, lawsuits, and other scandals could fill an encyclopedia. So, the media underreported on the liberal politician and over reported on the nutcase to keep from appearing liberally biased!
Again, no dark basement room housed the network executives who plotted this out. This was not a conspiracy by “the Media.” Rather, it was an effect of modern press culture. And as consumers of the media, sadly folks, we got what we paid for.
Where did the American conservative community get their narrative that the press leans left, you may ask? Good question, I say. My answer is Watergate. When Woodward and Bernstein cracked the case on the biggest political scandal of a generation, a Republican happened to be in the White House. Had past presidents also done bad things? Certainly! But it was the conservative who had to resign the highest office in the land, and that chafed a lot of butts.
The Watergate scandal was a huge loss for the Republicans and they have not forgotten it. Naturally, no one likes to blame themselves for their own problems. It’s always more comforting to blame someone else, right? So the press has become the whipping boy for conservatives ever since. Their rhetoric on this subject has grown so thick that people are increasingly distrustful of journalism as a profession and are instead turning to…more creative news venues. This is where we get the proliferation of fake news outlets and opinion sites that comfort the cold and shivering conservative from a weary world full of facts, nuisance, and reasoned analysis.
The result, of course, is that we are screwed. Good journalists who got into the profession to be the next Woodward and Bernstein are reduced to covering boob stories. The press no longer acts as a bull-crap shield to protect the American public from an obvious fraud like Trump. And conspiracy theories compete neck and neck with what little factual news stories can still be found out there.
But hey, at least you can tell your conservative Uncle John not to worry. The Media is not biased toward liberals.
By Clayton J. Callahan