Toledo Blade columnist Marilou Johanek wrote a post about journalists letting their opinion into the stories they do. While I agree with the general idea of her article, there is something missing: Facts don’t have a political slant. What I feel is worse for people today is the failure of journalists to give the facts and the context in a story. That should be their primary job.
Grizzled journalists grouse that news reporting about government has become soft, politically timid, and hamstrung by overriding partisan sensibilities. They’re spot on.
The public’s right to know has been compromised. News content or story construction is skewed to appease conservatives who blast the “lamestream media,” or liberals who don’t think enough attention is paid to their pain.
The journalistic slide into subjectivity is evident in seemingly innocuous news habits. Consider the widespread acceptance of the term “Obamacare” in reporting.
That expression was originally a derisive one, coined by opponents of President Obama’s signature health-care overhaul. What was passed by Congress, signed into law, and upheld by the Supreme Court should objectively be referred to as the Affordable Care Act.
The only journalists who can legitimately call it Obamacare in public venues are editorial writers, columnists, pundits, and others in pursuit of persuasion. They make no pretense of being neutral.
Facts don’t have a political slant. I want the mainstream media to give me the facts and tell me if someone’s talking points are wrong based on the evidence. Journalism needs to return to the days when they told us what was true or false – nothing more. If Senator X says something that can be proven not to be true then tell me it isn’t true – don’t treat it as true for him so it can’t be questioned or it is just part of the “game”. When did politics become postmodern.
This is why I don’t watch cable news talk shows or the Sunday morning pundit shows. They are nothing but unchallenged talking points.
Hell, commentators on NFL pregame shows take more of a position on issues than the “journalists” on the political news shows and the NFL plays actual games.
A pundit who tries to pass himself off as a journalist is NBC’s Chuck Todd. He doesn’t believe that journalists need to be fact checkers and he got some heat for saying it in public. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite explains why what Todd said is a problem:
Perhaps he meant more important in terms of the outcome, but it should matter more, to the news media, if the messaging, Democratic or Republican, is true. In fits and starts, the media has provided context for the policy, but almost always within the horse race frame of who is “winning” the messaging war. For example, news outlets often (but not always) point out that almost every part of the Affordable Care Act is wildly popular, except for the individual mandate. Everyone loves to eat dinner, but nobody likes to pay the check. Yet even with that knowledge, as demonstrated in the segment above, news personalities routinely refer to the law as “unpopular.” That’s a defensible bit of semantics, but an abdication of the duty to provide context, in the public’s interest.
Not only do many of these journalists not provide the facts they also avoid giving the context of the information they report.
I’m not an economist or a politician. I can only judge information based on the limits of my education and life experiences. I depend on journalists to give me the information I need to make an informed decision. Reporting a ‘he said/she said’ as part of a horse race doesn’t help me make an informed decision. I can’t make a decision if I don’t get the context of the facts.