csberry: (pumaman)
Yesterday while I ate my lunch from 12:25-:45pm CDT, I flipped back and forth between CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Here is what I saw:

Fox News - Megyn Kelly had a male and female on the air with her ("Fox News contributors" - whatever that means). They were talking about Richard Falk. Apparently he is on the UN Human Rights Council and is a professor at Princeton and UC-Santa Barbara. It seems he wrote an essay about how US foreign policy helps to breed terrorists, thus, the Boston Bombing is kinda America's fault. That is about all of the facts I ever heard on the story. Otherwise, it was the three of them sharing their disgust with the general gist of the essay and wondering why there isn't more of an outcry against the guy...whom I've never known of and a writer of an essay I will likely never see.

CNN - They had continuous check-ins with various reporters in Boston and Washington D.C. about the latest developments in the Boston Bombing story. There was a few minutes where they covered the tornadoes and weather going through southern Louisiana and New Orleans. Otherwise, it was reporters sharing facts and statements from sources.

MSNBC - Andrea Mitchell discussed a dinner Pres. Obama had the night before with the women in the Senate. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) was interviewed by Andrea about the dinner. The Senator discussed the food they ate, how hospitable the president and the First Lady were, how the conversation focused on finding bipartisan solutions to the nation's problems, and the camaraderie of the group. I think she said "bipartisan" over 50 times in 3 minutes.
csberry: (What The Joel)
I've been watching more cable news lately and have been quite disappointed with the amplification of opinion over fact on all of the cable networks. It is obvious from the cable news networks that the ratings success of Fox News has been clearly been interpreted by the competition as a green light to focus on Crossfire-like battles of opinion without any pretense that there is a truth behind the opinions that is more important than political perception. Some presenters are not only biased, but openly show distaste or favoritism and clearly stamp their shows as forums for opinions where the opinion that differs from the presenter is given just enough time for the other panelist(s) and the presenter to treat that person and their opinion as a pinata.

Most of the anchors/presenters I've seen seem to have been hired for an ability to look good on camera and speak relatively clearly when dealing with the general chaos of 2-4 panelists, out of studio reporters, and producers talking into their earpieces. Ignorance of the news and policies by these folks is fairly evident as you watch and hear the person's questions. Then there are a growing number of presenters that embrace offering their own opinions and hypothesis on the air. The Fox News folks are definitely the ones that have jumped head-first into the willingness to offer their own what-if's and hypothetical ideas on what may happen, what the unknown facts may be, or the motivations of those in the news. Such willingness to speculate is very likely the cause why repeated studies are finding Fox News watchers scoring poorly on quizzes about current events.

But, I must state, and remind myself, that even Fox News has some presenters and reporters that don't rattle off ignorant statements. While it is easy to paint with a wide brush that all of Fox is conservative and all of MSNBC is liberal, that honestly isn't the case. There are oases of some objectiveness on these channels.

What is Objective Journalism?

Like perfection, objective journalism isn't entirely possible to achieve, but should be a goal nonetheless for journalists claiming to report the facts as they are and not a single perspective on current events. Bias can be introduced in every step and in every aspect of news and one must make an effort to battle against that. Unfortunately, this era of pretty presenters also have abandoned any professional desire to research and know the news. Lazy reporting results in presenters going with their gut or relying on the talking points of the two parties (or their preferred political party). How much work must one do to fight bias?

You must consider the bias possibilities for all of the following questions involved in "creating" news: What is a news story? Is there a victim and is there only one? Are pictures of the "victims" or "perpetrator" included? Who do you interview on the story? What questions do you ask those being interviewed? How long and where in the series of stories presented does this news story go - front page with picture or brief mention? How do you tease that news story? Do you tie an individual story to a larger news trend or other events?

But objectiveness doesn't mean that a reporter doesn't ask tough questions. It means the reporter asks tough questions no matter the interview subject (except for the obvious soft stories about child inventors and such).

So, what the hell are you rattling on about, Cory?

I've been making mental notes and have had an urge to start documenting my observations. I am creating a new tag for my journal - objective watchdog - where I'm going to sporadically post some moments that jump out to me of particular presenters on the various channels and how they either demonstrate an attempt at being objective or flagrantly demonstrate an utter disinterest in seeming unbiased.

I hope that, over time, I'll start creating a report card on the various presenters and reporters to indicate a scale of objective reporting and their willingness to cite their own opinions. Which shows can someone turn to and get multiple opinions and what shows are guaranteed to promote a particular opinion...and are there any shows that really do strive to give "just the facts?" Hopefully there are some and objective TV journalism isn't extinct.

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Cory Berry

June 2016

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