As a regular viewer of all the news outlets, I am reminded of an old saying that, “I am only misinformed because I read newspapers.” This suggests that new credibility, or lack of credibility, is not fundamentally a new issue. I usually write critically about the Big Seven (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC the New York Times and the Washington Post) because I believe they are in the vanguard of misinformation. In terms of President Trump, Republicans and conservatives, the Big Seven are not functioning as news journalists but as prosecutors in the court of public opinion.
The hours upon hours of so-called news coverage is crafted to advance a one-sided case to achieve a specific goal. In a real court, the goal of the prosecutor is to convince the jury that the plaintiff is guilty and should be put away. In the court of public opinion, the goal of the prosecutorial press is to convince the public (jury) that the plaintiffs (Trump, the GOP and conservatives) are guilty and should be defeated in the next election.
The Big Seven and others have abandoned their role as journalists, to become part of the Democratic Party’s liberal strategy to rule over America. That is a perfectly appropriate ambition for the Democratic Party. It is not the proper role of the press. When members of the press proclaim their importance in a free society, they are alluding to a fair, ethical and fact-based news media.
Because a free press is critical to a free society, when the news media become a vehicle of partisan propaganda the damage to the Republic is significant – and that is what we are seeing in America today. Individual news outlets have always leaned to the right or the left, but this was mostly restricted to editorials and columnists – the opinion side of the press. The news side was to tell the story objectively, covering the five basic questions that were once the backbone of reporting – who, what, when, where and how. The “why” question was left to the editorial pages.
Let us take a closer look at the corruption of the media in terms of specifics.
The supremacy of the “why” question
The Big Seven have made the “why” more important than the who, what, when, where and how. A few moments of the latter produce hours of the former. It is most egregious when it comes to CNN and especially MSNBC. I omit FOX News and One American News from this criticism because they can be empirically shown to produce more actual news content. FOX, like CNN and MSNBC, does employ panelists and contributors but is much more likely to present legitimate opposing views. AON provides straightforward hard news during its newscasts, and restricts their conservative opinions to personality programs – the equivalence of newspaper columnists.
I date the beginning of the corruption of news to the 1960s, when the radical left began infusing news stories with partisan spin. As is often the case when the left corrupts an institution, they first deny the corruption, but once it becomes too obvious to deny, they invent a nice sounding term. (Moving student up from grade to grade without meeting educational standards became “social promotion,” giving special benefits to people became “entitlements” and balancing budgets by declaring large expenditures to be “off budget Items.”) In the case of journalism, the euphemism became known as “advocacy journalism.”
The concept of advocacy journalism was made even more corrupting by the fact that the profession of journalism became very one-sided politically and philosophically. This has been because the nation’s journalism schools teach to the far left – ergo left-wing advocacy. Two other factors exacerbate news corruption – the concentration of the most powerful news outlets in a very small culturally liberal community – the east coast generally and New York/Washington, D.C. specifically – and the introduction of so-called cable news, which provides a 24-hour ability to offer up news and opinion. The problem is that opinion dominates what was once thought of as news.
Despite their generic title, CNN and MSNBC are not news channels. CNN’s motto, “the most trusted name in news” is factually wrong. MSNBC leaves open the reply to the view with “this is who we are” as a motto. Even I could agree with that motto, they may not agree with my personal definition of who they are.
The Media Bubble
There are two news practices that demonstrate just how narrowly focused the news business is – one general and one more specific. The first is the tendency of news media to interview each other. One might expect news reporters to dominate the real news – those 4 Ws and an H – but intra-profession personalities now dominate the opinion side and they represent most of the interviewees.
As if cable opinion personalities misrepresenting themselves as news providers and using journalism colleagues of like mind as panelists and interviewees, is not bad enough, the folks who play those roles come from a very exclusive media cabal. CNN and MSNBC rely mostly on New York Times and the Washington Post, with occasional interviews with reporters and editors of a few other New York-based liberal publications. It is not uncommon to see representatives of the Times and Post on the same program – even with multiple representatives of one or the other.
I Know Nothing, but can tell you …
The affable German Sergeant Schultz on the old Hogan’s Heroes comedy show embedded his emphatic “I know nothing” into the thesaurus of American clichés. The difference between the portly Schultz and the news media is that the good sergeant actually knows something but pretends he does not so he does not have to talk about it. The Big Seven readily admit that they truly do not know the facts, but proceed to analyze their ignorance to support a preconceived narrative.
In terms of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, you will hear those television talking heads confirm that they have no idea what Mueller knows, what he is pursuing and what the results will be. They often claim that they can only wait for the Special Counsel’s announcements. But, they do not wait. After every confession of we-do-not-know ignorance (and you can count them as I have), they proceed with hours, days … nay … months of speculation, conjecture, hypothecating and spin on the very subjects of which … they know nothing.
The most flagrant example is the Russian investigation. By intimidation and direct accusation, the press has maintained a narrative that President Trump and others colluded with the Russians to win the election. Whether this is true or not is yet to be determined, but the facts to date have not supported that ongoing narrative emanating from the elitist eastern press.
Opinion as Facts
Since the known facts to now support the opinion, the media elevates their opinion to the level of fact. One means by which they turn fact into opinion is by reporting the opinions of others as a fact. President Trump Example: Some unnamed source said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called President Trump a moron. Tillerson refused to respond to the question and his communications officer said it was not true. No one actually knows if he did or not. But for the media, such a comment would fit one of the many established anti-Trump narratives. Hence, it is repeatedly delivered as a fact — and one eagerly embraced by the never-Trump people and even believed by many casual observers – and of course, that is the objective of the misrepresentation.
If you pay attention, you will be amazed that the pertinent FACT is nothing more than the fact that someone said it. Think of all those White House conversations that are supposedly leaked. There is rarely ever any hard evidence offered – just the FACT that someone may have told the reporter. In many cases, this fact is not even from someone in the room, but supposedly from someone who heard from someone else who was supposedly in the room. Such facts would be disallowed in a real court. In other words, what is being reported is … for lack of a better word … gossip.
That brings up the issue of “unnamed sources.” This means the person passing along the gossip to the reporter has no fear of being challenged. Over the years, the use of unnamed sources has greatly increased. Back a generation or two, it was considered improper to use unnamed sources except in the most extreme cases – and even then, there had to be a second credible source.
As unnamed sources became increasing used – often more than named sources – the quality of the sources diminished. Many reports are based on single sources and the credibility greatly diminished – often stretching the source further down the gossip chain.
Journalism ethics are based on fair and balanced reporting. Nowhere do you see the corruption of the media more than in the selection of panelists and contributors – with MSNBC the most egregious. Shows like Morning Joe will feature half a dozen or more panelists sitting around the big table or piped in from distant locations and every one of them will reflect the same biased opinion. In a display of faux credibility, they will feature folks with conservative or Republican pasts who proffer the same biased opinions as the liberal Democrat majority.
Out of Context
The out-of-context quotes have been a violation of journalistic ethics forever, but it is used regularly today to create false impressions that reinforce the preconceived narrative. A recent example involves one of President Trump’s statements after the Parkland shooting. In support of the narrative that Trump is braggadocios and boorish, MSNBC and CNN repeatedly reported that Trump had said “I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon” … period. To drive the narrative home, the panelists discussed his comment in the most negative terms. The late-night show hosts used the reports to mock the President. Those who actually heard the President’s statement had quite a different impression. Addressing those in the audience, Trump said, “I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think all of you would have, too.”
The List goes on …
This is merely a sampling of the techniques deployed by a corrupted news media. More of the list of shameful abuses will be addressed in some future Part Two commentary – maybe even requiring a Part Three or Four.
Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and politics. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, as well as the White House. He has testified as an expert witness before legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress, and lectured at major colleges and universities. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at email@example.com.