Disappointed with the news media

Published 9:02 am Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dear Editor,

The founding fathers placed a great importance on the freedom of the press, in order to insure an informed electorate. To fulfill that responsibility, journalists need to systematically assemble and verify facts and subsequently provide a balanced accounting of the facts and a cross section of opinions. 

With today’s growth of social media, we are moving away from factual reporting and toward what can best be described as opinion dominated viewpoints. A December 2016 Pew Research Center survey found fully 62 percent of U.S. adults now get most of their news on social media. As social media becomes the primary source of “news” we are faced with a rise in “fake” news too. 

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The place of opinions in journalism is being reassessed on many fronts, but much of the public have already reached their conclusion. PBS Frontline recently reported that two-thirds of the public believe reporters are no more ethical than the politicians about whom they report. A Pew Research survey found the majority of the public believes that the press gets in the way of society solving its problems. TV journalists too often seek headlines by focusing on the personal scandals of politicians and celebrities rather than balanced reporting of the news worthy events of the day.

Hopefully the 2016 election campaign gave those who run news organizations cause to rethink the proper role of journalism in today’s society. Had reporters focused more on why Trump was resonating with so many voters, rather than their focus on his outlandish behavior, we might have had a more objective perspective of the tradeoffs voters were facing in choosing their next president. The media focus should have also addressed, “What are the underlying causes of the anger in the country that led to the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump?”

Perhaps the Trump era will alter the dynamics between reporters that cover the Washington DC scene and the politicians that they cover. We need to see a little less coziness between the reporters and the political leadership they cover. Hopefully fewer journalists will come from a position, rather reporting who said what, and the possible results of the parties’ statements. More balance in their coverage would also be nice. A little less deference to leaders and celebrities, and reporters with insider attitudes is needed. Too often the media appears to be engaged in the political debate, rather than just reporting on it.

David Fairchild