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Media Objectivity – Religion and Politics

As a young man—fairly, as an older child and into my years of young manhood—I was among those who believed a commonly held fabrication. To wit, I believed that the media was an entity that reported the facts (I use the term “entity” loosely). I believed, as do so many still today, that some part of the media was—or even could be objective. As I have aged, it has become ever clearer to me that this was not, is not and could never be the case.

Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that one should entirely ignore the media (though I don’t generally see how that would be harmful much of the time). Rather, it is my contention that one ought to recognize that media will be biased, and to determine exactly where the bias of a given media outlet or particular “reporter” lies. In so doing, it ought to become obvious what kind of bias that individual or outlet possesses, and what “filters” are being applied by the entity in question.

On top of this, one should consider the truthfulness of the individual or other body in question. If it can be shown that the person or persons are prone to spout obvious and provable falsehoods, one probably should consider not paying them a great deal of attention—if any at all.

I want to also make it plain that I am not talking about any particular part of the media here. I am not, for example, speaking strictly of what is referred to as “the mainstream media.” Rather, it should be understood that I am saying all media—and yes, that includes Fox, CNBC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, Google, Yahoo!, MSN and all the rest (including “local” media, like newspapers and local talk radio)—is biased in some manner or other. And where I am convinced that some of them are more prone to spread falsehood to “push their agenda,” I’m equally convinced that others are not so prone to do this. That doesn’t mean that sometimes their agendas don’t “color” their reporting in ways that make them less honest than I would prefer them to be, it only means that they don’t intentionally tell untruths.

In case you’re wondering how I could be saying this about “news in the olden days,” let me bring a couple of quick ideas to you, that will help to “spread light” on what I’m saying, and what has happened in past.

It has been argued, that media in past was prone to find out that something considered newsworthy had occurred, gather the “facts,” then report—through whatever type of media—what they found. There are (at least) two issues with this:

  1. That everybody—news reporters and editors included—has “filters.” Put simply, that our pasts “color” how we see our present. If you lived through rape (a horrible thing, to be sure), when you see stories about rape, you are pretty certain to not look at them in the same way as someone who has not been through that horror. This is a rather radical example. Imagine a person whose parents could not afford to buy or obtain for them anything but the barest of necessities. Were the parents intentionally evil or otherwise bad? Probably not! Nonetheless, the person would be forever aware that such circumstances existed, and more, aware of how it “feels” to be in such circumstances. Even this is somewhat extreme. The simple example of watching a man (or woman) beat an “innocent” animal may be enough to change one’s perception from that point on.
  2. That what is reported is equally important to how it is reported. The first point was particular to how a given thing is reported by a given entity. This one covers what is reported. Imagine that you don’t consider it important when something happens (a thing that’s true for pretty much everybody), so you don’t tell people about that thing. It used to be quite common for folks to not even think about the fact that they were unable to “use” one half of their body. These days, that’s a pretty sure sign of stroke, and is considered something to act on quickly. The point is, what one considers important enough to impart to others matters. If one decides that a given story is “not worthy” of reporting, or that another story is, one may choose to not report, or report things in ways that make it appear that things are not as they actually are. Recently—and I’m sure this has happened quite a lot before this happened—a prominent individual was accused of various forms of sexual misconduct, by people who were able to produce absolutely no evidence to back up their claims. A large portion of the media “ran with” wild stories, none of which were ever even mildly substantiated by evidence. The result was that people who counted on the media outlets and individuals who did this, received their “news” from people who chose to report something that, quite frankly, did not belong in the news. Even if one believes it did though, they chose to report things that were entirely unsubstantiated as if they were fact.

One thing I think needs to be plain, is that none of this is said in order to “excuse” any part of the media at large (or for that matter, anyone spreading disinformation). Nor is it to say that I don’t see other issues with the media at large, or with particular individuals who are considered parts of that media.

It is—at least to me—patently obvious, for example, that certain members of the media are attacking public figures across the “political spectrum.” It’s equally obvious, that certain “reporters” are either far too full of themselves or have far too little regard for those about whom they are reporting. The result is obvious incivility. When you constantly ask questions that are clearly intended to attack the person of whom you are asking them, and ignore or belittle their answers even when they are entirely reasonable, you likely have both a bias against the person in question, and an inability to act in an even remotely civil fashion.

When you “take over” press conferences, not allowing others to speak or ask questions, even when your questions and concerns have been answered, and you have been told you may only ask a limited number of questions (in order to make it possible for others to participate as well), yet refuse to do so—and particularly if you make a habit of doing this, you might be uncivil.

Okay, over my “self imposed word count.” Time for “last words.”

For those of you who have the incorrect belief that the media or some part of it,  is now or ever has been or will be unbiased, objective reporters of the news, I ask you to consider what I have said here in the fervent hope that your perspective will be altered.

As usual, thanks for reading and may your time be good.

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