FLORIDA, May 13, 2013 — Do most Americans want a serious presentation of the facts while watching a news program? Or are they looking for evidence to validate their respective viewpoints?
Whether the station in question is a network affiliate or a cable channel, most people would probably expect some sort of bias to be present. Is this actually the case? Today, anyone can favor a news outlet on the basis of his or her political stances. In the long run, won’t this allow media bias to run even more rampant?
It has been said that media bias is more prevalent on the left than it is on the right. Do you agree with this idea?
On both sides of the political spectrum, new media outlets have emerged to seriously challenge established sources. Does this have anything to do with bias, or might other factors be at work?
In this first part of our discussion, Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, answers these pertinent questions. Also a syndicated columnist, he has established himself as one of our country’s most well-known critics of perceived leftist media bias.
Joseph F. Cotto: Judging from your experience, do most Americans want a serious presentation of the facts while watching a news program? Or, are they looking for evidence to validate their respective viewpoints?
L. Brent Bozell III: Given how few Americans follow the news, it would be a stretch to say that most Americans want a serious presentation of it. It isn’t that they’re not following the news because it’s not serious, it’s the other way around: So much of the “news” isn’t serious because so few people are watching the news, and in the continued search for the lowest common denominator, the news media have shifted from news to infotainment.
CNN should be CIN, the Cable Infotainment Network.
Now, for those who do watch news, it’s a different formula. Yes, they tend to go where they will find evidence to validate their respective viewpoints. It’s common sense: people go to their comfort zones. But it’s also a function of time management. The average person looking for news of the day wants it — and then wants out. It is compartmentalized. It’s the half-hour you dedicate before dinner. The lunch hour break. The breakfast distraction.
But if that’s all the time you dedicate, you look for that which you trust to be honest. A liberal trends to MSNBC, the conservative to Fox.
Cotto: Whether the station in question is a network affiliate or a cable channel, most people would probably expect some sort of bias to be present. Do you believe that this is actually the case?
Bozell: The concept of objectivity is the greatest myth in all of journalism. It does not, and cannot exist. Everything is to one degree or another subjective. It begins with the very first question facing the news editor: what’s the news? Everything has a level of subjectivity, therefore everything is, to some degree, biased.
Good journalists strive for objectivity; no journalist is inherently objective. Objectivity is not, ultimately, the goal. The goal is truth, something that makes moral relativists, especially those in journalism, uncomfortable. That monster Gosnell is arguing that a baby born alive — breathing, moving — is not alive. It is “true” to report his statements. It is not true to give them credence. In fact a journalist reporting truth would state — using experts if necessary (and what nonsense that is!) — to underscore that truth.
Cotto: Today, anyone can favor a news outlet on the basis of his or her political stances. In the long run, won’t this allow media bias to run even more rampant?
Bozell: Yes, the press will continue to be evermore polarized as every outlet looks to carve out for itself that magical piece of the pie. Once upon a time, in the days of minimum competition, when the public had, say, three TV news options, those networks were required to reach tens of millions or fail as a business proposition. Their news, then, had to be acceptable to the average American.
Because of competition, most news outlets today can hope only for a fraction of that audience. Increasingly they are achieving their audiences by becoming more blatant in their news “signature.” NBC was always liberal; MSNBC has gone radical left.
Cotto: It has been said that media bias is more prevalent on the left than it is on the right. Do you agree with this idea?
Bozell: It has been that way for decades. Even when something is deemed biased to the right it may not be so. Fox News is the perfect example. Leftwingers attack Fox as rightwing because — why? They point to Hannity, O’Reilly, maybe one or two other personalities. That is precisely the point. The people they attack are commentators who are hired because they are biased. Do you find these leftists attacking the Fox News reports? Rarely, if ever. It is because Fox lives its “fair and balanced” slogan in its news presentation.
Cotto: On both sides of the political spectrum, new media outlets have emerged to seriously challenge established sources. From your perspective, does this have anything to do with bias, or might other factors be at work?
Bozell: Bias is a major factor. Would Rush Limbaugh had succeeded if Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings were doing their job? Talk radio exploded precisely because the news media were tilting so far to the left, and conservatives wanted another perspective. There would be no Washington Times if the Washington Post were doing its job. The other major factor — even more important, really — is competition.
In today’s dramatic information revolution we are now discovering how to report news, or just present information, in ways that cost only a fraction of what we paid, and reach many times more than we once could. A cell phone photograph placed on Drudge costs virtually nothing, and takes but moments to arrange, and can reach tens of millions in a day. Not bad.
Far-left? Far-right? Get real: Read more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto
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