Media Sensationalism is Damaging; Still Better Than Bias

planeWhen I was a teenager, a man tried to rob a grocery store down the street from where I lived. I read about it a day or two later in my local newspaper. The story was of particular interest to me because my brother worked at that grocery store as a cashier, and he was actually the person who the man tried to rob.

In his piece, the newspaper reporter described the incident in great detail. He chronicled how the man approached my brother at the customer service desk, pointed a handgun at him through his jacket pocket, and demanded money from the cash register.

In what resembled a scripted scene from a Dirty Harry movie, the piece detailed how my brother fearlessly held his ground, and told the would-be robber to “get a job.” The man was apparently so rattled by this bold, intimidating reaction that he quickly left the store. He tried instead to rob a Burger King across the street.

It was a pretty enthralling story for a kid my age – one that should have impressed the hell out of me. I never would have guessed, after all, that my mild-mannered brother was really a bad-ass.

The only problem was that the account wasn’t true. It wasn’t even close, really.

The actual story was that my brother had no idea he was even being robbed. When the man approached him at the grocery store, my brother never saw any hint of a concealed gun being pointed at him. When the man asked for money, my brother thought he was joking.

“Well, I can’t give you any money, but I can give you a job application if you like,” my brother jested.

The man repeated his request, and my brother still wasn’t getting it. He joked with the man some more.

Eventually a couple of customers approached the desk and stood in line behind the man. They were every bit as oblivious of the robbery attempt as my brother was. However, the increased attention unnerved the man to the point where he left the store. Empty-handed, he tried his luck at the next business down the street.

Well, that attempt didn’t go so well either. The man was apprehended (I believe by an off-duty police officer) at Burger King. While in handcuffs, the man admitted that he had first tried to rob the grocery store. If he hadn’t made that admission, no one would have known about the incident.

The reporter knew the truth about what happened in the grocery store. My brother gave him an honest account of what went down during the interview. The reporter simply recognized that it wasn’t all that exciting of a story. Thus, he took some liberties and spiced it up to garnish some increased attention from his readers.

This was my first experience with media sensationalism. It was also the first time that I began to question how seriously journalists took their jobs. Being a young man in my teens at the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of the role of the news media in our society. I did, however, understand that reporters were at least supposed to be telling us the truth.

Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I understand why it’s done: Readership and ratings. The more enthralling the story, the more attention that is received. The more attention that is received, the more advertising revenue that comes in.

A large portion of the reporting on Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, for example, has been pure sensationalism. People are very interested in the story in large part because of its mysterious nature. Thus, the more exotic journalists can make the story, the better it is for readership and ratings. It’s the reason why we’re seeing an almost endless array of bizarre (borderline perverse) theories being entertained by supposedly reputable news sources.

When UFO experts, psychics, and Geraldo Rivera are put in front of cameras and asked to speculate on such a topic, you know you’ve pretty much hit rock bottom.

While I believe that media sensationalism does do damage to the credibility of our news sources, I’ll take it any day of the week over ideological media bias. Why? Because sensationalism doesn’t do immense damage to society. From a Dead Sleep by John A. Daly

Society can navigate virtually unscathed through stories of renegade cashiers and missing airplane fantasies. We’re done an enormous disservice, however, when we receive dishonest reporting on the things that affect our very way of living. Without honest reporting on topics like the state of the economy, the healthcare law, education, and what our elected leaders are up to, we find ourselves making very poor decisions. And when we make poor decisions on things so incredibly important, it affects not only our lives but the lives of future generations.

If the news media insists on enchanting society, that’s one thing. If they insist on changing it to align with their ideological views, that’s downright dangerous.

 

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration, and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. His first novel, entitled "From a Dead Sleep", is now on sale! He lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • legal eagle

    So Daly hypothesizes about how a reporter did his jobs to assert that journalists are dishonest?
    However, he does not tell us whether his brother was interviewed by the reporter; he does not tell us whether the reporter cited a police report; he does not tell us the reporter’s source but he does imply that the reporter was dishonest or incompetent…Think Daly’s brother may have puffed up the story?
    Easy to criticize, hard to find out the facts…..

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      >>So Daly hypothesizes about how a reporter did his jobs to assert that journalists are dishonest?

      I never said all journalists are dishonest, but this one absolutely was. That’s not a hypothesis. That’s a fact. I know you don’t like facts and don’t believe that there is such a thing as a lie (your best line ever, by the way), but you’re obviously just arguing with me for on this for the sake of arguing. Not surprising. That’s what you Internet trolls do.

      >>However, he does not tell us whether his brother was interviewed by the reporter;

      Actually, I did tell you that. Nice try though.

      >>he does not tell us the reporter’s source

      Sure did. My brother.

      >>but he does imply that the reporter was dishonest or incompetent

      Dishonest? Yes. Incompetent? I couldn’t tell you.

      >>Think Daly’s brother may have puffed up the story?

      To make himself look less heroic? Brilliant theory, Columbo.

      >>Easy to criticize, hard to find out the facts…..

      I stated the facts. You just chose not to acknowledge them. You know… the usual.

      You’re probably just cranky because the robber I described is the kind of person you regularly defend. lol.

      • legal eagle

        What is the evidence? Can I see the police report? Should the facts be only what you say they are, in hearsay…? That’s what lawyers do…search for the facts…

        • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

          Can I see evidence that you’re a lawyer? How about evidence that you’re even a man, and not a 21 year-old Hooters waitress? Should the facts be only what you say they are?

  • Darren Perkins

    I don’t know if the missing jet coverage is as benign as you make it out to be. It’s damn near killed me…. good but obvious point about today’s media bias. Idealogues on both sides of the spectrum are contributors and place a high burden on ‘the folks’ to figure out the truth. Most do not meet that burden and unfortunately deference is given to propaganda over facts.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      True.

  • grainbirds

    Good article. I agree. The disinformation put out by biased journalists is far more dangerous for society than sensationalism.

    Or, to put it differently, the intent to manipulate for political reasons is far more dangerous than the intent to entertain for ratings reasons.

    Hopefully soon everyone will be able to see through both with equal ease.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Thanks. Unfortunately, I don’t see it getting any better anytime soon.

      • grainbirds

        If you mean you don’t see and/or expect to see an increase in citizens considering the source and otherwise using critical thinking skills regarding news reports and the claims of politicians and such, I personally do. Just look at some of those Pew polls on trust in the media.

        Also, to me, FNC’s growing numbers and CNN’s dwindling ones indicate to me that people are seeing through news outlets which pretend objectivity and then subtly ram home a partisan worldview. FNC has an overall worldview, but it’s known. Sean Hannity regularly notes he is a conservative and recently said he doesn’t know how people manage to keep their politics out of their reporting. That being admitted, he frequently has segments with people from both major sides who get to weigh in on whatever the issue is in that segment, FNC gives the views and arguments of reps from both major ideological camps, in addition to ones who can’t be defined like Dennis Kucinich, and Libertarian John Stossel. They also give voice to Tea Party Republican politicians as well as establishment ones.

        I think many people like that, and feel that they are getting more of a balanced array of info.

        If you meant that you don’t expect partisan entities including news outlets and politicians to stop attempting to manipulate, I agree. But, I feel that again, more people are seeing through these attempts more frequently.

        For instance, I am perceiving that efforts like those of Harry Reid to claim Republican opponents are acting out of racism, and race-baiting efforts like those of Rep Barbara Lee against Paul Ryan, are getting less traction now than they would have in the past. Because, I think, more citizens recognize this as unfounded attempts at manipulation, and so, many journalists are not as willing to promote such Democrat claims as they used to be, because it – accurately – makes them look partisan.

        More and more often, I see entities on the Right fighting back against politically-motivated slander, and so public awareness is growing that the slanders are false, or at least bear objective investigation. I suspect that Harry Reid assumed, based on past behavior, that the liberal would unanimously back up anything he claimed, including this business about the Koch brothers. And I think Pelosi, for the same reason, thought the liberal media would back her up on her claims that Democrats should proudly run on the ACA.

        But things are changing, and Reid, Pelosi, Schumer, Hoyer and Wasserman-Schultz can no longer necessarily create the Narratives and expect the full cooperation of the liberal media. Neither can they set Narratives that all media with a Rightist bent are despicable, hating liars, ensuring that no one watches, reads or listens to those outlets.

        Case in point is the infamous N word hoax. Do you think it would be as easy today to get away with that as it was in 2008? Given the total lack of audio/visual evidence?

  • Wheels55

    Good story. Having been a cashier at a pharmacy, among many jobs, when I was a kid, I can just see myself seeing what your brother saw.

    I think a big part of our problem is the media that we most depend on for news are businesses competing for our attention. They never let facts get in the way of a good story. I can imagine what newspapers in the 1800s were like.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      >>Good story.

      Thanks, although according to Legal Eagle, it’s not true because I didn’t provide a police report, my brother’s birth certificate, and photographic evidence. lol.

  • Brian Fr Langley

    One of the more apt descriptions I’ve heard lately about the mainstream media is the term “the media party”. Nothing could be truer. Their values are near universal, they mock and punt all who don’t share them, and they’re typically much further left than any other political party. The last Presidential primary, showed just how much power the “media party” has accrued, as one Republican after another was “disgraced” by patently false or otherwise disingenuous anecdotes. As soon as one was knocked down, another rose, only to fall in turn. The conservative media needs to seriously expose how enthralled the mainstream media is to leftist (Marxist) ideology. While conservative media does fairly well at exposing those other political parties on the left, they tend to give the “media party” a pass. Sure they’ll point out flaws in their coverage and some of the points they make, but rarely expose their ideological underbelly.

    • grainbirds

      I agree with your assessment of the liberal media, but would point out that some media outlets on the Right exist purely to expose liberal media bias.

    • legal eagle

      Poor baby…another media victim? Keep whining…

    • legal eagle

      Does that mean Fox News and right wing radio and blogs are not part of the “media”?

      • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

        Do you make good tips at Hooters?

  • David Nelson

    Oddly enough, the story of no one knowing the guy was trying to rob the store seems far more interesting to me than the fabricated story. The power of positive attitude and good humor in foiling a robbery is very compelling, whereas fear and rash actions may have generated a tragedy, and almost certainly would have led to a cleared-out till. Powerfully standing up and saying no is interesting too — if it had actually happened. But weighing the risk of being shot with the small amount that might have been saved by playing the big hero makes the true version much more appealing in my mind.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Well, with all due respect to my brother, it wasn’t so much a case of humor being used to avert a situation. He simply had no idea there was a “situation” to begin with. If he knew he was being robbed, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have been cracking jokes. lol.

      • David Nelson

        Yes. That makes what actually happened even more interesting. This would make a good scene in a movie — frustrated robber, oblivious clerk.

        • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

          Or at least in a sitcom. ;)

        • legal eagle

          We miss your brother Ricky….

    • legal eagle

      With all due respect, what have you read that make you assume you now know the “truth”?

      • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

        My column. And he did more than just skim it, Eagle-eye.

      • David Nelson

        Well, let’s say the author made it all up. Then my response is textual criticism on a piece of fiction, but the point is the same. Why are you so pettifogging about the letter of the law, and so insensitive to the spirit of the law?

        • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

          I should probably explain what’s going on here, David.

          Many of my columns are political, and are generally right-leaning in nature. Legal eagle is a hardened ideologue from the left, who absolutely despises people like me. Thus, he feels obligated to argue with pretty much everything I write – political or not. And because you had a non-hostile reaction to what I wrote, he decided that there must be something wrong with you. Weird, but true.

          • legal eagle

            Your columns are not political…They are weak ideological hyperbole….You only criticize because you are unable to think of solutions or think outside of the box….I would describe you as willfully ignorant….

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            Did you or did you not accuse me of leaving out information in my column that was actually included in it?

            Come on, legal. Let’s hear it.

          • David Nelson

            Yes, I know very well how leftists think. I used to BE one of them. It was all narcissistic pandering to the ego, which insisted on making others responsible for the problems I faced in my life. Of course, constantly making myself a victim left me feeling miserable much of the time — hence, my interest in how good humor helped foil an attempted bank robbery.

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            Glad you liked the column. ;)

        • legal eagle

          I should probably explain about Mr.Daly…He does not take criticism well nor will permit himself to let the facts get in the way of his hyperbole…

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            Anytime you’re ready to admit that you were dead wrong about what I wrote, I’m ready to listen.

            Until then, I think it’s pretty clear who can’t take criticism.

            Also, until I see proof to the contrary, I’m assuming that you’re a Hooters waitress. As you said yourself, legal, the facts aren’t whatever you say they are. Right?

          • grainbirds

            Hyperbole? I think you’re confusing John Daly with your friends Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, et al.

            Also, since you called him a liar, list the lies and back up your claim. Otherwise, you are libeling him.

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            He does this all the time, grainbirds. It’s a defense mechanism, really.

            I’ve embarrassed him so many times that he now just mindlessly accuses me of doing exactly what he routinely does on this website, then claims victory. lol.

            I think it’s his way of unwinding after a long shift at the restaurant.

          • grainbirds

            You’re very understanding.

          • David Nelson

            Respectfully, that would appear to be a perfect summation of YOUR approach to this article.

        • legal eagle

          I did not say or imply that anyone made anything up….I was attempting to question what an anecdotal story about Webb’s brother had to do with Daly’s theory that the media is “sensationalizing” the Malaysian airline story…Most “pundits” do not like to be questioned…You can decide if Daly falls in that category..

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            >>I did not say or imply that anyone made anything up.

            Sure you did.

            >>I was attempting to question what an anecdotal story about Webb’s brother had to do with Daly’s theory that the media is “sensationalizing” the Malaysian airline

            The fact that you think this column has anything to do with Jeff Webb’s brother is more evidence that you didn’t even bother to read the whole thing.

  • sjangers

    In our form of government the kind of policies we pursue aren’t critical to our success or failure. Our Founders put the power of government in the hands of the people. They trusted in the ability of the people to determine their self-interest and act toward that end. What is critical is that the electorate be sufficiently well-informed in order to be able to make decisions that are in its best interest. If that can’t happen because the electorate lacks access to accurate and reliable information, the society will eventually fail because the basis for its decision-making, and hence its ability to govern itself effectively, has been perverted.

    • grainbirds

      I agree. The founders had far more respect for the American people’s intelligence and right to make decisions – “right” or “wrong” – based on the facts than today’s liberal media.

    • legal eagle

      “the society will eventually fail”…What would constitute a failure? How long is eventually? Care

      • sjangers

        Oh dear! If this isn’t the worst of circumstances. I’m speaking conceptually and now we have a lawyer in the conversation who wants to focus on specifics. : ) Nice to hear from you again, Eagle.

        In my previous post, I’m defining “fail” in pretty broad terms- i.e., it fails when it no longer serves the purpose for which it was intended in the manner in which it was intended to do so. Slightly more specifically, in this example I would define failure as having reached the point where the people are no longer able to act effectively in their own interest because they lack, or are prevented from having, the resources to determine what is in their own interest. Obviously, that state obtains to greater or lesser degrees at all times, but I’m talking about a fundamental undermining of the ability of the people to understand those issues that affect them well enough to determine how they should use their government to influence outcomes to best suit their short-term and long-term needs. Have fun with that, legal boy!

        I don’t know how specific I would care to be in defining “eventually”. I’m not Hari Seldon. But I would say that process is already well-begun. The disproportionate ability of powerful interest groups to dominate areas of public interest, the size and scope of government, the amount of information necessary to understand issues within the purview of government, and the difficulty securing clear and accurate information about those issues, all make it very difficult for many of us today to influence government to act in our best interest- or to leave us alone and allow us to act privately in our best interst. It may be that we’ve already passed the tipping point and that, effectively speaking, this form of government has failed in our country. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I believe we will be within twenty to fifty years if we don’t act to improve the ability of the people to understand and direct their own interests. I know that you recently reminded me that I probably won’t be around in fifty years, but I remain concerned because, whether I witness it or not, I consider such a failure, largely as the result of events during my lifetime, to be a shameful legacy to bequeath to our children.

        • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

          >>Oh dear! If this isn’t the worst of circumstances. I’m speaking conceptually and now we have a lawyer in the conversation who wants to focus on specifics.

          By legal’s own definition of what makes something real and what doesn’t, I don’t think we should continue to assume he’s a lawyer until we see evidence of it.

          For now, I’m sticking with my theory that he serves hot-wings in a tight t-shirt and short shorts. It’s up to him to prove otherwise.

          #LegalEagleLogic

          • sjangers

            I’ve known a few lawyers, John, and I believe Eagle is a lawyer. If not, he exhibits characteristics of a personality disorder rarely seen outside the legal profession.

            >>For now, I’m sticking with my theory that he serves hot-wings in a tight t-shirt and short shorts.

            But I do love this theory. : )

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            >>I’ve known a few lawyers, John, and I believe Eagle is a lawyer.

            Oh, I’ve been more than willing to take his word for it this entire time as well. But I think it’s only fair to hold him to the same standards of credibility that he holds others to.

            If he refuses to accept a story I told about my brother in this column without a corroborating police report, I think it makes sense to assume he’s not a lawyer unless he produces evidence of it.

            Besides, it’s kind of hard for me to believe that a lawyer doesn’t actually read the things he responds to. Sounds much more like something a Hooters waitress would do. Just saying. ;)

          • legal eagle

            Lawyers question facts…That’s what we do….If you don’t like it, don’t respond…

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            So… you question facts… but don’t ever actually present any yourself? Very good.

            Now, I would like to question this supposed “fact” that you’re actually a lawyer. I have yet to see any evidence of it.

            I would also like to question the fact that you don’t hold yourself to the same standards that you demand others to live up to.

            I have asked you a number of times to answer a simple question. You refuse do so, while falsely insisting that other people don’t answer yours.

            I’m wondering what gives you a permission slip to do exactly what you criticize others for doing (even when they’re not actually doing it)?

          • legal eagle

            As I see you are thin skinned and don’t like to be questioned about what you write about in your articles I will make sure I no longer read your column….
            As you are starting to make this a little bit too personal for my taste I will refrain from further comment…

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            LOL! Come on, you predictable little coward.

            You’ve just proven once again that you are everything that you falsely accuse the rest of us of being.

            You’re a hyper-partisan hack. You can’t admit when you’re wrong. You call everyone derogatory names, then whine about things getting “too personal” once you’re called out for it. You don’t actually read the columns you comment on. You never provide any facts to support your arguments. And of course, you’re an enormous hypocrite who holds everyone else to a far different standard than you hold yourself to.

            Congratulations. Any shred of credibility you had is now gone.

          • legal eagle

            You’re taking things personally…..Grow up…

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            Legal, there is nothing you DON’T take personally.

            Now, stop your whining, stop your lying, and try taking some responsibility for your own words every once in a while. You’ve got to start building some character at some point.

          • Curtis E Phone

            So now that it is obvious that “legal eagle” is nothing more than your liberal tomato can alter ego, you are going to kill him off? So what will you do now when you are getting no response to your boring stories and you need to fire up your cult followers by giving them someone to kick around? I guess you can bring Silverman back.

          • sjangers

            For what it’s worth, Curtis, John has been getting more response to his columns here than any other commentator, with the exception of Bernie. He’s doing very well.

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            He knows.

            “Curtis” is actually “I Hate Fascists.” He usually poses as a woman on here. I suppose I should just be happy that he finally got his sexual identity problems figured out.

          • sjangers

            Yeah. I didn’t figure he was courtesy phone, or whatever lame nom de troll he was using. But you never know exactly who’s behind the phony ID, unless you happen to be a moderator playing Space Aliens.

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            Yeah, it would be nice if everyone could detect who is a committed troll and who isn’t. Wish I could share that info.

          • Curtis

            Unlike you and your alter ego, I am all man. And you know better than to ask me for evidence because I will give you all you can swallow.

          • Trained Ape

            Unlike you and your alter ego, I am all man. And you know better than to ask me for evidence because I will give you all you can swallow. Don’t ever think you will win a debate with me you gutless puke

          • Mrs IHF

            Dildo boy doesn’t swallow. But I do

          • Jeff Webb

            >>For now, I’m sticking with my theory that he serves hot-wings in a tight
            t-shirt and short shorts. It’s up to him to prove otherwise.<<

            Well, I actually do that at home, so I'll remind the class that the theory is that LE does that at a restaurant for pay.

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            Well, he does claim to be rich. Depending on how well he fills out that outfit, he might be earning a pretty good living from it.

          • Jeff Webb

            >>Well, he does claim to be rich.<<

            I remember him mentioning that one or thirty-two times.

            Next time he whips out his bank statement, someone should remind him Adam Sandler is rich enough to use LE's net worth to light his cigars, but it doesn't make him the next Olivier.

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            lol.

            It cracks me up that a sensitive, liberal fellow like like him is bragging about his ‘supposed’ wealth in the first place. I thought he was supposed to be a man of the people. Not a callous rich, whitey who thinks his bank account makes him better than everyone else.

            The guy’s got to figure out once and for all who he is.

        • legal eagle

          Media controversy has been around since the time of Hearst in the 1890’s….What else is new other than the fact there is a lot more media available today?
          I guess we can revisit your theories in 2060?…LOL

          • sjangers

            Actually, Eagle, if you go back to the first half of the Nineteenth Century, there are journalistic examples that make the era of yellow journalism look almost measured by comparison. But the world was also very different at that time. The size and scope of government was much smaller, and with that its ability to impact the lives and interests of individuals. The dramatic growth in the size and intrusiveness of government since means that inability to understand the ends and means of the process today makes it much harder for private citizens to control their own interests than it was a hundred and fifty years ago, when government was remote and its impact on private citizens was limited.

            Information sources had become much more reliable during the middle part of the last century, so the growth of government in individual lives was balanced by increased capacity for individuals to understand relevant issues and attempt to act in their own best interest. That trend shifted in the wrong direction, most clearly starting in the Seventies, with the growth of advocacy journalism, and hasn’t improved since. The number of new voices in journalism from both sides of the political spectrum has been offset by increasingly lower standards of honesty and integrity, the proliferation of hard advocacy groups that now have much more direct access to the marketplace of ideas, and continued growth in the size and scope of government.

            In short, there’s much new since the 1890s beyond the increase in the number of information sources available today. The dramatic decrease in the interest of average citizens in the political process, despite the much greater impact that process has on their lives, is no accident, it seems to me. People are overwhelmed by undifferentiated information, confused by competing claims, and uncertain of what to do to protect their interests. If the trends I addressed in previous posts don’t change, I can’t see how people are likely to become more engaged, and more intelligently engaged, in making good decisions that will help keep government their servant instead of the other way around.

            I suppose we will have to wait at least a couple of decades to see if I have any idea what I’m talking about in this regard. Five decades may be a little too long for me. If I’m still around, I’ll probably be cackling at odd body noises and drooling in my oatmeal. And I probably won’t even remember that you and I had this discussion. But please feel free to drop by in 2060, particularly if John is correct in his theory about your real identity.

          • legal eagle

            As a history buff I will tell you that the American public has a far more diverse and far reaching choice of media than ever before..and that, I believe is good….
            During the late 1930’s until Pearl Harbor do you really believe that the public was informed about what was going on in the rest of the world? During the cubam missile crisis

          • sjangers

            What periods or aspects of history interest you most, Eagle? My interest in politics grew out of my interest in history. I know it has become a bit of a cliché, but the older I get, the more firmly I believe that Burke and Santayana were quite correct in their observations about the critical importance understanding of the past plays in successful preparation for the future.
            I agree that diverse and far-reaching choices in media are good, although that can sometimes be confusing. My concern about most media today, both left and right, is their emphasis on advocacy. In the 1960s, and even into the 1970s, most people in journalism were quite serious about their responsibility to keep the public well informed. Today most seem far more concerned with influencing public perspectives than providing people the tools they need to make their own decisions.
            I think that the opportunities were there for people to be informed during the 1930s, particularly in domestic affairs. I know that many Americans didn’t particularly care about the rest of the world then. There were enough problems at home. So demand for international information probably wasn’t great. But I suspect that, at least until we were close to being drawn into World War II, the information that was available was reasonably fair and balanced. If it was limited, it probably wasn’t by design. Once we had a side in the war, of course, coverage became quite one-sided. But the post-war era saw reasonably fair and accurate news coverage, again particularly on domestic issues.
            I don’t imagine news coverage of the Cuban missile crisis was particularly informative. But don’t you think that a rather poor example? Fast-moving international crises aren’t times where in-depth public debate is particularly helpful. You unite behind the leaders you’ve chosen and hope they’re up to the task. The level of public involvement is necessarily much different than around issues where decisions aren’t as immediate.
            De Toqueville was no doubt correct. I just wish we deserved better. I’d certainly like to see us aspire to being worthy of better.
            Don’t you think you might be responsible for provoking some of John’s reaction, counselor? My impression is that your intention is more to irritate than to contribute to a higher standard of discourse here. Are we all somehow missing out on your benevolent intentions?

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            >>John’s theories remind me of the witness who occasionally lashes out at opposing counsel…When it get personal that’s normally time for a recess…LOL

            Exactly what “theories” are you referring to?

            Are you talking about the “theory” that you repeatedly chastised me for leaving information out of this column, when in reality it was right there in front of you? Perhaps it was the “theory” that you refuse to admit when your wrong, or answer the questions posed to you.

            These are facts. Not theories.

            Legal, your only beef with me is that I regularly embarrass you by calling out your B.S. and expose you as the shameless hypocrite that you are. It’s that simple.

            And please… spare me the whole “getting personal” garbage. As a moderator, I’m able to quickly scroll down through the messages you leave here. Every single day, you respond to person after person, by calling them derogatory names, implying that they’re racists, and telling them that they’re stupid. You make EVERYTHING personal. So if you can’t take it, stop dishing it out.

          • legal eagle

            It is my belief that Republicans have played the “media victimization” card since Nixon’s famous “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore”.
            As a political strategy that helps to solidify the base who generally feel that the centers of influence are left leaning…Nixon attacked the Washington Post for Watergate stories…again playing the “victimization” card…
            What I don’t understand is why, with the plethora of media including the internet currently available, the “victimization” argument has any credibility left?

          • Guest

            I don’t understand how we got from my concerns about confusion generated by the lack of reliable information sources, and the impact that has on the ideal of an informed electorate, to your points about media victimization. I don’t necessarily accept your argument fully- after all, we did endure a period of approximately three decades during which the major information outlets in this country were dominated by a moderate liberal bias- but more specifically, I really don’t see what it has to do with the issues I raised.
            I understand that for an educated person like yourself, familiar with the environment of your profession, a process that features strong advocacy for competing points of view may seem like a reasonable way to work through those differences to seek resolution. But there are significant differences between you and the majority of citizens who want to be informed without devoting their entire life to the process. And the public arena isn’t a courtroom, where at least there’s a moderator to give focus to the proceeding, keep the advocates from getting too far out of hand, and facilitate the jury’s understanding of the issues on which they need to deliberate. What works well, perhaps, in a courtroom may not work as well in a much broader environment that is full of distraction.
            Speaking personally, I consider myself an intelligent, well-educated individual, who puts a lot of effort into staying informed about issues that impact my life. But often I have to admit that I’m really not sure about my best choices for health, nutrition, consumer products, and even public policy and the political candidates who will be represent me and my goals. I try to sort through the claims that compete for my attention and support, research as thoroughly as time permits, and often I’m really not certain if I’ve made the best choice. For people who have fewer resources of time, education and comprehension, it has to be very frustrating to try to understand the world. I suspect that’s why many seem to have given up on the process. And I believe that’s very unhealthy for our form of government.

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            >>I don’t understand how we got from my concerns about confusion generated by the lack of reliable information sources, and the impact that has on the ideal of an informed electorate, to your points about media victimization.

            It’s because he already lost the other argument. Thus, he changed the subject.

          • sjangers

            I don’t understand how we got from my concerns about confusion generated by the lack of reliable information sources, and the impact that has on the ideal of an informed electorate, to your points about media victimization. I don’t necessarily accept your argument fully- after all, we did endure a period of approximately three decades during which the major information outlets in this country were dominated by a moderate liberal bias- but more specifically, I really don’t see what it has to do with the issues I raised.

            I understand that for an educated person like yourself, familiar with the environment of your profession, a process that features strong advocacy from competing points of view may seem like a reasonable way to work through those differences and to seek resolution. But there are significant differences between you and the majority of citizens who want to be informed without devoting their entire life to the process. And the public arena isn’t a courtroom, where at least there’s a moderator to give focus to the proceeding, keep the advocates from getting too far out of hand, and facilitate the jury’s understanding of the issues on which they need to deliberate. What works well, perhaps, in a courtroom may not work as well in a much broader environment that is full of distractions.

            Speaking personally, I consider myself an intelligent, well-educated individual, who puts a lot of effort into staying informed about issues that impact my life. But often I have to admit that I’m really not sure about my best choices for health, nutrition, consumer products, and even public policy and the political candidates who will best represent me and my interests. I try to sort through the claims that compete for my attention, research as thoroughly as time permits, and often I’m still really not certain if I’ve made the best choice. For people who have fewer resources of time, education and comprehension, it has to be very frustrating to try to understand the world. I suspect that’s why many seem to have given up on the process. And I believe that’s very unhealthy for our form of government.

            I have to admit that I’m not entirely comfortable offering advice on forum etiquette. Appropriate behavior really depends on your objectives. I value an exchange of competing points of view, but for me it’s equally important to offer different perspectives in a way that doesn’t alienate those who might disagree with you. On the other hand, that can be a frustrating process when your voice is in the minority and many of the majority voices are rude and dismissive of what you have to say. I experience that when I post to forums at Politico, The Week, The Daily Beast, or HuffPo. But if you want to engage in an exchange of ideas, and not just a shouting match, I think you have to take the high road and avoid being quick to make assumptions about other posters and their motives. It’s often frustrating, but occasionally you find yourself in an interesting and informative exchange that makes some of that frustration worth your while.

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            >>I don’t understand how we got from my concerns about confusion generated by the lack of reliable information sources, and the impact that has on the ideal of an informed electorate, to your points about media victimization.

            It’s because he already lost the other argument. Thus, he changed the subject to one that was lost a long time ago.

          • legal eagle

            I would respectfully disagree with your premise that there is a lack of reliable information sources….I think that is an opinion, not a fact.
            Question: If the media is so biased, how have Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes won national elections?

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            In the case of the first three presidents you named, the media wasn’t nearly as biased back then as they are today. There was far more discipline in journalism back then.

          • sjangers

            You do seem determined to keep the focus of this conversation on media bias, Eagle. And you are correct in stating that my assertion on this point is opinion and not proved, but that’s kind of what this sort of forum is about. Personally, I have no problem making the assertion because I believe it to be true, based both on evidence in the public record and on my personal experiences trying to gather information for my own use over the past forty-odd years.

            There have been many studies of bias in the media over the past twenty or thirty years. Those studies that lean right tend to find moderate statistical evidence of liberal bias in most large media outlets. Those that lean left tend to discover that they exhibit no appreciable bias; certainly not enough to justify conservative complaints (and that’s darn near a literal quote from a couple of the unctuous anchors who shared that information with us). Bias is certainly difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, particularly to someone who doesn’t want to believe it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.

            I rely on a number of factors to reach the conclusion that most news outlets are biased, which complicates the individual’s efforts to become well-informed. My focus has generally been on bias from the left because, until fairly recently, most large information sources were staffed primarily by people whose politics were liberal and Democratic. Most surveys of members of major media identified them as voting heavily Democratic (usually in excess of 90%) in national elections, even in elections where the majority of Americans solidly preferred Republican candidates. And while personal preference doesn’t necessarily equate to bias, I think most of us know how difficult it can be to separate personal feelings from our behavior for extended periods of time. It’s reasonable to assume that the work product of left-leaning members of the media, even those with the best of intentions, would be colored at least occasionally by their world view. Put them in a work space with others who share their world view and it begins to form a culture.

            One example of this behavior was the JournoList scandal, in which it came to light that the work of at least some individuals at large national media outlets was not only influenced by their partisan views, but that some were plotting to use their positions to advance the candidacies of those who shared their political views. There were a small number of people actually caught planning this sort of behavior, but it’s at least interesting to note that few other members of the JournoList community even questioned what they were suggesting. Again, we don’t have a smoking gun here, but there’s a solid piece of evidence that suggests that non-participating journolistas, if they didn’t accept this sort of behavior, at least knew better than to say anything critical about it.

            I’ll mention Mr. Goldberg’s excellent book “Bias” in passing here as another source that documents the behavior of people who worked in the Big Media bubble during the last few decades of the past century. His documentation of the public behavior of those journalists is quite consistent with my observations during that same period. His conclusions about why they exhibit those behaviors seem eminently reasonable to me.

            I have years of observation of the way Big Media covers the news. My general observations are no more valid than yours, but I did make one brief attempt at more precise analysis, just for my personal amusement. On the evening of the special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy, I used both CNN and Fox News as my sources for information about that election. Polls didn’t close until Fox was already into its evening schedule of opinion shows, so their news coverage of the special election was heavily influenced by their evening show personalities. I suppose it was no great surprise that they covered and analyzed the results of the Brown election almost non-stop between eight and eleven that evening.

            What was more surprising was the CNN apparently didn’t cover the Brown election at all. It couldn’t have been because it wasn’t an important development. Special elections often get a lot of coverage as bellwethers during off years, with their importance usually emphasized by the side that does well in them and downplayed by the other side. It certainly couldn’t have been because CNN couldn’t get a camera or two up to Massachusetts to the respective campaign headquarters, or at least a few talking heads into the main studio to take information off the wire and discuss the outcome. It couldn’t have been that there were more pressing events that pre-empted election coverage. CNN devoted that evening to almost non-stop coverage of relief efforts in Haiti for an earthquake that had taken place a couple of weeks earlier.

            I suppose the lack of coverage could have simply been a poor editorial decision, indicative of no bias. But CNN is a left-leaning news source. The Brown win was solid enough that it was probably anticipated by exit polling. Attempts to pass the ACA were still ongoing, and Brown’s election was a potentially demoralizing event for the Left. I believe that CNN just didn’t want to give any attention to the event because it was politically embarrassing and there really wasn’t anything to be gained form talking about it, from their perspective, while a lengthy analysis might have affected the mood of those members of the public who were tuned in to CNN that evening.

            Sorry for such a disorganized response. Time was a little short this evening. But those are some of the factors on which I base my conclusion that media outlets, even the largest, often fail to present a full and accurate picture of what’s going on in the world to their customers.

            As to your question, I’ve never suggested that media bias guarantees that their customers will share their perspective on the world. I think it can influence the perspective of customers, but the bigger concern for me is that the challenge in getting complete and accurate information is turning many Americans into disinterested spectators about events that significantly influence their lives. And I think that’s very harmful to the political health of our nation.

            Now do you really need me to offer analysis on how Nixon, Reagan and Bush41 were elected despite the presence of an opposite media bias? Explaining the Bush43 victory is a little more complicated, but we should note that he almost lost an awfully close election to someone with the personality of a block of oak. Sometimes all the media bias in the world isn’t sufficient to make a chunk of wood appear interesting.

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            >>It is my belief that Republicans have played the “media victimization” card since Nixon’s famous “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore”.

            I think that’s a logical conclusion to reach… if you close your eyes, plug your ears, ignore all of the clear double-standards in reporting, the mainstreamed liberal activism, and disregard all of the breathtaking hypocrisy.

            Do yourself a favor a pick up a copy of “Bias.” You’ve clearly never read it. The facts presented in it are irrefutable.

          • legal eagle

            If you believe there is so much media bias how do Republicans win elections:? Is Fox News more or less biased than MSNBC or CNN? Don’t you have the ability to watch or read the news source of your choosing?
            I will assume that “Bias” contains anecdotal evidence to support it’s thesis? Does it present any examples of right wing media bias or is the only media “bias” one way?

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            >>If you believe there is so much media bias how do Republicans win elections:?

            Lately, it’s been largely because casual and low information voters don’t vote in the mid-term elections. Only people that really care do. Those are the elections that Republicans have been winning. Bush won twice largely because the Democrats he was running against were unbearable to listen to. No amount of media favoritism can change that.

            Serious question (which you likely won’t answer): Do you honesty not see an enormous difference in how the vast majority of the media covered Bush’s presidency as opposed to Obama’s?

            >>Is Fox News more or less biased than MSNBC or CNN?

            Far less biased than MSNBC. Probably around the same as CNN (just in the other direction).

            >>Don’t you have the ability to watch or read the news source of your choosing?

            I do. That doesn’t change the fact that the media is overwhelmingly biased to the left. And that is what trickles down to the mainstream of the country. When 80% of the media refuses to scrutinize a Democratic president, after they hammered a Republican president for anything and everything he did, that’s a huge disservice to the country.

            Let me make it clear that I don’t want an equal amount of bias in the media. My complaint isn’t that things aren’t 50/50. What I want is a media that recognizes its natural biases, disciplines itself, and strives to give the country a fair, consistent reporting of the news. I don’t care if one network has all conservative commentary and another one has all liberal commentary – as long as it doesn’t affect the way stories are covered and reported.

            >>I will assume that “Bias” contains anecdotal evidence to support it’s thesis?

            Along with factual, statistical data.

            >>Does it present any examples of right wing media bias or is the only media “bias” one way?

            I don’t recall if that book specifically does… even though Bernie’s been acknowledging conservative bias for a long time, and in his later books. You have to keep in mind that “Bias” came out over a decade ago. At that time, there were even fewer conservative media outlets than there are now, and Fox wasn’t also the power-player that they are now. I would love for Bernie to write a new book now that media bias has evolved into media activism in recent years. I have a feeling that’s what Sheryll Atkinson has in store.

          • legal eagle

            http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/14/five-facts-about-fox-news/
            Interesting Pew Research study? Do you disagree with the findings?

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            I think the raw data seems pretty realistic, although I would challenge the notion that 30% of MSNBC’s audience is conservative (even factoring in how small their audience is).

            I’m sure, however, that I would draw a very different conclusion than you’re choosing to draw from it. The results are not a measure of bias. They’re a measure of the type of coverage (positive or negative) that President Obama (and Romney) received.

            It’s not the obligation of the media to come up with just as much positive coverage of something or someone as they do negative coverage. If that were the case, they’d have to run a positive story on Anthony Weiner for every negative one they run on him. News should be driven by events and environments – not a charitable definition of balance for the sake of balance.

            I would expect any responsible news organization to more heavily scrutinize the political party that is in power precisely because they’re the ones with the power. The media is supposed to be a check on power, after all. When a president presides over the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, while tripling the deficit and sending our national debt through the roof, they should be heavily scrutinized. Scrutiny is viewed as ‘negative press’. Not ‘positive press’.

            Secondly, factoring in the commentary/analysis shows (regardless of the network) only demonstrates that conservative commentators favor conservative politicians and liberal commentators favor liberal politicians. Commentary isn’t a form of news bias unless commentators are misrepresenting facts or stripping stories of their context. None of that is reflected in the survey.

            Also not reflected in the survey is the raw viewership of the each of the news outlets. If the issue is how influential the conservative media is compared to the liberal media, add up the totals and you’ll find that the liberal media crushes the conservative media in numbers, and thus influence.

            A true measure of bias would be to compare the level of scrutiny a Republican president receives, compared to a Democratic one. A true measure would to take similar controversies that took place under the two administrations, and compare how the same news organizations covered each of them. A true measure would be to look at which parts of a story a news organization reports, and which parts they ignore.

            Like I said earlier, I think that study is largely accurate. But it says nothing about bias.

          • legal eagle

            So cite a credible study that shows the bias you are referring to?

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            Read “Bias.” It will give you exactly what you’re asking for.

          • sjangers

            John, that’s like asking Superman to play with kryptonite. Or perhaps a more appropriate analogy would be encouraging a vampire to sample the shrimp scampi.

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

            I know. I can’t even get the guy to read an entire column on this website. Expecting him to read a book not called “Dreams of My Father” is a pretty tall order.

          • sjangers

            Did he read “Dreams of My Father”? I was planning to pick it up in CliffsNotes, but then I realized I’d been living much of that experience for the past five years and perhaps something a little more in touch with reality could be in order. I may re-read some Castaneda next.

          • Wally C

            John there was a perfect example of what you are saying yesterday. The house voted to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress. While it is not headline news, there was no mention of this on NBC Nightly News. It is not like there are contempt charges filed daily in Congress. I guess bias by ommission doesn’t count in the eagles world.