I was recently asked why in my persistent condemnation of mainstream media, I save most of my criticism for the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and Politico – you know the ones whose employees, by overwhelming margins, likely didn’t vote for Donald Trump either time.
To his credit, my interlocutor did not make the sophomoric leap that others do, that the reason I assail those outlets so intensely is because I disagree with their political views.
Less sophisticated respondents in various social media platforms, though, often resort to asinine responses such as: “I suppose Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and all the other morons at Faux News (they mean Fox) practice good journalism!”
Such lack of deductive reasoning is mind-boggling: My repeated criticism of the left-leaning media surely stems their ideology being different from mine. Following that logic, the reason I lambasted Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice in 2014 for pummeling his fiancée in an Atlantic City casino elevator must be because the Ravens aren’t my team.
Here, then, are the results of my latest probe of journalistic malpractice, the rightwing version:
The Washington Free Beacon recently reported “another grim milestone for Joe Biden” against a backdrop of the president behind a blood-stained wall, writing that Biden is now “responsible for 50 percent more COVID-related deaths than his predecessor, Donald Trump,” concluding that Biden has “failed miserably.” Not only does the Beacon inject opinionated words such as “miserably” in a purported news story, but it draws the conclusion that presidents are directly responsible for pandemic casualties.
Another conservative digital newspaper, the Washington Examiner, recently featured “Some-it” of the Americas: Absences Mar Biden’s Big Meeting with Regional Leaders,” pointing out (gleefully, no doubt) that Biden was snubbed by several heads of nations despite touting his reputation as a highly respected figure on the world stage.
PJ Media led with the headline: “Which Is Dumber: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or the Term ‘Latinx’?” While that’s a close call in my book and I’d give it to ‘Latinx’ by a nose. I’m saying so because this is an opinion column, whereas the PJ Media piece fell under ‘news’.
The Daily Wire’s lead headline read Pro-Abortion, Anti-Gun Suspect Charged with Trying To Kill Justice Kavanaugh. That’s all technically true, but the headline effectively plants the seed of ‘violent leftists’, and the hypocrisy of being anti-guns yet possessing a gun en route to attempting murder.
You may notice that conspicuously missing from this list is Fox News. That’s because although I scoured its news website looking for egregious violations of journalism, I found either nothing at all or something too negligible to matter. What many fail to understand is that Fox’ grand display of partisan and ideological sycophancy is almost exclusively confined to the network’s opinion show hosts. Namely, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and Judge Jeanine Pirro, among others. Objectivity isn’t even in their vocabulary: but it doesn’t have to be. They’re not the news; they’re the commentary about the news.
As for the conservative outlets I’ve mentioned that do in fact violate their professional canons, here’s the big difference: journalism professors don’t teach their students that the “paper of record” is the Washington Free Beacon. Prominent Washington politicians in both parties don’t give interviews to the Daily Caller or to PJ Media.
On the other hand, the New York Times, Washington Post, and a host of other revered broadsheets – such as the Boston Globe, Detroit Free Press, and Philadelphia Inquirer, among so many others in the nation’s large and mid-sized cities – decidedly lean left. As do the three biggest television networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC.
The Ad Fontes Media watchdog long ago created a media bias chart that it updates regularly. While some of its conclusions may be skewed, it ranks outlets not only on ideology, but on credibility. Following that methodology, media’s malpractitioners with a right-of-center bent tend to be more fringe, amateur outlets, whereas left-of-center include numerous pillars of the American press.
That’s why though journalism suffers when violators degrade it with their unprofessionalism regardless of where they stand politically, it matters more when it happens on the Left. The Left’s media representatives have considerably more clout. Fox is really the only network on the right that can compete, even as others are on the rise, and again, Fox’ bias – and they have boatloads of it – is concentrated in their opinion shows.
Another tactic to monitor is story selection. Even when newspapers and telecasts report a story objectively, they’ll often select the story based on their primary audiences’ preferences. Want to hear about Biden slurring his words? Watch Fox. Trump screaming at Melania? Watch MSNBC.
At the risk of sounding subjective myself, I can’t ignore the results I encountered simply because they favored ‘my side’. Frankly, I thought I’d find may more violations on the right than I did. But the left not only has more of them, they’re overflowing in the sources that have rested on their laurels for decades, even as their quality has eroded.
That’s why in future columns you can expect me to criticize the Times far more often than the Daily Wire; because it’s so much more influential. Then again, if the late Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Sr., instead of his grandson A.G., were still alive and publishing the Times, it might have remained a model for teaching future journalists.
Finally, I’m often asked if there’s any national U.S. newspaper that still adheres to the standards of journalism’s past. The Christian Science Monitor (don’t let the name fool you; it’s not religious) comes as close as any I’ve seen.