There is an instinctive almost primitive emotion most people feel when their hometown is mentioned or makes it into the news. It is a mixture of pride and belonging. It is a matter of identity and family of course.
Our pride in the place we come from may not survive too much scrutiny, however. Many towns and cities have, in the final analysis, little to recommend them. We are nevertheless connected to them as profoundly as we once were connected to our mother’s womb.
In 2021 over 20,000 delegates to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference more usually referred to as COP26, arrived in my hometown of Glasgow in Scotland.
People from Glasgow (it’s pronounced Glas-go not Glas-gow like cow!) are called Glaswegians. We all felt a surge of pride as the world’s media and cameras mushroomed across our city.
But pride gave way to laughter and ridicule when Wolf Blitzer, a news anchor with CNN, wrote on Twitter that he was reporting from Edinburgh in Scotland,“Where 20,000 world leaders and delegates have gathered for the COP26.”.
Edinburgh is 47 miles east of Glasgow; over an hour’s drive away.
European journalists helpfully tweeted maps of Scotland to Mr. Blitzer. A chain of Scottish eyeglass stores sent Blitzer an invitation to drop by and get his eyes tested for free and have a new pair of glasses on them!
The jokes and mockery came fast and furious but the non-funny side of the story is that CNN is more known for intentionally getting the facts wrong than for accidentally making fools of themselves.
That is abundantly clear when it comes to American politics. It is simply known as the mouthpiece of the Democratic Party. The needle moves off the dial though when it comes to coverage of Israel.
Now at this point, as a responsible columnist I should cite examples and proofs for my accusations. There are some though (and CNN is only one of many) whose behavior in this regard is so egregious and well documented that it is no more necessary than the need to substantiate a claim that it is a teeny wee bit cold at the North Pole in December.
Yet, if you believe that an independent and a free press is important to democracy, the fact that there is so little of it in today’s United States should worry you…a lot.
The American Civil Liberties Union, itself embroiled in controversy about its commitment to protecting free speech when it doesn’t echo Liberal values, nevertheless writes on the opening page of its webpage citing, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in New York Times Co. v. United States (1971):
“The freedom of the press, protected by the First Amendment, is critical to a democracy in which the government is accountable to the people. A free media functions as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoing. It is also a vibrant marketplace of ideas, a vehicle for ordinary citizens to express themselves and gain exposure to a wide range of information and opinions.”
But what if the press and media jettison that role and no longer act as a watchdog to make sure the government is accountable to the people but rather feels itself accountable to one political party and its values.
The Washington Post, whose motto is, “Democracy dies in darkness” published a survey eight years ago which showed that only 7% of American journalists are Republicans.
Many have argued that, of course they have political preferences, but as professional journalists, they are able to neutralize them and report objectively and fairly.
Several organizations that monitor and rank U.S. media for biased reporting disagree.
Ad Fontes Media publishes a regularly updated chart in which they rank some of the larger American news sources by left or right-wing bias as well as by accuracy.
AllSides assesses ideological biases of online sources and produces media bias charts. Intriguingly, it actually presents news stories from different perspectives to allow you to see both sides.
There are others like those too, but all agree on one thing. The media does suffer from significant bias.
And if that claim of journalistic integrity-neutralizing personal preference may have seemed unconvincing in the past, it is dead and buried now.
The Pew Research Center just published results of a survey which shows that journalists in the United States differ markedly from the American people in their views of “bothsidesism.” That’s what used to be called “The Fairness Doctrine” where journalists should always strive to give equal coverage to all sides of an issue.
The results show that more than half of the journalists surveyed (55%) say that every side does not always deserve equal coverage in the news. By contrast, about three-quarters of the public (76%) say journalists should always give all sides equal coverage.
Pay attention, Washington Post and tell your journalists; Democracy dies in semi-darkness too.
Oh! and ironically, Ad Fontes Media’s current chart has the Washington Post firmly on the “Skews Left” section of its chart.
When journalists themselves now declare that a majority of them are not only biased but feel that the old tiresome nonsense about hearing both sides of an argument to arrive at the truth is irrelevant, they rather sound like Turkeys voting for an early Thanksgiving.
That’s probably why so many people simply do not trust the media or journalists at all. It’s also why the number of people getting their news and trusting what they hear from traditional sources has fallen off a cliff.
Journalists no longer act as watchdogs or investigate and report on government wrongdoing. They no longer protect the democracy that gave them legitimacy through the American Constitution’s First Amendment. We the people have a point; who needs them… or at least 55% of them?