Before you jump on the hate-the-media bandwagon, read this

As a child, even as a child professing great interest in becoming a journalist, I was thoroughly instructed on the “liberal bias” of the media. Maybe I was encouraged to pursue that career so that I could counter-balance this terrible, truth-bending machine of liberal hounds.

Maybe that’s not actually a bad reason to become a journalist at all.

But here’s the thing – after going through journalism school, at two different colleges, and working as a member of this supposed bastion of liberalism at two different papers, and with a husband currently writing news for another news organization – after all that, I still just can’t believe in the great liberal conspiracy of “the media.”

Sidenote– that phrase – “the media” irks me. As if it were some evil overlord, some satanic force that we had no choice but to live underneath. Media takes a million different forms, and many, many, many of them are NOT news sources. Youtube is THE MEDIA. Facebook is THE MEDIA. All the conservative/liberal/Democratic/Republican blogs/pseudo news sites that you read – those are also THE MEDIA.

But they are not sources of news – they are not driven by reporters/editors who are seeking news stories from the angle of truth. They are driven by people trying to only find news/rumors that support their own particular stripe of beliefs or political affiliations.

Am I saying all news organizations are filled with totally unbiased, truth-seeking, objective reporters? Of course not.

After all, there’s always Fox News.  Ooooh, yes. I went there.

There’s also the NY Times. Yes, I agree, they ARE, in fact, left-leaning.

However, would they report on the failure/scandal of a Democratic senator/president? Absolutely.

And there’s always that other newspaper in New York… You know, the most famous paper in the nation besides the NY Times, come on, I know you got this – oh, that’s right,

The Wall Street Journal. The MOST unabashedly conservative newspaper in the nation.

So if you wanna focus on the NY Times (a newspaper thousands of miles away from most of us in this nation, and printing mostly international news) then I suppose you can cry “Liberal!”

And if you wanna complain about The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, sure, you could scream “Right-wing bias!”

But while you’re focused on a few faraway news organizations, there are literally thousands of hard-working, truth-seeking reporters working their butts off all over the nation at your local newspapers and TV stations, trying to report the news to you as accurately as they can.

Sometimes I get frustrated with the Houston Chronicle for having what seems to be a liberal bias in their opinion section, but before I run off screaming about how the whole paper is completely, hopelessly biased, I try to read a lot of opinion columns.

And here’s what I find:

Nationally-syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker opining about Santorum and Romney and quoting the Bible and pretty much straight-up endorsing Santorum. That’s right – Santorum, probably one of the most conservative candidates EVER to run for president.

And another one by Parker, in which she lands squarely on the side of conservatives and Catholics in supporting religious freedom.

Here’s one by David Brooks, in which he quotes C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and talks about the Bible and Christianity in trying to explain the mass murder of civilians in Afghanistan.

Another by Brooks, criticizing Obama’s policies.

And, getting even more local, for those of you in the Bay Area, here’s an opinion column written by Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and printed in the Bay Area Citizen, criticizing Obama’s healthcare law.

And here’s a really great example of journalists working to be objective in their coverage – an opinion column by Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times defending/supporting the Kony 2012 video and its creator, who has been viciously attacked by many liberals.

Now, I realize these are opinion columns, not news articles, but obviously it would take more time and space than I have here to compare articles from all the news organizations in the nation, so instead let me just address a main complaint from those who believe in the liberal media conspiracy.

Something that gets picked up and repeated a lot rather unthinkingly is that “they” (i.e. THE MEDIA) don’t cover certain “conservative” events. One angry comment I saw recently was about the media “probably not” covering a Ron Paul campaign event, in which some (maybe a few hundred at the most) veterans symbolically turned their back on the White House, and, therefore, their Commander in Chief, Obama.

I don’t know if it was covered by a news organization (the commenter didn’t know either – assumptions), but I do know a lot of reasons it might not have been.

1.) Cover a Ron Paul event, and, for the sake of balanced coverage, you have to cover similar campaign events for all the other campaigns (at the time there were still about 10 Republican candidates in the race).

2.) Limited resources. Reporters can only be so many places. And there are a lot of campaign events/protests.

3.) Definition of news. Hard to tell from the picture I saw, but, as I said, looked like maybe a few hundred people showed up, and that’s a generous estimate. If, say, a couple thousand had showed up it might have been newsworthy. Journalism 101 – Part of the definition of news is “unusual.” But some people protesting on the lawn in front of the White House is far from something unusual. There are seriously not enough reporters in the world to cover every single protest that occurs in Washington, D.C. every day.

And, finally – I saw this in the Houston Chronicle the other day. That’s right – a couple hundred protestors speaking out against Obama’s birth control mandate. And it got covered by your local newspaper – photos and everything. (This particular story is in a Chronicle-related blog, but I saw it in the print edition first.)

Just like it wouldn’t be fair for me to have a bad experience with a lawyer and then go out and accuse all lawyers of being ruthless sharks, it’s not fair to accuse ALL media everywhere of having a liberal OR conservative bias.

Just like it wouldn’t be fair to accuse all Marines of being coarse, rude and offensive just because I saw a photo of some Marines peeing on dead bodies, it’s not right to take an example of a rude journalist and accuse all reporters of caring for nothing but their own agenda.

I could go on with examples, but I hope that if you’re a lawyer or Marine (or Journalist!) or know someone who is, that you will be offended enough by the above examples to understand my point.

For some reason, this hate-the-media bandwagon has really caught fire and spread on both sides of the political aisle – maybe the one thing that unites the two parties these days?

And if both sides, liberal and conservative, are upset about what the media’s covering, that should be a big hint that the media is doing their job right.

Because we all know BOTH types of people are guilty of terrible things – and it’s the media’s job to cover it all.

So, instead of jumping on the hate-the-media bandwagon, here’s what I propose:

1.) Don’t shoot the messenger. Especially when you’ve never met him so you can’t possibly know his personal bias/motives.

2,) Check out his message – thoroughly. Chances are he has better resources than you and probably used them all before he printed that story. But check it out anyways.

3.) If you still think after checking his message that you don’t like the way he’s delivering the message, stop arm-chair reporting and get in there and do a better job.

4.) And, lastly (or maybe firstly?) – remember THE MEDIA is just made up of a bunch of individuals with their own individual biases, upbringings, and agendas. (No, it really isn’t some EVIL CONSPIRACY, determined to RUIN YOUR LIFE and spread the EVIL GOSPEL.) So if you want to see more of your own bias in the media, infiltrate it!
If more conservative Christian parents were encouraging their children to go out into the journalism world and tell the truth (which my parents did), instead of continuously lambasting the journalism world, then maybe we’d have more conservative Christian perspectives IN the media.

Maybe it’s time we took a little personal responsibility? Just a thought.


2 thoughts on “Before you jump on the hate-the-media bandwagon, read this

  1. good thoughts Jenny.

    I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of reporters in general. simply because, in my immediate personal experience, I have yet to be connected with a news story that was accurately reported. I’m not talking about bias, just basic facts. so sad. and this from a girl who grew up half dreaming of being a writer herself… 😉

    that having been said, you just eloquently stated something that has been teasing at the edges of my brain lately. I’ve heard just enough liberals scream about “media bias”, just as loudly and angrily as the conservatives, to wonder if this story is really entirely one sided.

    and by the way, every time I’m feeling especially annoyed with a news story that I’d bet my life isn’t the real story, I think of my friend Jenny, and I’m reminded that there are good journalists out there. we just need more of them is all! 😉

  2. Thanks, Brandy! I don’t feel like I’m really a great journalist, but it’s because you’re right – there are a lot of really great reporters out there, many of whom I’ve been privileged to know and work with.
    And it’s my experience as a reporter that’s taught me how much hard work, phone calls and e-mails and just plain, old-fashioned beating the pavement that goes into getting a story done.
    It’s so easy to sit behind our computers and say we’ve never read an accurate news story, but a lot harder to admit that maybe we just don’t want to believe the news that the reporter found out through some pretty tough work.
    Reporters, the really serious ones, who want to keep their jobs and not get sued for libel, do not just print whatever the heck they feel like printing (disclaimer: there is one small, local paper that comes to mind as far as bad reporting – but even they are ever-mindful of the potential to be sued). See, the thing is once you print something as a member of the press, you have a huge responsibility to be able to back it up. If you can’t and you make someone upset, which, like you, most Americans do get upset at the media sometimes, they can sue the source of the story for libel.
    Did you know that they can even sue a newspaper for printing something accusatory and/or inaccurate in a letter to the editor? Yes, that’s right – even if some other non-newspaper connected citizen wrote the inaccurate statement, the newspaper can still be sued for printing and distributing false information about a person.
    So, I very, very much doubt that you’ve “never connected with a news story that was accurately reported.” Of course, you have, and you do, all the time.
    Whether you like what the reporter found out about a news story…. well, that’s another matter. 🙂
    But please, please – do not lightly brush off the hard work and important sources that reporters have access to without at least checking their story. And I don’t know where you’d check it except another media source…. 😉 Ironic, eh? We don’t trust the media, so we check it out with other….media stories.
    But trust me – these people are doing their work with fear and trembling and LOTS of hours trying to make sure they get the facts right.

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