An ideological press is an impotent press

October 11, 2015

TiggerMediaBiasGene Policinski, had a column last Tuesday on National Newspaper Week that opened with “The power of the press rests in the ability of journalists to hold government accountable, to mobilize public opinion on matters that are important to individuals, communities or the nation, and to provide necessary information of value.”

While I have no doubt the Founders would give the “hold government accountable” resounding applause, I am not nearly as confident they’d be as accepting of the “provide necessary information of value”and “mobilize public opinion” segments.

Point being in just who determines what is “necessary” and what has “value”? Are newspapers today a robust coalition of diversity of thought with each doing its own part to fully inform the public and live up its Constitutionally protected status? Or have the majority of them become but echo chambers of group think? Like minded individuals churning out like minded “news” reflecting only a singular “value”?

Does climate change get reported with the scrutiny and skepticism that actually exists among scientists outside the religion of climatology or does the “97 percent of scientists agree” continue to be printed without any context to the unscientific method and self admitted climate activism of the author of that “study”?

When the headline is another senseless killing of innocents by yet another mentally unbalanced individual does the coverage report the multifaceted problem of mental health, Hollywood and video game violence, a devolved and desensitized society, and fatherless households, or does it parrot the monolithic “it’s the gun lobby’s fault”?

In the past six years that have seen the Fast and Furious gun running operation, the IRS targeting conservative organizations and individuals and EPA executives using email aliases to subvert disclosure requirements, did the coverage get to the truth or did it stop at administration talking points and move on to the next story?

Is the reporting on the Benghazi select committee focused on the new information being uncovered or is it a reprint of Democrat talking points desperate to distract the public and move on?

When President Obama touts 16 million Obamacare enrollees, does the coverage report that well over half that number is from a misguided expansion of Medicaid that is costing tens of billions of dollars without providing actual increased access to care or that millions more of that number are from people that were kicked off their old plans?

And does any story on the President bragging about lowering the budget deficit bother to inform the public that even Obama’s lowest deficit is still the highest in history? Or of the trillions of dollars he’s stolen from our children to pay for his politics of today?

For all the ink and pixels dedicated to those top stories to date, the reporting has leaned far more to the “mobilize public opinion” towards one particular ideology than the “speak truth to power” envisioned by our forefathers.

Is it not surprising then that the Gallup organization’s latest trust in media poll (September 28, 2015) reveals that only 4 in 10 Americans have “trust and confidence in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly.”?

Thomas Jefferson warned of such over two centuries ago when in an 1807 letter to Tomas Seymour he noted: “The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood.”

If the “press” is ever to regain the public trust and provide the reporting that we so desperately need, it must find a way to let go the constraints of group think and embrace the freedom of independent thought the Founders intended.

Else, it and us will remain forever impotent against those who wish to rule over us.

PUBLISHER NOTE:  A version of this column first appeared in the October 11, 2015 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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