It’s popular for those on the political right to disparage journalists, calling them enemies of the people as a result of the misguided belief that mainstream media are all biased or that they all lie.
That’s a convenient (and profitable) narrative for the likes of Fox, Infowars, OAN, NewsMax, Breitbart, Epoch Times, the entire litany of rightwing radio pundits, and the superficial and conspiracy-laden social media.
All of these supposed “truth tellers” have carved out billions in profits following the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, which required electronic media to operate in the public interest and to clearly differentiate opinion from news. (FYI, The Fairness Doctrine was a casualty of Reagan and his Republican Party who were still angry at news media over the Washington Post’s exposure of Watergate and Walter Cronkite’s broadcasts from South Vietnam which effectively led to the end of the Vietnam War.)
The reality is that real journalists – mainstream media journalists – serve a critical function in our democracy. As part of the constitutionally guaranteed free press, their work holds government officials and politicians accountable. Certainly, some slant stories (consciously or subconsciously) to favor their political views. But the vast majority try to maintain objectivity. Moreover, they cannot simply air or publish their opinions as news. They must have multiple sources and prove to their editors that their stories are true. If not, they risk losing their jobs since no legitimate news media wants to be proven unreliable and betray the trust of their audiences.
How do I know this?
Because I have a journalism degree and I taught in journalism schools. As a student, I was schooled in ethics. I was taught how to track down sources and how to verify their stories. I had articles rejected because the support for them was considered too thin. For a short time, I worked as a reporter. I worked in newspapers, radio and television. I have known a number of well-respected television news anchors. And I have learned from some of the world’s best investigative reporters.
Many journalists risk their lives to bring you the truth. Indeed, 67 were killed in 2022 alone. They report from war zones. They uncover hardened criminals, gangs and terrorists. Without them, we would know little of what goes on in foreign capitals, in Washington DC, in statehouses, or in city halls.
That’s why I’m so dismayed to see media outlets, such as Fox, lie while claiming to be “fair and balanced.” Thankfully, as a result of the Dominion lawsuit – with its transcripts of depositions and internal text messages made public – we now have proof of Fox’s depravity. Likewise, the Sandy Hook parents’ lawsuits against Alex Jones and his Infowars revealed the extent of his conspiracy theories and rightwing lies.
Such media are the real enemies of the people! They intentionally divide us and undermine our democracy. And they do the bidding of our nation’s greatest adversaries.
The revelations of their wrongdoing should serve as a warning to everyone to choose news sources wisely. Despite budget cuts, consolidation and corporate ownership, mainstream media are still the most reliable. ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, NPR, PBS, Washington Post, New York Times and most other big city newspapers still have high standards for reporting the truth. There are also great international news sources such as BBC, The Guardian and ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
And if you want to know the truth, you can’t settle for soundbites. It takes a little extra time and effort to read beyond the headlines. But it’s absolutely necessary. A healthy democracy requires an informed citizenry.