The national media has a left-leaning bias, and that bias has a tendency to go into hyper-drive during election years.
Conservatives have been arguing that fact going as far back as the 1960s. Despite the complaining, the mainstream media have been consistent with their slant and it does not look like it will be changing anytime soon — particularly during this election cycle.
Conservatives have been able to change the landscape somewhat — with the rise of talk radio and the advent of more center-right outlets like Fox News — so that now they at least have a few microphones in the marketplace.
But the casual consumer of news who tunes in for a few days during presidential elections, natural disasters, tragedies or when something major happens in the world of celebrities, the news they see is likely through the prism of a left-leaning journalist. And without having that as a basis of understanding, the view of what they are told is going on in the world will arguably be somewhat distorted.
There is enough proof to make the case that the media have traditionally favored the left-of-center politicians and policy positions. The data is both implicit and explicit.
Based on the 2016 presidential campaign alone, it is obvious mainstream news outlets prefer to spend more time focusing on the wrongdoings of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump than the wrongdoings of his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. We also know based on the WikiLeaks emails that the media have actively colluded with Democratic politicians.
This has an impact on the election and polling. It’s not to say Trump is not worthy of media scrutiny, but in this campaign the level of scrutiny seems very asymmetrical.
Last week, after WikiLeaks dumped its first tranche of emails — which included some damning information about Clinton that would probably have sunk her campaign under normal circumstances — the three newscasts on the broadcast networks spent a grand total of 56 seconds (including no mention at all on NBC’s “Nightly News”) compared to a combined 23 minutes on Trump.
The question we should ask is, why are the media doing this? Why risk credibility, ratings, ad revenue, etc., by being one-sided?
Some think the media are really trying to transform the country. They think the media see progressive policies that will get the country closer to a European socialist democracy as being what is best for America. Therefore, they are using their platform to make that case.
If only it were that noble.
What is behind the bias in many cases isn’t good intentions. Instead, it is an effort to curry favor with those in power.
Consider this: All along, the coastal elites have never given Trump a shot. This goes back to the primary contests. Many thought he wouldn’t even make it to the Iowa caucuses. And if he did, he wouldn’t be on the ballot beyond the first four primary contests.
In their view, Trump at some point was going to say or do something that would be disqualifying and that would be the end of his candidacy.
That moment never really happened. He certainly did some ill-advised things — questioned John McCain’s status as a war hero, tweeted or retweeted ridiculous things, dabbled in conspiracy theory.
Yet, it still never happened. Trump’s missteps never derailed his campaign and here we are, mid-October of a presidential election year, and this man still has a shot at winning the White House.
For those in the media, however, all along the smart bet was on Hillary. In their eyes, there is no possible way the American people will elect Trump. He has so much working against him. Heck, there’s even a very vocal part of his own party that is still actively working against him, their nominee.
If you’re a well-placed member of the media and you believe Clinton is probably going to be the next president of the United States, you are probably looking to show yourself as a friendly journalist with whom Clinton and her future administration can work. You don’t want to scrutinize her too much because, come January 2017, she and her White House staff might have a long memory.
Hillary has already shown she’s not the most media-friendly candidate. She went 278 days without hosting a press conference on the campaign trail. It stands to reason if you want that big, President Hillary Clinton exclusive interview, you better start now working your angle.
Yes, the media are liberal for the most part, but they’re not playing a completely ideological game this election cycle. Obviously, there is still disdain for this vulgarian Donald Trump that is guiding news coverage, as well as liberal orthodoxies. But it is the smart business move for many news outlets.
It is not just getting access to the White House.
Say you’re the Pentagon reporter for CNN. You’re not expecting to get a one-on-one with President Hillary Clinton. But high-ranking administration officials in the Pentagon see your outlet as where they like to leak information or give a head’s up on an announcement before any other media outlet.
Why play ball with Fox News? Their thinking is they were pro-Trump and they might make us look bad.
There are business reasons for outlets from top to bottom to make these sorts of decisions.
If you’re a reporter and your motivation for one-sided reporting were purely ideological, you likely would not strive to work at a place that purports to be biased. Why wouldn’t you work where you can openly produce journalism that allows you to advance your cause, whatever that may be?
For example, if you’re a hardcore Alabama fan who’s in the field of sports journalism, are you going to covertly go work at the Birmingham News to undermine the Auburn Tigers? Or are you going to try to gain employment at TiderInsider.com?
In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be a discussion. We are taught in college and graduate school that journalists are to follow the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics: Seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable and transparent.
To assume that the reporters who have made their way into national prominence have adhered to these principles is naïve. It’s not to say all have abandoned ethical journalism, but with so much power at stake, smart communications staffers, especially on the Democratic side, have figured out ways to get the message they want out in the media.
Perhaps this will change someday. Broadcast news is dying. Print newspapers are struggling. This business model leaves much to be desired. But, it’s not something that is going to change overnight.
In the meantime, the best way to consume news is to be skeptical, regardless of the outlet, right or left. If a publication drops a big bombshell about a candidate, consider the source and do not think they are necessarily acting in the best interest of U.S. democracy with their reportage.