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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dear Media: Is Fox Your Master?

For some reason, Americans are supposed to accept a biased report on all issues out of your fear of being condemned for being too liberal by people who, quite sincerely, have their own bias and their own media. The conservative media is an astounding conglomerate of groups who report the same misinformation to create conspiracies and encourage hate and fear. They have a cable television channel with the word 'news' in its title, they have a myriad of bloggers that right wing consumers accept as journalists, they have noted radio personalities and they have their hands in many of the nations largest newspapers. This is literally an entire market that, due to freedoms of the press and speech, Americans have to accept as being a part of our society and hope that the rest of Americans have enough sophistication to know the difference. However, we should not then be forced to accept that the rest of our media opt to follow them directly down the rabbit hole.

You are literally allowing them to direct the narrative in America. As a resource, I offer you this: every morning open this link and watch it on your way to work while reminding yourself that your sole responsibility as a journalist is to offer the country true journalism completely devoid of anything that would be found on a station which would air this in something other than a diatribe against what the worst of our society has to offer. (You are quite welcome).

I am amazed quite often at the times media are compelled to retract and apologize for inaccurate information. Recently several media outlets had to retract a story that had only been aired on Fox about a black man in Baltimore having been shot in the back by a police officer. How is it possible to have a cable television channel which has been discredited countless times not just for journalism in specific stories, but as a news outlet altogether, lead the narrative for any media that would want to be noted as creditworthy? No true journalist in America believes that the stories or opinions they offer are based on fact. Then how can anyone excitedly pick up their reporting and offer it to a respectable audience? Because you are lazy.

Your laziness has been on display lately as all news stations started reporting on the varied answers Jeb Bush has offered about whether or not he would've taken us into Iraq if he'd known then what we know now. I mean, it was such a triumph, right? Because he was changing his answer again and again. And you have been conditioned to know a 'flip-flop' when you hear one and pounce. Oh how exciting. In all of your excitement you missed the opportunity, as journalists, to ask yourselves, "So, if the 'hard-hitting' question that stumped him came from the Fox channel, should it be repeated to others or should I take a minute to analyze the question to at least make sure the facts are included in the question and any responses?" Instead, you repeated the question and allowed the answer to then direct or conclude the narrative with no contradiction. None of the candidates or pundits are being corrected when offering their denouncement of GW Bush to reply, "By the way, Hillary Clinton doesn't want to have to answer this question, either." She has already given us her answer. And no one is taking the time to remind us of that. Is fair journalism only a concern when attempting to deflect scorn from the right? Christ!

That has concluded every dialogue offered. And that pissed me off. I was so pissed off that I managed to miss the even bigger failure pointed out by Rachel Maddow last night (there is a reason one of us has a television show and the other has a blog (wink)). Once the generic slant is offered back to Secretary Clinton, it is then your responsibility to interrupt and inform your audience who may not be aware by inserting into the dialogue "To correct you quickly [fill in the blank with name of candidate or pundit], Secretary Clinton has already answered that question in her book. And she was not a member of the administration who commissioned the answer then offered to Congress." (You will be forgiven for finding a more respectful way of saying that, but not for omitting it altogether). The onus is on you, the journalist, whose job is to inform America, to remind us of the context of the questions and their answers. You cannot expect your newsmakers to give honest accounts. And you cannot expect your audience to know everything, otherwise, we wouldn't need you, would we?

This morning in an interview with Rand Paul on CNN, the candidate was asked about what he would do about ISIS. He delved into a discussion where he inserted a sentence, unchallenged even though this was obviously pre-recorded, saying that President Obama wasn't hard on terrorism because he called the attacks on Fort Hood 'workplace violence' instead of 'terrorism,' the word Paul, apparently, would prefer be used. This is a favorite talking point repeated in the right-wing media. But on CNN, this new idea to the thoughtful American audience was allowed to air without having been questioned. Of course, the interview was concluded by Alisyn Camerota asking about his curly hair and its maintenance. I guess we couldn't really be expected to find anything integral from that piece of journalism, so were we meant to discount the entire interview? In asking for so many contrived understandings, you are asking a lot of your audience.

In 2013, CBS apologized for misinformation offered in an interview of a source using an assumed name about Benghazi that ended up to have been proven false. It was not a live broadcast. The story offered was not vetted and was offered to America as fact. CBS bore a lot of criticism from many journalistic outfits for this failure and for the retraction which was insincere and offered no explanation for their profound neglect. Here is a way to avoid this in the future: If someone wants to use an assumed name, be damned sure you know that they are legit. Also, again, if the story is about something only the right wing is excitedly jumping all over, there is a very very good chance its bullshit.

We learned from tabloid print, and then tabloid television, that people get really excited when something negative happens or someone says something derogatory about another person in America. And those stories sell copy or ad space. And news outlets, at their core, are moneymaking businesses. I suppose Americans are just supposed to accept that you will run this type of content to make money? I don't accept it. I don't accept that because something is outrageous I should hear about it every hour on the 24/7 news channels. I don't accept that you compel your viewers to come back so you can tell them the same thing you told them the last hour. I don't accept that you are giving me garbage because you don't demand more of yourselves.

It is unfathomable that a man like Peter Schweitzer can publish a book and outlets which we are supposed to consider legitimate report on it. It is hardly newsworthy that he has written another book. New books are released every week. You might find it newsworthy that less reputable news outlets are reporting on an, as yet, unreleased book by a man who has been discredited at least 10 times. Otherwise, it is not newsworthy. Let the right wing media cover it. Let America see distinction in the media who don't cover the tabloidesque stories. I feel insulted when I hear these ridiculous stories coming from anyone other than right wing talking heads. It is as if those of us who are intelligent and genuinely want to know what is going on in the world are either irrelevant or expendable as an audience. Please give the rest of America the respect we are due and just ignore the stories that are, quite obviously, garbage.

The New York Times and Washington Post were contractually obligated to report on the book release. What kind of shit is that? So, before its release, they were "briefed on the books findings" along with major Republican candidates for the 2016 Presidential election, and, without having read a single word of the book, without having vetted a single contention, its conspiratorial information was reported to America. We were not offered information about the illegitimacy of his many past 'findings.' It is not journalism to assume your readership has such information. And it certainly isn't journalism to report on what is, quite obviously, slanderous nonsense meant to be released just as Secretary Clinton is beginning her campaign for the Presidency. The New York Times mentioned the fact that the book was published by a News Corp company, but neglected to tell its readers that News Corp is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the Fox cable channel with the word "news" in its name.

Upon its release (when people actually had read it and were able to vet the information they were reporting on), Amazon immediately released a message to buyers that significant changes had been made to the Kindle copies purchased. But, of course, the damage has been done. The negative associations attributed to Secretary Clinton that were all based on supposition are now ingrained in the minds of Americans. And that was the objective. And you did that.

That distinction is what would make you the legitimate media, at present you are not. You would actually prove your legitimacy by reporting on the discredited outlets who did report on it and then had to retract their contentions while holding yourself in esteem for having ignored it altogether. But when you end up adding your own retractions to the list, you become their equal. Ill bet that as a journalist or a media outlet, that thought just kind of made you queasy. If it were my career, it would certainly offer me a nauseated pause.

Deliberately neglecting to inform Americans about the goings on in the country is bias. The majority of Americans still support a woman's right to choose offered by Roe V Wade. However, a House Bill passed last week to limit those rights profoundly and Americans weren't informed of it by the major 3 (PBS did cover the story). This bill, if passed, would be cruel and potentially dangerous, as many birth defects are not detectible until after 20 weeks. Not only were Americans not made aware of the passing of this bill, but they were not offered the contradictory information where the Supreme Court found in Colautti V. Franklin:
Because this point [of viability] may differ with each pregnancy, neither the legislature nor the courts may proclaim one of the elements entering into the ascertainment of viability — be it weeks of gestation or fetal weight or any other single factor — as the determinant of when the State has a compelling interest in the life or health of the fetus.

I want to attribute these failings to laziness and not bias. Please prove me right. If you have been lazy in allowing the right to manipulate the narrative, take it upon yourselves to seek truth in your stories and objectively offer your audience all of the information they need to be sincerely informed. As with every political season, I believe that this is one of the most important election cycles in a long time. I think I might be right this time, however. The right wing voters have become noticeably more extreme and all of the present candidates are speaking only to those people. If their dialogue becomes imprinted in the American mind in the next year and a half and they all get the seats they need in DC with the Presidency, we are fucked. I think anyone who can see what is really going on would say the same.

The really cool thing about your job and your industry is that you get to direct the narrative of America. You get to determine what we need to hear and in what manner it should be delivered. That is a very heavy responsibility. How can you allow that responsibility to be dictated by the least credible sources in the industry? They have very overt biases. The rest should not.

We will quickly begin to see noticeable changes in journalism once a few adjustments are made. For instance, there will be little need for phrases like "a credible source has said." The sources credibility should either be clearly defined or be named and allow the audience to interpret their credibility. It should be a rare occasion when your source should require anonymity. And, it should never be necessary in reporting on politics. Politics are, by nature, biased, we have to believe your sources aren't. Likewise, when reporting on 'a study' please offer your audience the information on who performed the study and who commissioned it. I can offer you a study of what people in an apartment complex think about property taxes, but neither I nor my findings would be remotely credible. The right-wing media have their very own studies. They are not reputable and intelligent people realize that. We don't want to have to question your findings, too.

Americans are growing impatient for something they can believe and not have to immediately discount for fear of its being 'more of the same.' Imagine what kind of respect will be afforded the outlet which decides to step up and offer that to us. (Just tell your owners and VPs that means lots of ratings, which means lots of money!!)

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