After months of Facebook posts about the two candidates and their many documented foibles, it seems this past week that the entire Facebook world has grown weary of candidate-besmirching and turned on the news media. So ponder this:
Yes, we have bias in media. But learn to recognize the difference between news content and commentary. Both are important and legitimate but they are different. It makes no sense to rant about “the news media bias” based on what some commentators on Fox or CNN said. That’s what they’re supposed to do: offer commentary. Read the stories on the front page of the newspaper. Listen to the stories in the actual newscast. When you read on the web, look to see if it’s a column or an opinion piece. Pay attention for crying out loud.
Don’t stop watching, listening and especially reading. Read widely and from real news sources. If you are spending your time on websites where every “story” is dedicated to telling “the real story” about the opposing candidate and all of those “real stories” are negative, chances are this is not a legitimate news site. It’s interest group commentary, which tends to be ill-informed and extremely biased. There are lots of these on the right and left. They’re mostly useless.
Stop blasting all reporters and journalists as evil and the scourge of our democracy. They are not. And suggesting that they are is as biased and illogical as suggesting that all cops are corrupt, or all immigrants are criminals or all Christians are crazy. Not true. Journalists are so much more like you than you imagine. They are college-educated men and women who chose reporting, writing and visual storytelling as a career. They have families to support, mortgages to pay, Little League teams to coach, school loans, car payments, family reunions to attend. These are the people who tell you about hurricanes, and fires, and kidnappings. They warned us about Ebola and Zika and shingles and e coli. They investigated the banking crisis and were the first to raise a flag of caution about financial corruption that led to the housing crisis. They give you the scores on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. They cover art shows and concerts and city council meetings and funerals. And sometimes they report stories people don’t like. But they do important work that is at the core of how this country works.
Sometimes they get it wrong. And sometimes their listeners and readers aren’t paying attention. Pay attention.
These are the sorts of people I’ve spent my life educating, editing and critiquing. No one has criticized them more than I have and few will defend them with more fervor.
Hate their editorial stance if you disagree with it. Challenge their commentary when it’s wrong. But thank them when you meet them for doing something very important, for working long hours, often for lousy pay, because they really believe it’s important to tell true stories well. And I believe that’s a noble profession.
Cheryl Mann Bacon, a professor of journalism, chairs Abilene Christian University’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication.