Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Death of Objective Reporting

I have been wondering for a while now what happened to straight forward journalistic reporting? I can remember a time in the not too distant past when I would open a newspaper or magazine, read an article and then formulate my opinion based on the facts presented in the article. Now you can't read an article or turn on the TV without being told HOW to feel about the “facts” presented. I hate that. It's most prevalent in politics or politically charged issues, but it is even seeping just into general news stories. I know the “liberal media” has been accused of doing this for years and many of them are guilty of biased reporting, yet the right does it just as much. Which leads me back to the question of what happened to actual journalists? It seems like all we have now are self-serving pundits trying to fan the fires of half-truths, omission, and just outright lies.

I skip through channels late at night and catch news from CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc. The other night Fox led with something to the effect of “Stay tuned to learn how Obama is continuing to ruin this country.” In all fairness there's the opposite end of the spectrum on MSNBC. Why can't they just report factually the decisions Obama (or anyone for that matter) has made and let us, as the viewers, decide whether we think he is ruining America or not? Obama is just a singular example. The same bias can be applied to almost any partisan person and issue. Apparently, all media thinks the general public is much too stupid to actually formulate any decisions on our own. We must certainly need them to tell us how to think and how to feel.
Lest we think this is just a national problem or a television problem, it's not. I read an article in a local right-winged journal based out of Brooklyn that was reporting on a situation that was happening in one of our many school districts here in Tucson. She repeatedly, throughout the article, referred to the school district as Tucson's School District as if Tucson only had one. Completely erroneous. Further she was outraged at the fact that the school district in question had come up with a disciplinary plan that was specifically for minorities and that this plan had to address why minorities were disciplined at a higher rate and how to address this. The way the entire article was framed would elicit outrage out of even the most liberal of readers, which was obviously the point, as it not only implied but pretty much said that if you were white you could expect to be stuffed into classrooms with Mexicans and Blacks who were hoodlums that should be suspended but whom the district now would not suspend, lest they seem racist.

What this author failed to point out was WHY this discipline plan was submitted. It seems like the sin of omission is commonplace in reporting now. They tell just enough to get everyone fired up without giving any of the background, history, or reasons that led to the “outrageous moment.” It would be like saying, “Man clubs neighborhood dog to death with a baseball bat” leading everyone to think he has a screw loose and failing to mention he did so because the dog was attacking his baby daughter. In this case, this school district is trying to get out of a 20+ year old desegregation order and in order to be in compliance the judge ORDERED the district to submit this plan. What this author also failed to mention was that the discipline plans are IDENTICAL but one is labeled “Minority.” Had they not submitted this plan the proceedings to break free from this desegregation order would not continue. Anyone not from Tucson would have no idea and appropriately would be outraged. Even many in and from Tucson aren't necessarily aware of the legalities and after seeing this article propagated as fact and wholly accurate the author or those dispersing the article are successful in eliciting the emotional response they desire while ignoring the facts.

I like to be aware of current events. I like to be given the specifics, the facts, void of any emotion or personal feelings attached. I trust myself to be able to decide how I feel about certain topics be it politics, religion, education, or even just local events that only affect a few. I was told recently, during a discussion, that I looked at things “too logically, too rationally” and maybe that is why I have such a difficult time stomaching what passes as “news” or “journalism” these days. I also would venture to bet though that there are a lot more people like me out there who would prefer their news to be a bit more logical and rational and not illogical, irrational, emotional, and biased.

So, what do you think of journalism these days? What concerns you most?

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