We aren’t big followers of Fox News, but that channel’s Chris Wallace recently made a good point.
Wallace has more credibility in the media world than most media talking heads. For one thing, he avoids off-tangent rants. Wallace also has three news Emmys at home, and served his apprenticeship as moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press” and other major-network talk shows.
In other words, Wallace has seen a lot of all sides of planet media, and is therefore more qualified to speak on the current state of affairs in the media sphere.
Wallace said last week that President Trump has “engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on a free press in our history …” then walked the statement back a few paces by also saying Trump’s relentless attack is based on the media’s bias against the president and his administration.
We agree with Wallace’s assessment, on all counts. However, we feel ethically compelled to add that just about any media outlet, business or citizen in America would fight back against tyrannical attacks from any source.
Wallace gave examples of the bias, citing, among many others, cable news CNN’s on-air correspondent reporting last summer that, “This White House has an unhealthy fixation on what I call the 3 M’s — the Mexicans, the Muslims and the media. Their policies tend to be crafted around bashing one of these three groups.”
Wallace followed with, do such comments belong on the front page of a newspaper, or the lead on the evening news?
What he’s referring to is a blending of news and opinion, a distinction that many Americans do not see. That is why most, if not all legitimate newspapers separate news from opinion by labeling opinions clearly on their editorial pages, as we do at this newspaper.
The problem with Trump’s attack on the media in general is that too many newsroom managers seem to take the president’s attack as license to counterattack, thus blurring the line between factual news and conjectural opinion.
What this all tells us is that President Trump has succeeded in drawing the media into an argument, rather than the media fulfilling its primary responsibility of impartially reporting the facts.
News is, by nature and too often inclination, biased, at least to a certain degree. That is because news is gathered by reporters, and the events they report on must navigate their way through a reporter’s lifetime of moral and ethical values instilled by parents, friends and society.
For us, what makes newspaper news so special is that a reporter’s take on a news story goes through a vetting wringer before the story goes into the paper. The process includes the original reporter writing and rewriting her or his report, followed by one or more editors who sift through every word and phrase to make sure the final published piece helps readers understand all elements of the issue, and to ensure the story gives readers enough facts to form their own opinions.
Is it a perfect process? Not even close. Media bias is real, but it also can be perceived in different ways, depending on the recipient’s range of values.
As much as we love the internet, social-media platforms have complicated public perception of the line between fact and fiction, real news and fake — which makes it exponentially more difficult for readers and viewers to separate news and opinion.
Still, our mission to bring readers the facts — and our take on those facts is on our Opinion Page — the same as it has been for generations.