Until I was 15 and moved to Southern California, I delivered newspapers for five years. Every day I came home with hands stained from printer’s ink. It is in my blood. I wore it with pride. I still receive the Wall Street Journal in print form and will until I die, or it dies. Most of my other news is delivered to my inbox every day. While reading something the other day, I looked at it and said to myself “I don’t believe a word you are saying.” Pseudo-journalists have greatly harmed our news sources. Let’s review why so many people think like I do.
News people have enlisted many practices that have destroyed their credibility:
Experts – If they dislike the position taken by someone, be it a political or business leader, they bring out the “experts.” “Experts say that blah, blah, blah.” When did we get to this point? Nameless, faceless experts. When you read a column like that sourcing nameless people — people that are unwilling to go on the record — you know the writer is either lazy or lying. If the “expert” is worthy but unwilling to go on record to establish the virtue of their positions, then they are not credible. If you are reading a column and the writer asserts “Experts say,” stop and move on because the remainder is a waste of your time.
Akin to that is unnamed sources. The anonymous source is used regularly now with the justification that the source must be protected. Why? The perfect example is the story that broke recently that multiple news operations misquoted President Trump regarding a call he had with a Georgia election official. A recording of the call surfaced two months later and proved the inflammatory language was never used. Yet no one at any of these operations was demoted or fired. There was no declaration of a change of operational practice to avoid this ever happening again. In fact, after their correction the Washington Post unleased their media critic, Eric Wemple, to acknowledge the correction, but viciously attack Trump.
Inflammatory language – “He blasted.” “She attacked.” Journalists extensively use these kinds of terms. Not so long ago, they refrained from using such incendiary language. You would just read “she stated.” They use words or phrases that just are meant to inflame – “sharp critic,” “lashed out,” “staunchly conservative.” You may notice they almost never state someone is a “radical Leftist.” A few other gems are “slams,” “GOP barrels toward,” Why Barrett “Dodged” or “he demands.” These are descriptive words and phrases better left to novels, not news articles. Which leads to the next area.
Inserting opinions in news articles – You read some of these colored words and then look to confirm you are on the front page. The column is not labeled anything other than a “news” piece. You read something on the internet, and you think (or are misled) it is a news feature until the writer starts injecting words that make it an opinion column. News should be news and opinion should be opinion. News should just report the facts and let us form our own opinion. That seems to have died in journalism schools.
Non–partisan – If a publication has a bent, they should not deceive us by stating they are non-partisan. A perfect example is Politico. I went on their website and they state they are non-partisan. Who are they kidding other than themselves? I like the publication and get many of their newsletters, but unless I missed the ones that are non-partisan everything I read is clearly to the left. Other publications label someone or a think tank non-partisan when they are clearly not. If you want a truly non-partisan operation, the only one I know is Real Clear Politics. They have managed to keep themselves clearly in the journalism lane.
Use of inappropriate language – Is it necessary for CNN’s Dana Bash to say (on-air) “We are on cable so I can say this, it is a Sh—Show.” Just because you can therefore you must? Anyone who knows me knows my favorite word begins with F. I am not being puritanical. There is public speech and there is private speech. We do not need public figures or journalists lowering our standards even more. Stick to appropriate language and you will garner greater respect.
Poor interviewers – Questions should be in the form of a question. One of the great sinners is Chris Wallace. “Don’t you think?” “Isn’t it so?” Ask a real question such as “What do think of President Biden’s border policy?” Then be quiet and wait for an answer. Another sin of which Mr. Wallace is guilty (which are many) is interrupting the interviewee to pose another question or insert a statement. This is extremely prevalent throughout TV journalists. Whether you like him or not, Tucker Carlson asks real questions and then lets the person answer while rarely interjecting with another question or comment. So often other people have someone on as a guest to just pontificate about their own thoughts instead of us learning from their guest.
Use of definitive terms – He “always” does that. She “never” says that. There are many words like that, and the truth is people almost never always do something. When my columns are edited and a word like that is used, I react in horror of how that got through. I used the word never in a recent column and it was appropriate, but it was still a rare exception. People know what you just said is not true because it cannot be.
Wild speculation – “He potentially exposed countless people at the WH, in Ohio, Minnesota, and New Jersey to the virus.” Really? You are supposed to be an educated person and you write that garbage. During our endless election period, how many times did you read “If this person
(fill in the name) gets elected, this (fill in the travesty) will happen.” How about all the wild speculation during the Amy Coney Barrett hearings? We were told this mild-mannered mother of seven who adopted two black, foreign orphans was going to bring America to the edge of Armageddon. People read this and most are too smart to think anything other than the author and their editor are heretics.
The worst part is they are just bad, lazy journalists. They do not analyze; they just regurgitate. There are many examples, and it has been going on for so long it is impossible to track all of it. A recent case was a report from the revered IMHE (Institute for Metrics and Evaluation) which stated if Americans wear masks at an increased rate, 130,000 lives will be saved by the end of February 2021. The study was in the supposedly respected scientific journal Nature Medicine. It was then picked up by over 100 publications and just reiterated by them without questioning the findings. The study was based on an outdated analysis of how many people are wearing masks. They used a figure of 49% versus the current number at the time of around 80%.
The press did not scrutinize the findings because the findings fit the narrative of the publications. They wanted that to be the story. In this case the publication would have not even had to analyze the study. All they would have needed to do is leave their protected havens and walk the communities they ignore. They would have noticed that 49% was a ridiculously low figure as almost everyone was wearing masks at the time – everywhere that people congregate. A little common sense would go a long way. Unfortunately, they appear to have little of such.
No wonder that 86% of Americans (according to Gallup) think the press has a built in bias. Only 24% have faith in newspapers and 18% in TV news and even less in the internet news. The press has a special place in our country and needs to be fair, responsible and unbiased except on the editorial page. They are sloppy, lazy, and poor guardians of our free press rights in their current version. It is an accepted truth that if you don’t protect your First Amendment rights they will diminish.
That the current crop of members of the press are such poor guardians of our rights is reason enough to hate them.