For years, we have been discussing the rapid loss of objectivity and neutrality in the media where most viewers no longer trust what they read or hear. Various cable networks and newspapers have openly embraced the echo-journalist model, including the shocking actions of the New York Times recently to apologize for publishing a dissenting view of the protests by the U.S. Senator. Figures like CNN’s Jeff Zucker have openly abandoned any semblance of objectivity to seek ratings from viewers who only want to see and hear news that confirms their political preferences. This week, a leading producer at MSNBC became the latest journalist to quit due to the pressure to shape coverage to such bias. I testified in the Senate yesterday of this trend as part of the erosion of free speech in the United States. Now a Gallup poll has confirmed what these owners and editors have done to journalism in the United States. Almost half of those polled said that they viewed media as “very biased.”
The poll by Knight Foundation and Gallup seems to shock many in the media but I do not know why. Many in the media has spent years in openly shaping the news to resist Donald Trump — just as some in the conservative media have done so in his defense. The difference is that the media is overwhelmingly and unrelentingly anti-Trump. President Donald Trump has said many things worthy of criticism, but many news outlets seem to be actively working for the election of Joe Biden. This includes softball interviews that are so fawning and feeble that they are cringeworthy.
What is most interesting is that most Democrats are happy with the bias. The study found that 71% of Republicans have a “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable opinion of the news media while 54% of Democrats have a very favorable view of the media. Only 22% of Democrats view the media in a very or somewhat unfavorable light. Just 13% of Republicans hold favorable views of the media. That is a sizable percentage of the population but they have been effectively written off by newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times.
The study notably found that 73% of feel that there is too much bias in the news — an increase from 65% two years ago. This includes 54% of Americans who believe that reporters now regularly misrepresent facts and 28% who said reporters were making things up in their entirety.
They are correct. We have written how newspapers like the Washington Post have written demonstrably false accounts of even court rulings as well as facially unsound legal theories. Most of the complaints however are the simple refusal to publish stories that contradict a uniform narrative or orthodox view in the media.
The resignation of MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary raises the same objections of other journalists who have been forced out media outlets. The producer for MSNBC’s second-most-watched program, “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” wrote “I don’t know what I’m going to do next exactly but I simply couldn’t stay there anymore.” She stated:
The longer I was at MSNBC, the more I saw such choices — it’s practically baked into the editorial process — and those decisions affect news content every day. Likewise, it’s taboo to discuss how the ratings scheme distorts content, or it’s simply taken for granted, because everyone in the commercial broadcast news industry is doing the exact same thing…But behind closed doors, industry leaders will admit the damage that’s being done.”
The damage is evident in this and other polls. Media executives and many reporters are grabbing guaranteed ratings from echo-journalism while destroying their profession. Most Americans are not the core cable viewers who want to only hear news that confirm their bias. I come from a very liberal and Democratic Chicago family but many of my family complaint that they cannot find reliable news. These short-term strategies of figures like Zucker are killing the profession with a return to yellow journalism. News is becoming a form of entertainment masquerading as journalism.
The problem is that fewer and fewer Americans seem to be buying it.