I started singing bye, bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die
So goes a mournful tomb by singer/songwriter Don McClean immortalizing the 1959 deaths in a plane crash of rock ‘n roll icons Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.
Just as the music died that fateful day so too has the profession of journalism died in 2020. Likely nobody will write a song about it, but the death of objective reporting of actual news by the national media has vanished as surely as that plane fell from the sky.
Now it is true that objective journalism has not always been the norm in America. In the early days of the republic extending thru the post-Civil War Gilded Era newspapers (radio and television had not yet been invented) often openly displayed partisanship with cities and smaller towns having competing publications. Some newspapers even put their party affiliation in on their masthead; the Republican Herald in Pottsville, founded in 1884 is a reminder of that past.
As the nation lurched its way through the 20th century, with radio and then television providing competition, journalism matured with reporters and editors striving to provide balanced news coverage with a goal of informing public opinion not shaping it.
The media often fell short of that ideal. In 1970 then Vice President Spiro Agnew described the press as “nattering nabobs of negativism.” It would be interesting to hear how he would describe the media’s current descent into the journalistic cellar. In the decades since the national news media has become increasingly elitist. With the current 24-hour news cycle, and cable news networks battling for viewers, reporting has become hyper-partisan in an attempt to find a niche audience large enough to make their programs economically viable.
Print media, on the verge of extinction, has also swaddled itself in openly biased reporting. How many times has the media referred to Donald Trump’s rhetoric as “hateful?” That adjective is subjective. Where the Left sees President Trump’s stout defense of American values and patriotism as “hateful,” mainstream Americans view him as upholding everything we hold dear. Rather than reflect the conflicting views of the term, the national news media has chosen a side.
The bias extends past reporters and cable news talking heads to editors and producers. The highly incriminating e-mails found on Hunter Biden’s now infamous laptop have been ignored by the Leftwing news media. Imagine if you will had a laptop been found indicating one of the Trump kids had sold influence to a foreign power and reserved some of the cash for the “big guy” if the “big guy” were Donald Trump and not Joe Biden?
Imagine also the reaction of the Leftwing news media had Donald Trump barricaded himself in the White House emerging once or twice a week and refusing to take their questions? Joe Biden has stiffed them and they are too busy covering his flank to cover the news.
And now social media censors have joined in the media conspiracy. Facebook and Twitter have frozen accounts and banned posts referring to the Hunter Biden e-mail scandal. That has backfired and they now face the very real possibility of losing their legal protections as congressional investigations get underway.
However, all is not lost. To the degree any shred of journalistic integrity still exists it can be found at the local level. The Bucks County Courier Times for example published a well-researched expose into COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes due to the policies of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. At the state level, a consortium of newspapers has pooled resources to fund the Spotlight which employs actual journalists doing actual reporting.
Media bias is of course assumed by Republicans and those on the center-Right. The difference this year is the national news media has shed any pretense of objectivity. As a result, the burden is now on the consumer to understand the bias of the “news” they are getting and to dig deeper to learn actual facts.
It is necessary to do this because this is the year journalism died.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly American Radio Journal and Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected])
Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.