Sees lack of balance, lots of bias in news reporting

To the editor:

On Boston Marathon day, I heard a CNN correspondent during coverage of the bombings say, “if this was terror, we don’t know yet if this was terror.”

What? Of course it was a terroristic attack, no matter who the perpetrators are. It’s only due to ongoing political propaganda that some acts of terror are recognized and identified as such, while others aren’t. (Think Boston vs. Newtown.)

There’s an example from one of the most trusted news outlets, of ridiculous politic-speak (political correctness, partisan correctness bull, in other words).

It just goes to show that CNN is just as prone as other news outlets to pass off bull or drivel, due in part to the 24-hour news cycle and the shameful political partisanship of our federal government. But it is also the fault of the public, the paying public.

Supply and demand drive the news cycle, and drawing readers and watchers (consumers) to a news source, whether it’s a paper or the radio or TV or, more likely nowadays, a website, means offering up some honey along with vinegar.

But shame, shame on those news outlets that want to be considered serious and unbiased when they offer up commentary like that noted above. Let’s instead call it what it was … irresponsible!

News outlets and the citizens of this country have to be much more media-savvy and know how to separate news from “the other,” and separate what is real from what is imagined. Members of the general public, who, if they want to be good citizens of this country, need to demand integrity, and, above all, honesty from their government officials AND their news providers.

Just as the government needs a watchdog in the media, the media need a public that demands truth and facts instead of opinion and innuendo. People need to be vigilant and demand and guard against corruption, favoritism, and against blatant diversion (propaganda) instead of true coverage and facts (not factoids, horrible “word”).

Of course, hard news isn’t the only questionable content offered by the media, and there is not a clear line drawn to separate hard news from … “the other.”

It is the editor’s job to create and guard that line, and also to pick which submitted pieces are run, whether they are consumer-related or opinion pieces like columns, editorials, and letters to the editor. I’m writing partly to draw attention to the dangers of these choices, and the dangers of presenting something as one thing, when it is obviously something else. News has been dumbed down and “stories” shortened to the less-than-a-minute video clip. Many believe the “news” they are getting is really news, when it is not.

I’m writing to appeal to news editors everywhere to cut out the rhetoric, show some journalistic integrity and responsibility, and make the tough choices about content. Don’t run something only to skew, inflame, misinform, or misguide.

I used to giggle when my dad would go through papers and mail and say, “You know where that goes? File 13!” That was the trash can, of course, and that is where a lot of drivel needs to go instead of the newspaper, or radio, or TV.

What belongs in File 13 (unless edited or verified)? Most submissions from the government, most submissions from businesses and business organizations, “columns” by politicians, letters to the editor mentioning possibly make-believe “friends” or organizations (Ex. “I was talking to a Republican friend of mine, but unlike John Brittain, I won’t make you listen to our conversation.”)

People who know me know I was (and still am, really) a reporter and often ask me what I think of this or that news item or coverage, and I hate to say I am often disappointed by a lot of what I see in the news (national as much as local) and it is because, in general, news outlets aren’t acting as the Fourth Estate of the government and their reporters aren’t being the watchdog for the public.

When I worked in news full-time, I prided myself as a reporter who could take a long, complex presentation and turn it into a logical, understandable article that anticipated and answered the questions of the would-be reader. The times I want to jump back into the fray are often in response to articles that are obviously biased, illogical, or unclear. That is when the “consumer” should jump in, too, and demand better. It’s the duty of the citizenry to speak up when there is blatant (and especially when there is subtle) one-sidedness or unfairness, or unfounded or bigoted depictions.

Reporters need direction, too, sometimes, and instead of writing about all of the issues that divide us, I’d like to see reporters and news outlets show a little responsibility and concentrate on giving the public the information it needs with that being the first priority, not drama, not distracting drivel.

As for our elected leaders, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to do the same thing. They aren’t doing the job we elected them to do when all they do is disagree about decisive issues, while not addressing important ones that the public wants addressed. Shame on them, shame on the news outlets for not constantly pounding them to do their jobs, and shame on all of us for not calling things what they are and demanding better.

Missy McKnight-Guiser