ALLAN JEFFERYS: America's Transparent Press Can't Hide Its Slant to Left
There should be a distinct separation between what constitutes news and what constitutes opinion.
This column, for instance, is opinion and thus is placed where it belongs: in the Opinion section. The same is true of every other column that touches on politics. Columns of this ilk do not belong on the front page.
A similar statement may be made about the broadcast press. I knew and worked with many of the giants of bygone broadcast news. Knowing them personally meant that I learned of their political bent. Not so the audience.
CBS was particularly careful about bias. It did not do commentary, preferring analysis instead. A newscaster would bring you the news and then analyze it -- leaving opinion to the listener. Thus we benefited from the expertise and knowledge of an Eric Sevareid or an Edward R. Murrow without having bias jammed down our ears.
Maybe one of the reasons was that these giants were not overpaid, unlike today's superstars. I was a longtime friend of one of ABC's anchors, the late Bill Shadel. Bill and I played a lot of golf together (when we were both at CBS) at Kenwood Golf Club in the Washington area. I was surprised when he revealed how much more an announcer got paid for commercials than he did as a reporter working the floor of a big political convention.
This is no longer the case, and perhaps it's the reason why so many of the TV newscasters are so full of themselves and so frequently wrong. When you're picked up every morning in a stretch limo and whisked to your ivory-towered studio, it is difficult to understand the plight of the payday-to-payday listener.
When you are paid millions of dollars a year to anchor the news, you are hard pressed to comprehend the disparate problems of your average viewer. This, of course, does not stop you from pretending that you do. To maintain your stature, you must pretend that you are an unbiased expert on all subjects.
Take facts, for example. I was recently called to task for not stating true facts in a column that alluded to Barack Obama's tax plans -- this despite clearly stating in the column that Obama's tax plan "is a bit vague." I also wrote, "We hear things like a 28 percent tax on profit from a home sale."
I was admittedly using hearsay to make my case. In truth, it is difficult to pin Obama down on taxes, since he changes his mind whenever the wind changes. (A good maneuver with a sailboat but hardly the honest move for a candidate.) My reader's rebuttal consisted of quotes from liberal media who have no fear of misstating facts. There is always that "Corrections" sidebar.
The one note of hope in combatting this bend-over-backward left-leaning press is that it is juvenile in its attempt to sway us. Subtlety is not its strong suit. Transparency rules its headlines.
Witness the constant disparagement of Sarah Palin. The press hammers on her role as a mayor of a small town -- totally ignoring her success as a governor of a huge state. Probably the most disgusting exercise in bad taste came from a magazine called US. I have never read US, but the cover that titled her picture: "Babies, Lies and Scandal" was as sick as it can get.
Even Newsweek is getting into the act with its Conventional Wisdom showing "up" arrows for Obama and Joe Biden and so-so ratings for Palin, who truly wowed everyone at the convention. The broadcast media could not ignore this, but they did their best to minimize it. And they wonder why their audience (along with print media's readership) is diminishing.
Last year, I gave up and canceled my subscription to The New York Times. The Old Gray Lady was no longer the fount of wisdom I remember. Newsweek is next. This is not to suggest that they are not entitled to their point of view. In fact, that is why I have read them for years. It's hard to disagree with the opposition unless you know how they think. And, in truth, every once in a while I used to learn something that made me think and change my opinion.
But that was some time ago -- when journalism stepped to a nobler drumbeat. What ever happened to those days? Will they ever return?
On the day after John McCain's speech at the convention, "Good Morning America" showed a clip of Michelle Obama dancing on Ellen DeGeneres' show. What does that have to do with conventions and campaigns? Is this journalism or simply public relations bias?
Despite competition with a hurricane, the Republican Convention came out a strong winner, thanks largely to the inspiring words of Palin. Why can't the press give credit where it is due? Or simply follow the old Dragnet line: "Just the facts, ma'am."
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic, entertainment editor and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. You can contact him at oldjeff@embarqmail. com.
More like this story