Tuesday, July 05, 2016

COLUMN: Media Bias

It finally happened. The party's over.

Thanks so much, The Media Insight Project, for revealing the findings of your recent study to the general public. I could spend the next thousand words offering excuses, but due to your sobering dose of reality, all my readers will now see right through it. Since the cat's out of the bag, I suppose we should talk about it. The Media Insight Project made headlines last week when they unveiled their newest study containing a statistic none of us wanted to see:

Only 6% of the American public trust the media.

Great. So if I'm to understand this statistic correctly, for every 100 people that read my column, 6 of you earnestly take to heart what I have to say. The remaining 94 of you, then, must view my column as self-serving propaganda carefully constructed to push through the nefarious and clandestine agenda of my choosing -- an absurd accusation that I can only respond to by saying...

DRAT! FOILED AGAIN! And I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids and your pesky public surveying!

All my hard work down the drain. A decade of deceiving and manipulating you sheeple and for what? NOTHING. The years I've spent trying to make myself likeable? All of my heartstring-tugging sob stories? ("I don't have a girlfriend! Waaah! Poor me!") Clearly all designed to garner your sympathy. I've even had to pretend that I (shudder) like cats. All the effort, all the sacrifices I've had to make in the name of evil... and you people STILL don't trust me. Now that the truth is out there, they'll probably even kick me out of the Illuminati -- and just after I've been named club secretary. I hope you're happy.

In reality, the TRUTHIEST truth is there's no reason for you guys to distrust the media -- well, at least not THIS one. I've worked here for over 20 years now -- and from an insider perspective, I can honestly tell you that I've never seen one single hidden agenda at play, which I guess means we either don't have one or if we do, we're ESPECIALLY good at hiding it.

Then again, I'm only a pretend journalist. I don't even work on the same floor as the folks who report the news. So maybe there ARE secret late-night cabals filled with journalistic intrigue where we covertly conspire to shape the news we report on -- but I kinda doubt it. If there ARE, I can definitely tell you that my invitation keeps getting lost in the inter-office mail.

I know our reporters fairly well. They're mostly young go-getter types who walk the halls with caffeinated purpose and all sort of look like they're one or two bylines away from a collapsing aneurysm. I might not get invited to their conspiratorial bacchanals, but trust me, when you see their harried faces as they struggle against deadline to bring you the news, you quickly realize there are distinct advantages to being the goofy guy who's only responsible for writing about his cats once a week. Our journalists work HARD, and the fruits of their labor can be found throughout every issue we publish. Once upon a time, I reviewed a show at the iWireless Center that went late and I had about fifteen minutes to craft the review. That kind of stress almost gave me a nervous breakdown, and those are the kind of deadlines our writers have to contend with on a daily basis. It took me twenty minutes just to write this paragraph. I don't know how they pull it off.

So why the rampant distrust of the media then? That's an answer you can Google. "I get my news online!" say the youth of America proudly. That's fine and dandy, because I do, too. People constantly want to paint a war between print media and the internet, and that's simply not the case. Every article you read in our paper also runs on our website. I know avid readers of our paper who haven't actually held one of our papers in their hands for years. I like the best of both worlds. If I'm sitting at the breakfast table, I want to casually flip through a paper -- but if I'm at my desk with a monitor nine inches from my eyeball, I'd rather log onto QConline than fidget with a newspaper.

Either way, I know where my news is coming from and I trust it. But there's no quality control on the internet. Anybody with an agenda can build a blog and present their version of "news." My Tea Partier uncle is fond of sharing Facebook memes that attribute false quotes to our founding fathers. I can point out to him a dozen times that Thomas Jefferson never actually spoke out in support of AR-15 assault rifles, but it won't stop him from posting the junk. "I saw it on the internet, so it must be true!" If that's the case, I know some Nigerian princes who owe me a LOT of money.

But if you REALLY want to learn to distrust the media, just turn on the 24-hour cable news networks. It's no secret that one of them leans hard right and another hard to the left, so let's not even go there -- but the one that's amazed me of late is the channel that claims no political agenda: CNN. I don't want to pick on CNN, because I think they mean well. Sure, they trade in spectacle and holograms and declaring every sneeze to be BREAKING NEWS, but I think CNN's more concerned with getting viewers than pushing agendas.

But I keep watching CNN's coverage on primary result nights, and it makes my stomach churn. Please stop telling us how you "expect things to go" in an election prior to the polls closing. Keep your demographic studies to yourself and let the people make an unfiltered choice. For two months straight now, I've heard your pundits say that some candidates have no clear path to victory -- and that's certainly the case now that you've told people that voting for them is pointless.

Is there bias in the media? Sure there is. We just need to develop the right set of skills to discern, recognize, and cope with bias when we encounter it. But I guess it's just easier to just say, "I don't trust the media!" Try living in a world without media and then you'll REALLY know what mistrust means. In the meantime, I'll go back to being the goofy columnist that would never try to influence readers by placing subliminal (CHUBBY GUYS ARE SEXY) messages in his (CATS ARE COOL) weekly drivel (SEND ME MONEY.)

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