The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
Last week I sent the following email to all the national and local news directors for the major television networks:
“Last night I watched your evening news, and as I often do these days, I felt a wave of anger overwhelm me. I’m writing this morning not to vent that rage but in hopes you will respond and help me understand why you are making your editorial decisions, which I consider to be the height of journalistic irresponsibility.
“You always begin your broadcasts with a video of President Trump once again telling a blatant lie about the coronavirus. The only responsible next step in your story would be to play another clip from a recognized expert explaining the tragic shortage of needed supplies. You don’t have to make an editorial comment on these two clips. You just have to present them so your viewers can make up their own minds as to who is telling the truth.
“But you don’t.
“To present a story as you do suggests that you have no responsibility to report the story in full. It turns what should be an accurate news story into a propaganda piece for the president. It gives viewers a very inaccurate picture of this crisis we’re all facing. It promotes the president as a strong, confident leader and boosts his reelection chances. It is the very opposite of unbiased journalism.
“For the life of me, I don’t understand it. Are you actively promoting Trump’s reelection? Perhaps you’re afraid of alienating his supporters? Do you somehow actually believe this is responsible journalism? I can’t think of any legitimate reason that explains it.
“I hope you will respond to this letter directly. Your viewers deserve an answer.”
Not one news director responded. Indeed, how could they? Their irresponsible journalism is impossible to defend.
So what should we, as consumers of news, do?
First, stop watching the national network news and only watch local stations to get local and statewide news. If you must watch national TV, CNN and MSNBC are excellent sources. Sure, their coverage is hugely biased against Trump, but their news is in-depth and fact-based. It’s the only place on television you’ll get a full picture of the crisis we’re living today.
More importantly, read newspapers and reputable magazines. This paper is an excellent place to start, as well as The Arizona Republic from Phoenix. The New Your Times and Washington Post continue to practice excellent journalism with a liberal tilt, and the Wall Street Journal is equally high quality with a conservative bias. Magazines are also an excellent source of in-depth coverage, often covering angles you won’t find in other sources. The Atlantic leans left and Commentary leans right. There are many others to choose among.
Whatever else we do, we must move out of the echo chamber that just reinforces our prior beliefs, be they pro- or anti-Trump. These are the most perilous times we have faced since the Second World War, and we need to be well-informed.
And vote. Informed voters will give us the wise leaders — national, state and local — that we need to address the enormous challenges that lay ahead of us.
Be smart. Be active. Be informed.
And be hopeful.
Ross Carroll is professor emeritus of communication at Oregon Institute of Technology. He has lived in Tucson for six years.
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