COLUMN: Today’s media continues to lose objectivity

Michael McLaughlin

For some unknown reason, I tend to watch CNN in the afternoon while doing thesis research. Perhaps I enjoy having my blood pressure go up 20 points over the course of a couple of hours. Anyway, something that has become extremely noticeable of late is the simple truth that the concept of objectivity in American media is dead or at least on life support.

Back in the day, reporting was in theory a simple process; one would observe the news and then pass on what happened to everyone else with limited or no personal bias. Although, in reality, it was never quite that clear-cut. However, with the saturation of the punditry throughout the second half of the last century, the media realized it was much easier to have Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan snipe at each other over an issue instead of actually trying to produce an in-depth factual report on, say, the effectiveness of the Iraqi Army. Hell, we’re to the point now where if there was a report about cannibals consuming children, someone from the International Cannibal Union would get time to argue the merits of baby-eating.

This occurrence is mainly due to the complaints of those on both sides of the political aisle for balance in the news media. The great irony is that the side complaining the loudest, the right, also is generally against bringing back the old Fairness Doctrine, which guaranteed equal time, but the left complains just as much. Instead of worrying about covering the truth, all a booking agent now worries about is finding a blue and a red to fight.

Not that a switch-over to hard news would work as it appears that, more and more, the truth is becoming subjective as each political side has their own concept of truth. Many blues are certain that President Bush deliberately lied about weapons of mass destruction instead of just screwing up, while just as many reds are certain that Saddam actually had them, and we just need to look really hard and we’ll eventually find them.

It’s gotten so bad that one side will simply dismiss news that comes from a media source perceived to be “working” for the other side. For example, I’ve had conservative friends of mine tell me flat-out that they don’t trust The New York Times, while on the flip side I tend to think of Fox News as an American version of TASS. One side moans about a liberal media, while the other one complains about a corporate one, and yet at the end of the day, both believe what they want to believe.

While I personally adhere to more of a blue mentality, the idea that facts are no longer considered objective is rather disconcerting for a self-described academic such as myself.

Such views regarding the media, perceived or legitimate, aren’t the end of the world of course, as European media companies are rather open in their political preferences. In fact, the United States was always considered kind of odd for its insistence on an objective news media.

Doesn’t mean I have to be happy about the changeover, though.

Michael McLaughlin is a senior history major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].