Deceptive “Fairness”

The local newspaper had two articles dealing with the two major party Presidential candidates this morning. The one featuring Donald Trump was headlined,“Trump not only billionaire who turned to politics.” The one featuring Hillary Clinton was entitled “Promises by Clinton Might be hard to keep.” Both articles were of two columns, and both featured pictures of the candidates speaking, and both were set at the same height on the page opposite the editorial page, which did not feature an endorsement.

The “problems” story only dealt with Clinton’s possible difficulties in keeping her promises on taxes and the deficit and debt, and did not mention at all the fiscal impossibilities of Trump’s tax plans. The “Billionaire” story mentioned that, while Trump was the first U.S. billionaire to seek the presidency, other wealthy Americans, such as Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush, had sought and won the Presidency. It then went on to mention billionaires in other countries who had been elected to high office.

The superficial fairness reveals the editorial set of the paper without ever actually declaring a stance. First, whoever wins is going to have problems keeping their promises, and it’s more likely that Trump will actually have more trouble doing so even if he has a Republican House and Senate, simply because he’s promised more that is impossible, given technical, legal, Constitutional, and economic limitations. Yet by highlighting only Clinton’s difficulties the editors have created the impression that Trump is more “reasonable” and practical.

This is only one newspaper, and I’m more than certain that other news media have done the same thing, in a way to benefit one candidate or the other, but what bothers me about this is that, in years past, there was at least a vestige of impartial coverage. When the supposed “news” media engage in deception, whether overt or covert, this erodes their credibility – something that, ironically, Trump has charged repeatedly, especially when the media has been brutally factual about his foibles, and something which may have benefited him more than Clinton.

And, whether I like Trump or not, the issue he’s raised is real, despite the fact that the very reason he’s become a viable candidate is exactly because the media has turned from an emphasis on factual reporting to an emphasis on sensation and dollars. The more sensationalism becomes the basis of supposed “reporting,” the less that reporting is trusted, yet paradoxically, the more effective it becomes in reinforcing people’s personal biases, because most people, knowing the media is not impartial, more and more pick out only that news that suits their mindset to accept as “true.”

In essence, then, the emphasis on the bottom line not only bolsters profits, but boosts societal polarization at a time when we need more societal cooperation, not less. And I have yet to see anyone in the media who seems to recognize this. If there is, and there may well be, they certainly haven’t gotten media coverage. Go figure that.

7 thoughts on “Deceptive “Fairness””

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    Perhaps he also became a viable candidate because voters of both parties are mostly sick of the insiders, and unlike the Democrats, the Republican insiders weren’t organized enough (or were too divided) to lock Trump out?

    I would have preferred Carson for the Republican outsider, but that’s not the hand that was dealt.

  2. Devildog says:

    From what I can remember as a young lad, it seems that that the national media coverage across all three outlets was more balanced and even-handed. Thus, the general populace seem to trust what was being published or reported as being important and honestly true and by extension also believed that what wasn’t being reported was either not true or was unimportant. That trust has been lost because all media outlets now seem to have bias one way or the other. If one looks at our national history, the media bias that we have now is more consistent with our country’s experience that what I experienced in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s. The national population needs to read and listen with a discerning mind.

  3. Frank says:

    I agree with Devildog’s description of the media in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s, however, I submit this for perspective.

    Before, during and for more than a decade after “Watergate,” I lived and worked in the Washington, D.C. area. Although I was not in the media, many of my best friends, family and (later to be) in-laws were in the T.V. media (news, primarily). I know from personal knowledge that the media, in general, was outraged by the Nixon Administration and their apparent abuses of power. I heard more than once from highly placed (and, in some cases) well known media folks that “we were going to get him…bring him down.” And, obviously, that did happen.

    Now, at the time I saw their feelings and efforts as courageous, even heroic. I still feel that Nixon had “gone over to the dark side.” Whether this was the onset of some sort of megalomania or just “absolute power corrupting absolutely,” I don’t know. Certainly what happened does not, in the current perspective, seem as outrageous as it did then. I think, in retrospect, that although Nixon got his just “come uppin’s,” as a young adult, a product of the 60’s, he also became a scape goat for the Vietnam war, and the symbol of everything bad with “the establishment.”

    My point is this: was the media back then really more balanced, or was just tilted to my liking, what I thought to be the righteous side?

    BTW, I agree entirely that discerning research is our only remedy.

  4. darcherd says:

    Media “objectivity” is actually the abnormal situation, and I’ve seen analyses that credit the importance of network television news starting in the 1950’s and continuing through the 1980’s, before cable news and online news sources began fragmenting the news audience. When network news had to compete for a very broad, national audience, they had a vested interest in maintaining, if not a veneer of objectivity, at least a position towards the center of the political spectrum. But prior to WWII, and particularly in the 19th century, newspapers made no bones about their particular political position and had no intention of striving for “objectivity”.

    And of course since the 1990’s, the burgeoning plethora of cable and online news sources allow people to once again choose only to listen to those which reinforce and support their own political biases.

    1. Tim says:

      @darcherd. To your last paragraph, I totally agree which is probably why I get incensed with tBBC reporting here in the UK. Oddly, friends who have opposed politcal leanings also get irritated by the BBC, so maybe they not as bad as I thought 🙂

      1. darcherd says:

        As the saying goes, as long as you can hear the buoys on both sides of you, you’re safely in the middle of the channel.

  5. Scott says:

    I believe the major shift in media impartiality is this: in today’s world most media does not even strive for the appearance of impartiality. The root cause of this trend is that the American citizenry itself is polarized more than ever before.

    Anyone who tries to be moderate is immediately branded as a “hater” by both sides. (Over simplified, but essentially true in a ‘repeatedly observable’ way.)

    We have become impatient with reasoned discourse and instead rely on Snippets and Sound Bytes to form a gut reaction. A population that self-governs by emotion alone is a scary thought.

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