10.01.2008 0

Americans Lose Confidence in Broadcast Media

  • On: 10/21/2008 19:52:01
  • In: Barack Obama

  • For some time now, it has been common knowledge that the broadcast news media are in the tank for Democrats. Specifically, they appear enamored with covering Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and appear more than willing to carry his water as he races across the country in the summer heat.

    It’s akin to a marathon runner who has his fans in the sidelines, ever-ready with overflowing cups of H2O for their hero as he races towards the finish line. The trouble is: It is unseemly for a purportedly “objective” reporter to behave in such an unseemly—and undignified—manner. And now, it is having an impact on how Americans perceive the credibility of those media outlets.

    A recent Rasmussen Reports poll shows that 55 percent of Americans believe media bias is an even bigger problem than big campaign contributions. A full 66 percent believe that it is a bad idea to ban campaign commercials, citing “despite the annoyance factor, it’s better to put up with an election-year barrage rather than rely on the news media.”

    In other words, Americans are finally fed up with broadcast media bias, and they know they can no longer depend on it for accurate information about news and politics.

    This means of course that broadcast news outlets need to begin taking a page from print journalists, who have been far more objective in their reporting and analysis of candidates and the issues surrounding the campaigns.

    Part of the reason for this, admittedly, is that the print medium allows for more to be said about a particular topic. It lends itself to revealing nuances that are often lost in the timed segments to which broadcast outlets are constrained. Nonetheless, when reporters go on the record, admitting to NBC’s Brian Williams, for example, how hard it is to remain objective in covering Senator Obama’s campaign, or Chris Matthews openly admitting to tingles up his legs when Mr. Obama speaks, it’s probably about time to send these “reporters” to take a refresher course in the once-revered Canons of Journalism:

    “American Society Of Newspaper Editors

    “PREAMBLE. The First Amendment, protecting freedom of expression from abridgment by any law, guarantees to the people through their press a constitutional right, and thereby places on newspaper people a particular responsibility, Thus journalism demands of its practioners not only industry and knowledge but also the pursuit of a standard of integrity proportionate to the journalist’s singular obligation. To this end the American Society of Newspaper Editors sets forth this Statement of Principles as a standard encouraging the highest ethical and professional performance,

    “ARTICLE I – Responsibility. The primary purpose of gathering and distributing news and opinion is to serve the general welfare by informing the people and enabling them to make judgments on the isssues of the time. Newspapermen and women who abuse the power of their professional role for selfish motives or unworthy purposes are faithless to that public trust. The American press was made free not just to inform or just to serve as a forum for debate but also to bring an independent scrutiny to bear on the forces of power in the society, including the conduct of official power at all levels of government.

    “ARTICLE Il – Freedom of the Press. Freedom of the press belongs to the people. It must be defended against encroachment or assault from any quarter, public or private, Journalists must be constantly alert to see that the public’s business is conducted in public. They must be vigilant against all who would exploit the press for selfish purposes,

    “ARTICLE III – Independence. Journalists must avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety as well as any conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict. They should neither accept anything nor pursue any activity that might compromise or seem to compromise their integrity.

    “ARTICLE IV – Truth and Accuracy. Good faith with the reader is the foundation of good journalism, Every effort must be made to assure that the news consent is accurate, free from bias and in context and that all sides are presented fairly, Editorials, analytical articles and commentary should be held to the same standards of accuracy with respect to facts as news reports. Significant errors of fact, as well as errors of omission, should be corrected promptly and prominently,

    “ARTICLE V – lmpartiality. To be impartial does not require the press to be unquestioning or to refrain from editorial expression. Sound practice, however, demands a clear distinction for the reader between news reports and opinion, Articles that contain opinion or personal interpretation should be clearly identified,

    “ARTICLE VI – Fair Play. Journalists should respect the rights of people involved in the news, observe the common standards of decency and stand accountable to the public for the failings and accuracy of their news reports. Persons publicly accused should be given the earliest opportunity to respond, Pledges of confidentiality to news sources must be honored at ail costs, and therefore should not be given lightly, Unless there is clear and pressing need to maintain confidences, sources of information should be identified.

    “These principles are intended to preserve, protect and strengthen the bond of trust and respect between American journalists and the American people, a bond that is essential to sustain the grant of freedom entrusted to both by the nation’s founders.”

    The current status quo cannot endure. Instead of carrying water for Mr. Obama—or any candidate—media outlets need to have an eye towards remaining independent, and strengthening “the bond of trust and respect between American journalists and the American people…” And, it up to journalists nationwide to call their colleagues to task when they stray from that essential ethic.


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