Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press

Question: You say that the press hides things from us and distorts the news. Could you elaborate?

In my quote DK said that one of the main things that keep us from having a free unbiased press is the forces of evil deal “mainly with the psychological angle because it is so exceedingly potent.”

One of the ways this happens is not by blatant lies (though this sometimes happens) but more often through selective reporting of facts. By leaving out important details and emphasizing others they use psychology to influence public opinion toward their bias.

Wherever there is an overwhelming majority of people with one view gathered together there will be a bias and the news will be distorted preventing us from having a free and open  press.

Talk radio is dominated by conservatives and the conservative slant certainly dominates there. If that were all we had to listen to there would be no free press for the other side would not be heard. On the other hand, conservative talk radio commentators do not claim to be unbiased and freely admit what they believe.

However, the hard news media often claims to be unbiased and will not admit that they slant the news. This greatly hampers the freedom of the individual to get accurate news.

“The Media Elite,” a book written in 1986 by Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman and Linda Lichter, surveyed 240 journalists at ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, and US News and World Report. It found that in the presidential elections of 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976, on average, 86 percent of responding journalists in America’s top media voted Democratic.

In 2001, Rothman and Amy Black updated the “Media Elite” survey of national journalists and established that 76 percent voted for Michael Dukakis in 1988 and 91% for Bill Clinton in 1992.

A Freedom Forum Poll also reinforced the “Media Elite” survey when it documented that 89 percent – nine out of ten – Washington reporters and bureau chiefs voted for Clinton in 1992 and 7 percent voted for George W. Bush.

The problem with this slanted press is that they actually believe themselves to be fair minded enough to present a balanced view of the truth.

The problem is that a balanced view will never be presented when a huge majority of presenters in any media have a certain belief. The only way to achieve balance is to have both sides presented. Two shows which have done this somewhat successfully in the past have been Crossfire on CNN and Hannity and Combs on Fox.

One of the reasons for the success of talk radio is that conservatives have often felt that their views were suppressed and now have found an outlet. They still feel shortchanged to a degree because talk radio reaches maybe 25 percent of the population whereas the hard news reaches close to 100 percent.

When any media is dominated by one view distortion occurs, but the problem is not the presenting of outright lies or fiction. Instead, the problem is the use of psychology in the presenting of news. Several things cause this.

[1] Selecting the material to be reported.

Suppose a news media is against the war in Iraq and doesn’t want to make anything about it look good. What will they do?

Here is what the New York Times did. For 32 days straight beginning April 29th of 2006 they reported negative stories on the military concerning Abu Ghraib with virtually zero positive stores about what U.S. soldiers were doing in Iraq.

By placing selective emphasis in a direction that supports their bias they present a distorted view of reality.

[2] Selective reporting of facts.

For instance, there may be five facts supporting an issue and five against. The biased reporter may use three of the ones supporting his view and one against. He thinks he is fair minded because he threw the opposition a bone. The end result is a distorted presentation.

[3] Selective questions asked in interviews. Easy questions are asked to those hat are favored and difficult ones to those who are not.

[4] Emotional emphasis on the reporter’s point of view. If a reporter feels outraged or offended it is usually obvious and influences the opinions of many listeners.

The solution to this problem is not to expect the media people to be unbiased as they are not now nor will they ever be.

The solution is to present both sides to all stories so people can make up their own minds. All media that claims to be fair should have a balance of reporters and writers on both sides of the political spectrum. We should never have a situation where only 7 percent of those controlling the news voted for the man who becomes president. That puts the president into the lion’s den.

A major breakthrough on this is the internet which indeed always has both sides to major stories. The only problem with this is that one side will bookmark the liberal sites and the other will bookmark the conservative ones and will still be exposed to distortion. But even with the shortcomings the internet is still a major advance in freedom of the press. If the major media were conscientious enough to have both sides of a disputable issue presented then that would be the best solution. Better still, if the public demanded fair presentation of the news the media would have to obey.

UPDATE FROM 2023 We had a fairly free flow of information on the internet when this was written, but now information is more controlled in social media than in news outlets of old. We are ever reminded of the quote from Thomas Jefferson who said, “The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance.”

Sept 17, 2006

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