The Press…

Snark-free remarks about print journalism…

“Hard news” refers to strictly factual news coverage, giving the reader the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a story—nothing else.

The facts of the story are reported to the limit of the reporters’ ability to discover and confirm them by deadline.  In journalism, the filing deadline is like an 11th commandment.

“Thou shalt file thy story by deadline!”

Frequently we read that the subject of a story, or some spokesperson was asked for their comment on the content of the story.

12th commandment—”Thou shalt report both sides of a story!”

If people won’t comment, or don’t reply to emails or phone calls requesting comment, at least the reporter(s) gave them a chance to tell their side.  Reporters won’t wait forever for a reply to requests for comment. (Remember the 11th commandment.)

In no case will a reputable publication make up something out of whole cloth, so-called “fake news.”

After all, its reputation ranks as one of its key financial assets.

Consider—should readers come to regard it as no more reliable than one of those publications displayed at supermarket checkout stands, the sort that prints utterly incredible stories with astounding headlines like “How I Got Raped By An Elephant and Found God,” then that publication is doomed to go belly up.

Concerning bias—

It’s imperfectly understood by the body public.

Stories selected for publication, whether favoring left, right, or in some proportion, also possible use of emotional trigger words and/or subtle appeals to negative stereotypes can amount to bias within otherwise strictly factual hard news stories.

This is easy for alert readers to spot, so, overall, hard news is trustworthy content.

On the other hand, editorials, aka “op eds” or “think pieces”, are basically someone’s opinion.

Rules for editorials are looser than for hard news.

In editorial pages, entertaining but otherwise useless sarcasm, plays on words, and slick propagandizing can sometimes be found masquerading as rational discussion.  So it behooves us not merely to read, but to peruse in an aggressively skeptical frame of mind.

More on bias—

Just six corporations own 90% of all media outlets in the United States.  What does that suggest to you about real diversity of viewpoint?

In cases of conflict between corporate interests and those of the people, ownership of these six gigantic media corporations will side with…?

This aspect of media bias will be a new consideration to hordes of readers.  But it’s a fact of American life.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about fact checks.

No news outlet is staffed by archangels, so the occurrence of a factual error, (a wrong date, a name misspelled or, in competitive hot pursuit of a scoop, something more significant), should not surprise us.

Reputable publications routinely publish correction of errors.

Failure or refusal to print correction / retraction is a red flag.

Reading such a publication can still provide useful information, but we should cross check anything smelling even mildly fishy.

Our duty as citizens is to be knowledgeable about public affairs—being deceived is no excuse for failure.

“There is no more important struggle for American democracy than insuring a diverse, independent and free media.”

—Bill Moyers

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

—Various sources, among them Andrew Jackson

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