When I was a radio journalist over thirty years ago, there were standards in place that have been completely thrown out the window since. I know the 24/7 nature of cable news has caused some of this, but I don't think that can excuse the total loss of objectivity and authenticity. Back in my day, every major news organization had a fact-checking or research department. When I was doing an investigative report, say for NBC Radio or KYW or WINS, the all-news stations I worked for in Philadelphia and New York, I couldn't just put something on the air without having it checked out by several sources. Then I had to run it by an editor whose responsibility was to see whether it was true, really new, and important for the public to know.
Budget cuts have eliminated most fact-checking and research departments today. A big contributing factor is the rush to get things on the air, as well as the rush to judgement. Over and over again, we see media repeating outright lies from public figures, or ignoring truths that are very easily obtainable. To me, the most amazing thing today's news organizations do is report something that can easily be contradicted by information available in their own archives. They are just too lazy to look. Many of today's political candidates are guilty of the same lapse, making statements that are proven to be lies when you go into the files and play back their own words captured on video for all to see and hear. It's as if they are totally ignorant of the permanence of anything they've said publicly in the past. Or maybe they are just depending on the stupidity and laziness of the media preventing anyone from looking it up or checking it out.
For years now, I have winced watching network news reports (which I no longer watch) where there is no sense that the anchor or reporter involved has any background knowledge of the subject he or she is reporting on. Huge historical inaccuracies occur almost on a daily basis. Of course, with Google and other online search engines available today, it is easy to catch media types and political types in their blunders. I don't think it's a conspiracy at all, but rather a failure of respect for the truth and refusal to dig up the full story before any part of it is delivered to an audience.
Just as egregious is the failure to follow up on important stories, especially in the political arena. When I was covering the Virginia Governor's news conferences as a newsman for WRVA in Richmond, it was my job to pick out the sentence or paragraph that was most newsworthy and most revealing. This, along with going through reams of AP newspaper wire reports, helped develop the skill of editorial discernment--figuring out what was worth following up on, checking out, and reporting on the air. Today, I catch some astonishing bits of news that never seem to be caught by anyone else. For instance, while I am not a fan and rarely listen to the Laura Ingraham conservative radio show, she had an exchange on her show this past Friday that had a major contender for the Republican presidential nomination admit to a lie that has been repeated often and loudly--that the economy has gotten worse under President Obama. Newt Gingrich repeated it several times today on Sunday news shows in his victory lap after winning the South Carolina primary. She was talking to Mitt Romney, and here is the exchange, which I just listened to again to make sure I was accurately transcribing it:
Laura Ingraham: Isn't it a hard argument to make if you're saying, "Okay, he inherited this recession, and he took a bunch of steps to try to turn the economy around, and now we're seeing some more jobs, but vote against him anyway?" Isn't that a hard argument to make? Is that a stark enough contrast?.
Mitt Romney: Have you got a better one, Laura? (nervous laughter) It just happens to be the truth!
As might be expected, Rachel Maddow caught this and reported it on her show on MSNBC, but none of the so-called mainstream media seems to have even noticed what could be a major game-changer, and certainly could be the foundation for an Obama campaign ad.
I rest my case.
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