Where do you get your news?
It’s a question I hear others ask more and more frequently, in casual conversations at the water cooler, at lunch, etc. It is not difficult to understand why the question is asked. This is because many of us have lost faith in the outlets we relied on to keep us informed.
Polls show that over the past year, the number of people who regularly follow network and cable news has dropped drastically. CNN suffered the most, and Fox News the least; but all have suffered decline.
These include the so-called “legacy” television news networks – ABC, NBC and CBS. For much of my adult life, Americans watched these networks in droves. Many of us disagreed with the network commenters “editorially”. Some of us thought their reporting was biased. But we all knew that important news events would be reported.
When CNN first hit the scene when I was around 40, some of us embraced it because it was a 24-hour network and was considered quite reliable.
Fox News came on several years later and attracted an audience because it was editorially more “conservative”.
Either way, no one thought an important or interesting story would be ignored.
For example, when the Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton scandal broke in 1998, no one doubted that the networks were sympathetic to President Clinton. But no one failed to cover the story. No one stopped to think that the networks might not.
The public no longer seems to have the same confidence in the audiovisual media. There’s a good reason for that. You don’t have to change channels for very long to realize that these “news” outlets are pushing stories rather than reporting news. On cable channels, most of the prime-time airtime is taken up by “talking heads” who provide massive doses of opinion. “Direct” news reporting is secondary. And sometimes overlooked.
Some stories are “enriched”, i.e. removed due to an editorial decision not to follow them. On one level, it’s OK. Some editorial judgment is absolutely necessary. I may think my niece’s teaching award is really cool, but I shouldn’t expect it to make headlines.
But giving a story a boost becomes more problematic when it seems to advance an agenda other than judging what’s news. The best recent example is the Hunter Biden laptop story, which first broke in the New York Post more than two years ago. Post reporters had gained access to a laptop that Biden, then a candidate and now President Biden’s son, left at a computer repair shop and didn’t bother to get it back.
Emails and other documents on the computer suggested that Joe Biden’s son had engaged in influence peddling, dealing in his father’s name, in China and Ukraine, obtaining millions. Worse still, there was evidence that Joe Biden himself, when he was vice president, could have received a cut.
It’s quite a story. Fox News reported it. The Wall Street Journal mentioned it. But, except for brief explanations that the story had been “discredited” or was “Russian disinformation,” the networks largely ignored it. Just like the Washington Post, New York Times, etc.
Recently, The New York Times reported, on an inside page, that the laptop and its contents were genuine. But did network news pick up that announcement?
Again, Fox did it. No one else gave him much slack. The cynics among us can be forgiven for suspecting that the story was suppressed until Biden was safely elected. Or that someone obviously decided there wasn’t much they could do to make Biden look worse than he already does, so might as well let the story hang out.
How to get news? Good question. I can’t find any of the network or cable news channels to be really reliable. The national newspapers are pretty bad. So I get most of my news from the internet. But it takes work, and looking at and evaluating multiple sources. This process at least gives me national and international headlines.
But I don’t get news from social media unless there is a link to a source I can assess. You can read all kinds of crazy and wildly inaccurate things on Facebook and Twitter.
Additionally, those who run these platforms have been known to delete posts and cancel posters they don’t like.
Locally, I do better. Our local news sources are always reporting news.