The Suicide of Journalism

I think Michael Goodwin’s announcement of the suicide of journalism is on point. I would only disagree with him on when it happened. He claims that mainstream journalism gave up any pretense of political objectivity and fairness in the 2016 election. I think it happened well before that.

I recall when George H. W. Bush was running against Bill Clinton. The press loved Bill Clinton. He was charming. He was handsome. He was a back-slapper who portrayed himself as one of the people. When he heard the story of workers suffering in New Hampshire, he teared up, and the press was hooked. All during that campaign, it was clear whose side the press was on, and they made no bones about it. The bias was so obvious, I recall the Bush campaign adopting the banner: “Annoy the media, re-elect Bush.” The same was true for the 2000 campaign, when George W. Bush ran against Al Gore. Gore was the media’s darling, and Bush was portrayed as an incompetent. When Bush failed to be able to identify some of the leaders of foreign nations, it was all over the press. When Gore failed to recognized busts of Jefferson and Franklin on a trip to Monticello, no one heard of it.

But, the real suicide of journalism, in my opinion, came in the 2008 election, when Barack Obama ran against John McCain. The press was dead set on electing the first black president, regardless of his lack of qualifications. When McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, a no holds barred attitude was adopted by the press. While Palin certainly was a poor choice, especially considering the other strong female candidates in the Republican party that McCain could have chosen, I was astounded by the actions of the press during the final weeks of the campaign. A strategy of unrelenting negative coverage of Palin was adopted by the press in a clear attempt to destroy her reputation and the McCain campaign. It was unbelievable to me. All pretense of objectivity was dismissed and the press engaged in willful campaigning in favor of one candidate over the other. Even the usually far-left comedians at Saturday Night Live picked up on it, and presented more than one sketch mocking the mainstream press for its adulation of Obama. The pattern simply continued during the 2012 campaign, revealed most obviously when the moderators of the presidential debates displayed their favoritism for Obama over Romney, including moderator Candy Crowley even interjecting herself into the debate to make a point for Obama against Romney.

I do agree with Goodwin that the bias grew significantly worse in the 2016 campaign. No one regards the mainstream press as neutral anymore. The press’s continued focus on the supposed Russian intervention in favor of Trump, in spite of the lack of any evidence that Trump’s campaign was involved or that Russia’s efforts had any impact and in spite of the evidence that the Clinton’s and their partners have been deeply invested politically and financially in Russia, is only one example of the bias against Trump and the press’s complicity in the campaign to destroy his administration.

So, what will become of the press in America? I think we’re already seeing it, and Goodwin alludes to it. The American people are turning away from mainstream media. They simply can no longer be trusted to present the news in an objective way. They don’t even pretend to, anymore. Americans are more and more turning to news sources on the internet. Unfortunately, these sources also have their biases. The one saving factor is that these sources have never pretended to be objective. The problem is that people tend to listen only to those sources that support their pre-conceived notions. So, more and more people are living in a bubble, regarding only their own worldview, and never bothering with the arguments from the other side, even the good arguments. Our Congress has embraced much the same attitude. Those on both sides of the aisle are listening only to their side and their supporters, more interested in scoring points than in making progress that will benefit the nation. John McCain, recently returned to the Senate after a diagnosis of a brain tumor, gave an impassioned speech encouraging his colleagues to return to the days of parliamentary order and bipartisanship. Will his colleagues listen I’m willing to keep my hopes high, even as I keep my expectations low.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

2 thoughts on “The Suicide of Journalism

  1. Objectivity in journalism has never been common. Press coverage of the election of 1800 makes 2016 press coverage look like Kumbaya. William Randolph Hearst did not rise to power based upon the objectivity of his publications. While the USE of Nixon’s enemies list was immoral and probably illegal, there certainly were publications and people that were not objective toward “Tricky Dicky.” Even Most Revered High Utterly Perfect Saint Edward R. Murrow went after Joseph McCarthy, although he portrayed it as establishing what was factual and what was untruthful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All true. But I think the difference is that, in the years from the Gilded Age to Watergate, newspapers, and certainly television news in its early days, offered themselves as objective sources of the news. Remember Papa O’Hanlon’s advise to Virginia? “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” There’s a reason yellow journalism was called yellow journalism.
      Whereas, in the earlier decades of the nation, newspapers and magazines were well known as identified with one party or the other, after the Civil War and certainly in the “glory days” of TV journalism, from the WWII to Watergate, people expected objectivity and fairness. These were the days of Walter Cronkite, “the most trusted man in America.” It may be that we’re simply returning to a press where each publication or news source is well known as identified with one party or the other. There’s also less concern about getting the story right than in being the first out of the gate. Consequently, many erroneous details are reported that later must be corrected, but often can’t be erased from the minds of readers.


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