U.S. Journalism Loses its Way

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government examines how deeply biased journalism has become in this two-part series.

What is the appropriate response to the biased and sloppy journalism that diligently sought to overturn the results of the 2016 election, and which ignored the offenses of the elected officials and appointees whom they supported?

Recent revelations have been truly extraordinary: It was Hillary Clinton’s campaign that “colluded” with Moscow. The Charges against the Trump campaign appear to be little more than an attempt to coverup unlawful surveillance by the Obama Administration. The Justice Department has apologized for its harassment, under the former President, of the Tea Party.  The FBI, under James Comey, squashed the Clinton email investigation. The Democrat National Committee inappropriately “fixed” the primary process to ensure that Bernie Sanders lost. In terms of the politicians and bureaucrats involved, Congress will investigate, the wheels of justice will turn.  But what of a media that intentionally or negligently propagated falsehoods?

A study by the Pew Research Center found that “Allegations about Russia and the 2016 election tied to Trump and his administration, as well as the White House’s relationship with Moscow, dominated stories on U.S.-Russia relations…, only about one-in-ten stories (11%) delivered an overall positive assessment of the [trump] administration’s words or actions. Four times as many (44%) offered a negative assessment, while the remaining 45% were neither positive nor negative.”  In total, the early coverage of the Trump Administration by the media was 62% negative versus only 5% positive.  That contrast sharply with the coverage of former President Obama’s coverage, which was 42% positive and only 20% negative.

A similar result was found by a Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy study, which noted that “Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.”

Anthony Fisher reported for Reason about the coverage of the events surrounding President Trump’s inauguration. “One journalist…was Natasha Lennard, who penned a popular article for The Nation wherein she writes about how she actively participated in the ‘anti-capitalist, anti-fascist bloc’ which rejected ‘polite protest’ in favor of tactics such as ‘human blockades, smash[ing] corporate windows, trash-can fires, burning [a] limousine…”

Is it intentional bias or something else that has divorced accuracy from media reports? Politico notes that the outcome of the 2016 election, which most of the media was convinced would be a landslide victory for Clinton was “an outcome that arrived not just as an embarrassment for the press but as an indictment. In some profound way, the election made clear, the national media just doesn’t get the nation it purportedly covers…”  The website cites FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, who pointed out that the ideological clustering in top newsrooms led to groupthink. ‘As of 2013, only 7 percent of [journalists] identified as Republicans,’ Silver wrote in March, chiding the press for its political homogeneity. Just after the election, presidential strategist Steve Bannon savaged the press on the same point but with a heartier vocabulary. ‘The media bubble is the ultimate symbol of what’s wrong with this country,’ Bannon said. ‘It’s just a circle of people talking to themselves who have no f***** idea what’s going on.”

The Federalist, in a Feburary 2017 article by Daniel Payne,  reported that “16 fake news stories reporters have run since Trump won…Since at least Donald Trump’s election, our media have been in the grip of an astonishing, self-inflicted crisis…there is no greater enemy of the American media than the American media. They did this to themselves…day after day, even hour after hour, the media continue to broadcast, spread, promulgate, publicize, and promote fake news on an industrial scale. It has become a regular part of our news cycle, not distinct from or extraneous to it but a part of it, embedded within the news apparatus as a spoke is embedded in a bicycle wheel… Why are our media so regularly and so profoundly debasing and beclowning themselves, lying to the public and sullying our national discourse—sometimes on a daily basis? How has it come to this point?”

The Report concludes tomorrow.