You don’t have to be “fair and balanced” in news coverage

September 16th, 2018 by Ken

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.  His column often appears in The Olympian.

His recent column said that newspapers do not have to show both sides of an issue.   Pitts claims that showing both sides of an issue, in an effort to be fair, often gives both sides the same standing, when it’s obvious that one side is the predominate side and that newspapers are under no obligation to be “fair and balanced.”

He’s right.  No newspaper has to be fair and balanced in its news coverage.  Presenting fair and balanced news is a modern idea that has no basis in history.  Since the beginning of the printed word, newspapers never claimed to present both sides of an issue fairly.  For most of this country’s history, newspapers were either conservative or liberal.  More importantly, they were often “homers” with a bias towards printing what was good for the community it served.

The problem began in the 1960’s and 70’s when newspapers were being criticized for being monopolies.  Their subscribers began clamoring for news that printed both sides of a controversial issue.  Newspapers answered by printing the news on the news pages and keeping the biases to the editorial pages.

Now, with the age of Trump, papers have forgotten that news and opinions should be separated.  You have only to read a newspaper to see the biases in the writing and more importantly in the stories that the newspaper chooses to  print.  I once had a newspaper editor tell me that he decides what is news.   “If I chose to run a story I make it important by where I place the story on the page and how big of a headline I put on it.”  That’s even more true today.

You can’t blame newspapers for showing their biases.  They are no longer the dominate news media in the country nor often in their own home town.Social media, technology and television have displaced newspapers as the main source of news for people.

If you want to see the future of newspapers, you only have to look at cable news to see where it’s heading.   FOX News is conservative, CNN is liberal.  Viewers know what side of an issue the station will come down on and watch the channel that best fits their bias.  That’s where newspapers are heading.  They’re already there, they just aren’t admitting to it.

Please.  Would The Olympian stop saying it’s  “fair and balanced”  when the readers of its pages know otherwise.  Follow Leonard Pitts Jr.’s advice and come clean.  You could be setting a trend that other newspaper will soon emulate.

Posted in Business, Local Politics, The Real News

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