Fair and balance is bleeding in the ditch

December 14th, 2019 by Ken

When the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein brought down the president of the United States – –  the way newspapers and the media approached their roles changed – significantly.

I was a working journalist at that time.  The exploits of these two Washington Post reporters in forcing Richard Nixon to resign from his office echoed around and through newsrooms around the United States and around the world.

Prior to that time, newspapers distributed the news differently.  Reporters reported the news.  They went to the car wrecks, the fires, the city council meetings, even the boring school board meetings and reported what happened.  They left their personal biases and opinions on the layout room floor.  Editors read every piece of copy and they  edited out irrelevant and unnecessary parts.  What the reporter saw, not what he thought, was the story.

Newspapers were always biased.  There were Republican newspapers and there were Democratic newspapers.  Everyone knew what the views of the newspaper owners were and subscribed to those publications.  But, sometime in the 1950’s, newspapers changed.  The blatant bias was confined to the editorial pages.  Newspapers tried to be neutral and fair.

Fairness was taught in journalism schools.  Owners preached fairness at board meetings.  Fairness was the way to expand the subscriber base.   Fair and balanced was the key to success and financial viability.

There were biases and personal opinions, but these were confined to the editorial page of the newspaper.

Then in pursuit of a greater good and to save the country from itself, a few reporters began to find a different and better role for themselves.  That’s when the investigative reporter reared his head.  For the most part, they were a novelty and not taken very seriously, although they had their readership.

But Woodward and Bernstein’s great success echoed throughout the business.  Here’s the way to achieve fame. Editors like the excitement, publishers like the bottom line and subscribers felt like they were on top of the news.

The media changed significantly since that time.  Bias is once again at the top of the newscast or just under the headline.  Subscribers and viewers have picked their outlet, and truth and fairness has been trampled under foot in the search to be the next paper, reporter, television network or scandal sheet to bring down a president.  The rewards are numerous and profitable.

But truth, justice and fairness is left in the ditch, bloody and bleeding, waiting for the ambulance that never comes.


Posted in Business, Government, History

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