Can Anyone Trust Mainstream Media?

I am a child of the sixties. My formative years were spent with one television in the household with three major channels plus PBS. Anyone over fifty will remember those days well. At that time, the height of the baby boom era, the news, both written and broadcast, was highly respected as America’s “Fourth Estate”. Every evening, Americans of all income levels and ethnicities gathered around the television to gain a view of world events through the evening news. Local newspapers were found in most homes and perused as a treasure trove of local and national news and opinions. Journalism was considered a prestigious and hallmark career. Evening news programs were littered with trusted and revered personalities that became household names. Cronkite, Brinkley, Rather, Reasoner, Jennings, Brokaw…the list goes on.

These early mainstays of broadcast journalism took great pride in bringing interesting, objective and factual reporting that both informed their viewers and shined a light on significant actors, both political and private. But somewhere between now and then something changed. Perhaps it was the advent of cable in the early eighties and the proliferation of channels. Three major channels have now become dozens, even hundreds of specialized channels. The media industry itself has changed also. From Hollywood to cable TV to the local papers, things are now very different. Mainstream media may have lost the trust of any rational thinker who seeks for the truth and reality of things.

Perhaps it was the media’s discovery that sensationalism sells. Perhaps it was increased competition among the many emerging channels. Perhaps it was a change in journalistic leadership, now appearing to be dominated by committed liberals. It has become painfully clear that news has transformed from informative to agenda driven. Most media sources, with few exceptions, now parrot a hard left agenda. Objective reporting has been replaced with a barely watered down brand of propaganda.  Far reaching spin and bias are no longer considered unprofessional, as they likely would have been in Cronkite’s day, but a matter of course for enticing program content.

When we watched coverage of the Vietnam War in the late sixties and early seventies, we received factual accounts of events and outcomes. Many different sides of a story were looked at. America was considered a generally good actor, supporting the oppressed despite stories and protests otherwise. Today, events in the Middle East are viewed either with great suspicion and condemnation by talking heads in one corner, or with praise and false declarations of policy triumph in another. In many stories, America is labeled the bad actor in an even more violent and dangerous play. Somewhere in between are the realities, but will we ever have access to them?

Local Utah news resources have not been immune to such divisions. Look at The Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune. Take for example their reporting on a dominant subject in the state of Utah, The LDS Church. The Deseret News is rife with conference reporting, church announcements and puff pieces on individual spiritual experiences of church members. While the articles are essentially biased, though notably biased in the direction of a positive and uplifting agenda, they are propagandized nonetheless. On the other hand, the Salt Lake Tribune takes a questioning and often antagonistic stance on most any church activity or announcement. Both media outlets look at the same events with drastically different polarity. Should readers not be entitled to something a bit more neutral in between once and a while?

Politics in particular has become the subject of propagandized reporting. Almost all news channels will give favorable and generous view to liberal issues while giving little coverage, and critical coverage at that, to more conservative viewpoints. Consider the upcoming presidential race in 2016. Candidates are lining up on the Republican side, with at least six viable candidates. Democrats are a one candidate field at the moment. Guess who gets the major minutes on news programs, replete with film clips of van chasing paparazzi? Let’s look at the anointing of one Hillary Rodham Clinton through the media’s eyes.

Remember in 2012 when one candidate Mitt Romney made a comment about forty seven percenters? The media crucified him and made him carry the “out of touch rich guy” mantra clear through until the elections were over. Mrs. Clinton gets a different look. Benghazi disaster and cover up while Secretary of State? Nothing to see there. Blame it on a video and run with the story. Potentially criminal use of government information on personal email accounts? Yesterday’s news. Accepting contributions from foreign nations with specious human rights records? Nothing out of the ordinary. Lambasting CEO’s and the one-percenters as the source of income inequality and needing to do more, while carrying a personal net worth greater than most of the targeted suspects? A real people’s champion. Creating professionally placed and vetted “citizens” for a carefully scripted Iowa sound bite? No misrepresentation, everyone does it. Now, a new book is out by Peter Schweizer that claims to tie Clinton influence in public office to millions in personal gain. Mrs. Clinton runs in front of the camera and calls it “a Republican distraction.” She even joked that “if they were not talking about me they would not have much to talk about”. The truth is, if provable, such behavior is nothing short of felonious.

The point here is that the media, with the possible exception of Fox News, is not blowing up over such things. It is all a matter of course. This would never have flown in David Brinkley’s heyday and such apparent public malfeasance would have the candidate called to the carpet across the board. But apparently it does not fit the narrative that the modern media propaganda machines espouse. Offer lies, spin and excuses and move on folks, get on with your day. But these are the doings of an individual we might eventually give the keys of our entire democracy and the worlds’ largest military to. Should our beloved press not at least search for some shred of real character and accountability?

There have been too many years of obfuscation, spin, and outright falsehood emanating from our nation’s leaders. The press should never accept such things or issue a free pass, and the public should be outraged. But where is the outrage? Have decades of mind numbing sit-coms and absurd reality shows finally stooped the general population into a semi-comatose apathy over those who control the destiny of their government? Or have we just been re-educated into not asking the hard questions? If the obvious conclusion is that mainstream media has become nothing more than a propaganda lapdog for the leftist candidate du jour, it is fitting there should be little trust and a lot of skepticism. And anyone who dares to contradict them, including the much maligned internet and blog sites such as Utah Politico Hub, are simply labeled thoughtless cretins. We are just not objective or credible amidst the world of college-degreed journalists.

Remember, the course of modern history requires high degrees of propaganda to enforce the will of bad actors much more so than good actors. If mainstream media has indeed become a tool of agenda driven propagandists, the average citizen would be within their rights to discount anything and everything they hear. But are we vigilant enough and well educated enough to see the problem? And whose agenda and what sort of a snapshot of reality are we being fed? Does it matter? You better believe it does. And at any given moment, it is likely that Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and many of their late and great journalist friends are spinning in their graves. My how times have changed.

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