The Media is Broken

The Media is Broken, by Rod Dreher.

When I graduated from journalism school in 1989, … I approached journalism — we were all taught to do this, if only implicitly — with the sense that The Truth Is Out There, and our task as journalists was to do our very best to discern it and reproduce it as accurately as possible. You might say that this is a “metaphysical realist” approach to journalism — that is, one dedicated to the belief that Truth has an existence independent from observers, and that it can be known, however imperfectly, through the methods of fact-gathering and sifting professional journalists learn and practice. …

I don’t believe that American journalism is dedicated to that foundational proposition, not anymore. … As I see it, most journalists today believe — and most are unconscious of it — that truth claims are really masks concealing the exercise of power. As such, they believe that the journalists’ task is to create and shape narrative to achieve certain political and social goals.

Same sex marriage:

An example I bring up often in this space is an enlightening (for me) argument I have around 2006 or so with a fellow journalist about the way our profession was covering the debate about same-sex marriage. I complained that the media were doing a poor job of exploring the complexities of the issue, especially the socially and religiously conservative take on the matter.

My indignant colleague said that there weren’t two sides to this issue: that there was Good, and there was Evil. He said, in all sincerity, “If this were the Civil Rights era, would you believe that we had a responsibility as journalists to give equal time to the KKK?”

Dwell for a moment on the fact that a professional journalist at a major news organization seriously believed that Christian churches and individuals who believe what almost everybody in the world believed about the sexually complementary nature of marriage until basically the day before yesterday — that those people are the moral equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan. This journalist was serious. And that statement he made was only the first time I’d heard it put like that.

Today’s journalists embrace bias:

If you believe that journalism’s mission is to side with certain classes of people against other classes of people, then you will have little to no interest in telling the stories of those you have identified as privileged or otherwise deplorable in the value system you hold, and that most of your colleagues hold (and study after study has documented that journalism is overwhelmingly populated by liberals and progressives).

Further, you may convince yourself that the stories you assign, you report, you publish or broadcast — that they all be focused on advocating a particular narrative, or narratives, and de-emphasizing, or even ignoring, competing narratives.

I used to think that it was sufficient to point out to journalists their biases in particular stories, and that out of a sense of professional obligation, they would seek to correct those biases. Now I think that’s naive. The belief that epistemic bias is something to be overcome in the practice of journalism is a concept from a previous era. Now it is embraced as a virtue — but only if it’s a bias towards the Left. …

Our news media are broken because it mistakes its ideological dream for reality, and by hypermoralizing its craft, has placed obstacles to observing the facts in front of its eyes.

It is difficult for someone like me, a professional journalist, to give up the idea that my profession is dedicated, deep down, to the proposition of telling the truth without fear or favor. But I think it’s probably necessary at this point, for the sake of protecting the people and the institutions I care about from the culture war these journalistic combatants wage on us. I cannot express to you how much this depresses me.

The question that the modern journalist asks about each fact or claim: How does that help the Left?