Service of Character in the News

August 24th, 2020

Categories: Character, Vote

Photo: areyoulivingwell.com

“Character is on the ballot,” sneered a radio newsman on Friday, the morning after the conclusion of the Democratic convention.

Shouldn’t such a “report,” delivered with a sarcastic intonation, have been presented in a vanilla voice, as a quote, not as a news headline?

I miss the day when you could only guess the politics of those who deliver the news or more likely you wouldn’t think about it. There still are 24 hour radio news programs where efficient newscasters reiterate highlights, traffic and weather reports. Otherwise, nonpartisan has been hard to find for years.

Doris Kearns Goodwin Photo: aarp.org

Some of my favorite reporters, such as Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd, have tipped their hands. Like historians Jon Meacham, Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, whom I don’t recall before speaking up against or in favor of one or another politician, they’ve taken sides. Is their speaking up and out appropriate?

Even in the old days editorializing happened, if subtly, by the stories covered and those given no air time. Today if we tune into MSNBC or FOX we get an unrealistic analysis, a security blanket of analysis or finger-pointing that affirms what most of their viewers already think. On air personalities on both reflect their own realities.

Is character so bad a trait for a politician? Does this kind of coverage encourage extreme behavior by politicians? Can we expect nonpartisan news in our futures? If so, what will it take to revert?  Was news really impartial in the day?

Photo: orlandoweekly.com

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11 Responses to “Service of Character in the News”

  1. kathlen Said:

    Agree so much with you that one gets one version of the news programs. One probably should look both at MSNBC and Fox and digest the news, try out the slants and get a better choice of what the truth is.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Kathleen,

    Probably is the operative word. Who has time, patience and fortitude to do this? Also, we are at each other’s throats. What a listener hears that goes against the grain will automatically be discounted as “liberal or conservative craziness.” Issues that make each side see red won’t turn beige or even pink handled by the opposing channel.

  3. JBS Said:

    Wow! No, the news was never impartial. It takes on the mood/sense of the writer. I know because I was one of the reporters on a newspaper. Bias is inherent in reporting.

  4. ASK Said:

    Impartial, maybe not; partisan, yes…

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Lucrezia on Facebook:

    This can’t be a top notch newsman if he must resort to sneering as opposed to delivering the news as it occurs. Juvenile behavior on his part aside, character matters in every aspect of life, including politics. Just ask Senator Mitt Romney who was willing to stand out like a sore thumb in the face of what could cost him dearly in the future. Listeners might do well to contact the station and inform it that their interest is in the news, and that they are fully capable of interpreting ongoing events without assistance.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Sad to report that the newsman is playing to the balcony: The majority of listeners of this station agree with him, think that “character” is irrelevant and wouldn’t have noticed the sneer that inspired today’s post. For years he hid his personal political views. I can’t pinpoint just when he changed and tainted his creds as a serious newsman. His comments to the on-air personalities have made me sad as at one time I thought he was terrific. Today he announced that if Joe Biden didn’t travel around the country he’d lose the election for sure. He was clearly disparaging a candidate who would take care of his health during a pandemic. I admire someone who listens to physicians, researchers and scientists and follows their recommendations. It’s called setting a good example so we can get this horrendous pandemic behind us.

  7. David Reich Said:

    These days, it’s very difficult for a reporter to be totally impartial. With trump, they must be constantly fact-checking and correcting his statements and tweets.

    I don’t look to MSNBC for impartiality, although I do expect truthfulness from them. FOX doesn’t give a damn about truth — they just want to get across their partisan points, which are often lies or half-truths.

    I do expect truth and impartiality when it comes to the major networks’ newscasts and the major daily papers. I think, for the most part, major media leave the editorializing to the op-ed pages. I am sure, though, many of the reporters and anchors can’t stand trump and his minions, even those who may, in the personal lives,lean Republican.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    I have a hard time forgiving the media from major networks and cable to morning and weekend news shows to print–for giving DJT credibility to begin with by flooding the airwaves and spilling gallons of ink reporting his each and every outrageous word. Had they ignored his shenanigans four years ago we might not be in the mess we are today.

    For those who subscribe to Netflix I recommend watching the “West Wing” series again. It’s well done, compelling–riveting–and I would like to think that life at the White House might once again work something like it did.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    JBS,

    By selecting which quotes to run and which get cut a reporter–and her/his editor–reflect bias but nothing like today. Even in a blessedly benign area such as decorating, the ugly room doesn’t get featured but who determines what is and isn’t ugly? The editorial decision-maker.

    As a PR person I hope that my client’s viewpoint or product or news get a viewing or hearing that translates into coverage. For reporters and producers who give PR pitches a chance, the winner can come down to the most compelling pitch even if the product is lackluster–but isn’t that always the way? You try a product in a beautifully designed package or pay for a movie based on an intriguing preview.

  10. Lucrezia Said:

    Lucrezia wrote on Facebook: A good newsman needn’t act up in order to make himself understood. I’ve listened to a number of them, with well known points of view, who would state facts as they were, and still get their points across. The best example was the late Fulton Lewis, Jr., a staunch Conservative, and anything but an idiot. Chances are I’m not running into your person, since I have only one source of radio news, but if I do, and am sufficiently annoyed, the station’s ears will ring.

  11. Martha Takayama Said:

    When I took journalism courses we were told that journalists were to report the who. what, when , where and why of whatever story was being covered. Articles which manifested clear opinions or preferences were considered editorials and were to be presented as such. They might bear an individual, name or a newspaper, radio, TV, magazine or other signature. Speaking up and out was to be acknowledged for what it was. We could not have imagined today’s “news”. It has become increasingly difficult to find straight news coverage. Radio and television stations in particular manifest marked preferences for every aspect of the stories they cover with politics being the cornerstone of their identities. Furthemore many “hosts” manifest confusion over their role or even declare themselves entertainers. In the old days editorializing was infinitely more subtle and definitely more literate!

    As for character or good character, even backbone, it would be uplifting to think that they matter. The bending of any standards, rules of etiquette, social norms, discretion, diplomacy, tact and above all the never-ending lies that have characterized much of our public and political figures modus operandi and our so-called “news” media make yellow journalism of the past seem moderate. The lack of character evidenced by so many politicians leaves us leaderless and drowning in chaos on all levels. It is disillusioning, even insulting, and definitely tiring to have to constantly disentangle all the lies currently saturating our daily news feeds. Even worse is to have to listen to the pretense that the fictions merit equal time obvious lies and to worry about those who swallow the lies in full. We the public pay a high price as the horror of the pandemic is multiplied to the nth power by all this distortion of the news!

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