the daily doyle

About the Media
May 23, 2011, 10:05 pm
Filed under: General stuff

Mark Twain reportedly said, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

There is something very fascinating about this quote. Possibly Mark Twain said it, or perhaps Thomas Jefferson said it before him. There are conflicting reports. One newspaper somewhere attributed it to Mark Twain and it has been mainly considered “his” ever since. It serves as the perfect example of the fact that a newspaper can A) make a mistake and B) can shape public opinion.

Today of course, news media is a lot more than newspapers. We have television, radio, the Internet. Books are not really media but they do carry ideas and sometimes the same messages that the media feeds us are to be found in books as well. Certainly any book by a politician is going to contain some “spin”, some information slanted in a way to suit someone’s agenda.

That, essentially, is the trouble with all media. Pretty much every media outlet is slanted to forward a particular message. The slant may not be obvious. In many cases, even slanted media will cover a story pretty fairly. Yet the “slant” can be simply that they choose to focus on certain stories and ignore others.

In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, the “mainstream” news media had a great time discussing Sarah Palin’s expensive clothes and her daughter’s unplanned pregnancy. The same media didn’t give any coverage to some questionable real estate dealings Barack Obama had with a convicted felon, or his questionable association with Bill Ayers, who could be described as a domestic terrorist.

There was really nothing wrong with the coverage of Sarah Palin’s clothes and her daughter’s little problem, in themselves. The reporting, as far as I know, was pretty honest. Yet the choice to focus on these things and the amount of attention given them is questionable.

In today’s age, of course, there are media outlets on the other side that will focus on Democrat missteps. Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and the Drudge report are the balance to those outlets considered mainstream. There are no precise opposites but some generally slant toward what we call “left” and some slant what we call “right”.

What to do? Can we demand the news media be fair and honest. Can we force each media outlet to cover both sides of the fence. That would be a bit difficult because who is going to decide what’s fair, honest and balanced. Why would we expect this person to be unbiased? Are there angels somewhere that can’t be swayed and have no agenda and could be entrusted to keep everyone else honest. I don’t see why we would expect them to be unbiased.

From 1949 to 1987, a law called the “Fairness Doctrine” was in place, forcing broadcasters to A) present controversial viewpoints and B) to give adequate coverage to opposing viewpoints.

Some want to bring back this fairness doctrine.

But I think we’d all be much better off if we really understood what our Constitution says about free speech and follow that. The second amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Splitting out just the part about speech and the press, you get:

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

Abridge, in case you don’t have a dictionary handy means, “to reduce in scope, extent, etc.” I think our founding fathers realized that the press couldn’t be trusted but that an overreaching federal government could be an even bigger threat.

As citizens we only have to understand that the press is free to be slanted, even dishonest. We must be therefore vigilant and careful with what we listen to and what we believe.


1 Comment so far
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This is an excellent article!
I think many of us have the problem of “who shall I believe?”
As Doyle says, we have to be careful about who we believe and what is true or not.
False data can cause people to think that because someone is a good speaker; or because the whole society do worship a certain group and therefore anything put out by this group is “true”. Nonsense. Have you noticed that billions of money goes to buy drugs which cause children to committ suicide, and murder by those who take the drugs?
Have you looked further and noticed that many people are paid great amounts of money to lie to our legislators about the safety of these drugs?
Sometimes you have to look further, especially when you can see that a bunch of facts do not fit with what is coming out via the TV ads!
Then, keep looking and you will find the real truth.


Comment by Mary Collins

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