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Media Bias: Everyone Should Care

As a professional journalist who is both a fierce critic and staunch defender of the media, as a Saint Peter’s alumnus, and as a concerned citizen, I want to respond to Scott Miller’s column in the October 4 issue entitled “Media Bias: Who Cares?”

I have four points:

  1. Media bias is not as extensive as Scott implies.
  2. Everyone should care about media bias.
  3. In-depth reporting is vital to the public interest.
  4. Even though students are very busy, they should at least scan one or more important websites of organizations that offer comprehensive unbiased news coverage.

It’s obviously true that Fox News and MSNBC have pronounced biases, and that’s okay as long as viewers recognize these biases and don’t depend on them as their sole source of news.

My primary news sources are The New York Times, NPR, the PBS Newshour and CNN. I do not find bias in their news coverage. The Times has a strong liberal bias on its opinion pages, though it does have two conservative columnists – David Brooks and Ross Douthat. Its news coverage is straight down the middle, in addition to being the most comprehensive of any news organization in the world. Nowhere else can you find the in-depth reporting offered by The Times, not just on the major news of the day, but also investigative reporting.

Mitt Romney and the Republicans would like to eliminate all funding for public broadcasting, but I defy him or anyone else to find bias on NPR’s signature programs: “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” or any of its other news and public affairs programs. These programs often devote five or six minutes to major stories. No other radio station or network does that.

The PBS Newshour is the single most informative news program on television.

WNYC is the public radio station in the New York area. It can be found at 880 AM and 93.9 FM. Channel 13 is the PBS station. The Newshour is on at 7 pm.

As for CNN, I don’t feel that it has a left-wing bias. In general, I think it does a good job of covering the news and it certainly offers far more comprehensive coverage than any other network, although CNN International is much better  for world news. CNN is particularly good on major stories. That said, like most of the media, its coverage of the election campaign focuses far too much on the “horse race” – how the candidates are doing on the polls, rather than what they’re saying about the issues.

One of my pet peeves is that the media have generally failed to cover important issues that the candidates are avoiding but should be talking about. For example, neither candidate has said much at all about poverty, even though 16 percent of the American public lives in poverty. Nor have they said anything at all about guns because they are so afraid of alienating the National Rifle Association. Yet the media has failed to take the candidates to task for ignoring these issues. Ironically, the most attention paid to guns resulted from an ad by Stephen Barton, a victim of the mass shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., this summer. “In the next four years, 48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns in the next president’s term. Enough to fill over 200 theaters,” says Barton, who was shot in the face and neck. The ad drew some coverage, but the news media did not produce that type of eye-opening statistical information.

Even the best news sources often ignore important aspects of key stories. During the long, agonizing debate in Congress over healthcare legislation three years ago, there was practically no mention of single-payer and highly regulated systems common in all other industrialized countries – all of which provide comprehensive coverage that provide healthcare to all citizens and at far lower costs.

Globalization has made international news far more important than ever, yet so many news organizations have cut back on their foreign coverage. The New York Times, NPR and CNN offer the best international news coverage. You can get a different perspective on world news by scanning web sites such as BBC and Al Jazeera.

Another good source is Google News – news.google.com. It aggregates stories from news organizations around the world, and you can program it to fit your tastes, including business, sports, entertainment, science and technology. For New Jersey news, you can go to the Star Ledger’s web site –nj.com.

I can’t say that I myself pay attention to all of these news sources, but I’m mentioning them here to let you know that they exist and the value they offer. Even if you don’t have much time for the news, you can at least scan one or more of their web sites.

- Bill Armbruster, ‘71

Online Editor’s Note – “Media Bias: Everyone Should Care” is a response to the October 2nd article, “Media Bias: Who Cares?” by Scott Miller.

 

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