Is Media Bias Real or Are We Imagining It?
As we go to the polls next Tuesday to cast our ballots, we’ll all leave wondering what will happen on November 9th. Will the election be contested? We’re the polls right, or inaccurate as some have suggested? Did the media push one candidate over another, and did they succeed? Is there an inherent media bias?
For several weeks now, Trump has complained of bias in what he calls a “rigged election.” Some of it has to do with reports of voter fraud, the other with media treatment of him during the general election. While he benefited from the coverage during much of the primary season, the media has not been friendly to him once he faced off against Hillary Clinton. Is his conclusion that the media playing favorites accurate?
In an op-ed for the LA Times, Justin Raimondo claims the media bias is on full display. Set aside your personal ideology and ask yourself, is he right? Nearly half the country thinks so. Almost 9 of 10 Republicans said that news organizations are biased against Trump, while 3 in 4 Democrats disagree with that notion Politico politico reports in an article that dissects a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Six in 10 independents said the media are biased against the mogul. And you know what? That makes sense.
The Perception of Media Bias
“We the people” don’t set aside our political leanings and tend to think any negative reports about our candidate of choice constitute unfair coverage. Trump’s treatment of women and Clinton’s email server have provided plenty of grist for that particular mill. There has been no shortage of negative articles about either candidate in this election cycle, and the media has been all too willing to report all of it at the expense of actual campaign coverage.
So with all this division, hateful rhetoric, and perceived king-making in the mainstream media, coupled with the feeling that most Americans just want this election to be over so they can move on with their lives, the public must be changing the channel on their televisions to escape this media bias, right? Um…no. According to another article in Politico last March by Alex Weprin, “The 2016 election is proving to be a powerful force for Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, and all three of them are major beneficiaries of the chaos, drama and uncertainty that has surrounded the Republican and (to a lesser extent) Democratic campaigns.”
Just how much you ask? Read this quote and let it sink in:
“For the first time since it launched in 1996, Fox News was the most-watched channel in all of cable TV last quarter, topping ESPN, which had NFL and college football playoff games; AMC, which televises the ratings juggernaut “The Walking Dead”; and TBS, which aired college basketball games and a number of high-profile comedy shows.”
So, election coverage has beaten almost all other forms of Americana: football, zombies, and the nerds on “The Big Bang Theory.” Wow, and that was only during the primaries. Americans, regardless of their ideological leanings, understand how important of an election this is. And this is why the coverage is so important and why media bias is so dangerous.
Fairness in journalism is critical to the Fourth Estate, and the journalists that comprise it have a responsibility to the public. We rely on them for the presentation of information that allows us to make an informed decision. We expect them to find truth, or at a minimum, adhere to facts in their reporting. Unfortunately, the lines between the pundit and the journalist have been blurred, and opinion has replaced objective analysis in many broadcasts and articles.
The Media Has Lost It’s Way
So what does this all mean? It means that the media no longer serves to inform – it exists to be a ratings juggernaut that commands advertising revenue to fill the coffers of their corporate masters. The more money they make, the more they will engage in the activities that make it. In the case of election coverage, it means turning our democratic process into a high-stakes reality show where they help pick the winner. If you think that this will end on November 9th when the election is finally over, think again.
This election features two cults of personality – Trump and Clinton. What happens when the media doesn’t have two polarizing figures to feed off of in an election cycle? Will it mean more serious coverage, or more scandals, drama, and division? Will they continue to focus on the politicians themselves to drive ratings or analyze their stances on the issues we will rely on them to solve in the next four years?
Misinformation is something you don’t want going to the polls to make that important choice. We need policy-driven election coverage, and we need the media to be fair and accurate in reporting it. Ask yourself if they have in 2016. Ask yourself if they will four years from now.
My fellow Americans, the media that we rely on is jeopardizing our democratic process. They are failing us and, in return, we are rewarding them with higher ratings. So maybe it isn’t the media we should be blaming after all. Ask for a mirror the next time election coverage makes you nauseous and you look for someone to blame. I know I will. I’m just as much a part of the problem.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to make yourself heard in the comments section.
Mikael Carlson is the award-winning political fiction author of The iCandidate and the Michael Bennit Series of political dramas. He has also written the thriller The Eyes of Others. His current series, The Black Swan Saga, are epic dystopian political thrillers that showcase a world of corporate governance dominated by elitists. The first two novels, America, Inc. and America, Inc.: Bounded Rationality are available now. He lives in Danbury, CT.