The Urgent Need to Create a New and Better Media
By adulterating their news reporting with crass and transparently biased opinion, by creating false histories such as the New York Times’ 1619 Project, and by displaying a pervasive and fanatical anti-Trump bias, the mainstream media no longer practice even minimally satisfactory journalism.
Which is why, whenever and however our coronavirus nightmare ends, it’s imperative that the country mobilize to create new and better players in the news business.
It won’t be easy and it won’t be cheap, but it can be done with the right kind of reporters and editors, and the right kind of financial backers. At a minimum there needs to be one national newspaper serving a general audience, and one cable news channel, both of which practice a strictly objective form of news and feature reporting.
Equally important, these news outlets must launch and operate without any government funding. By the example of NPR we know where that leads.
Beyond these imperatives many aspects of their operations will of course need to be resolved at the outset, most importantly whether they should be taxable or tax-exempt. The main thing, though, is that these outlets must be seen as delivering informed, professional, and bias-free journalism with exceptional depth. This in turn will require the hiring of large numbers of reporters and editors, the expense of which will be staggeringly high, especially as contrasted with the relatively puny revenue early on.
So what, some might ask, is the dire need for all this? It’s a question that can be answered with another: How many general interest news organizations can readers and viewers go to these days for unbiased, well-sourced, and substantial information about any complex subject, especially those that touch on policy or politics? The honest answer to that question is very, very few.
Look at it this way: We are now living at a time when the country and the world are in the middle of a pandemic, China poses military and economic threats in their part of the world and beyond, Europe is at imminent risk of coming undone, our wild fiscal and monetary policies raise questions for which the only answers are incomprehensible, and the Democratic Party has just come perilously close to awarding its presidential nomination to a humorless and atherosclerotic Marxist. At such a time don’t you think deep and objective news coverage is rather more important than the NFL, cooking programs, or “reality” shows? The unvarnished truth is that it is perilous for us as a country not to have better news media than we have.
Many people appear to hold out hope that the current crop of TV and print media can be shamed, or taught the error of their ways, such that they will change and start practicing the kind of journalism the country needs. But they’re wrong about that. The media won’t change. And it’s not because they’re unaware of the kind of journalism they’re practicing.
In her book, “Merchants of Truth,” the former New York Times executive editor, Jill Abramson, castigated the paper for “its unmistakably anti-Trump bias” and said the reason for it is management’s perceived need to keep and attract liberal readers, through online subscriptions especially.
Nor is funding the only explanation for the media’s widespread and resolute tendentiousness. An even bigger reason is the overwhelmingly wide majorities of liberals working in newsrooms. Of course, there’s no reason liberals can’t practice objective reporting, but not if it’s not demanded of them by their editors, and they work in newsrooms staffed with nothing but liberals.
So if the media can’t be obliged or persuaded to reform, what better alternative, at what better time, than to create within the Fourth Estate vastly better print and electronic news media?
Patrick Maines is president emeritus of The Media Institute, one of the country’s leading First Amendment think tanks.