It may be time to reexamine our definition of objectivity

How should broadcast news cover a president who lies? Should it gloss over the facts out of some misplaced desire to be objective, or does it come right out and tell the truth?


The broadcast media faces this dilemma as the impeachment hearings gather steam. It does not affect the newspapers do much: print journalists are filing tremendous in-depth articles full of specifics and reliable sources. But network television news, especially that of the major networks, has a tendency to rush bravely into adequacy, to be “objectively” inoffensive in the hopes of losing no viewers at either end of the spectrum. As a result, unless we read print journalism daily, we remain blithely ignorant.


Now should I want affirmation that Trump is a lying con-man, I can get that on MSNBC, and if I want accolades tossed his way, there's Fox News. Most Americans, however, subscribe to neither, relying on the presumed objectivity of the major networks; and if we’ve learned anything since the issuance of the Mueller Report, we've learned that such a tack doesn't work. Painting Trump as some complex figure whose politics are bound to annoy a few Democrats is foolish, and yet the “politics as usual” approach of the major networks has normalized what is almost pathologically abnormal. (Today, for instance, we begin determining not whether a president committed treason, but why it was okay.)


Can anyone with a modicum of sense deny that (1) Trump is little more than a grifter—a con-man, who ascended to the White House in a country ill-informed as to the causes of their disenchantment and discontent, that (2) he told us our economic problems were the result of cheap foreign labor and we bought it, and that (3) he blamed climate change regulations for the diminution of American industrial output, and we bought that too? He even proclaimed that Obamacare was the worst of all possible health insurance schemes and, grateful people who had never had health insurance until Obamacare still voted for him.


Con-man—and a good one.


But until broadcast media presents all that to a country at large, we are being cheated not only by criminal-politicians but by the people whose job it is to inform us. Centuries ago the town crier kept us informed. We’ve grown too big and diverse for that sort of folksy approach, but we haven’t grown too big and diverse for the truth.

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