Newsroom bias

Regardless of which candidate, party or issues one supports, I’m sure most voters would agree that we all deserve facts, not fiction. It’s not possible to make educated decisions at the voting booth if we’re only getting part of the story — or an altered version of the story — from the media.

Well, based on some recent and very prominent cases of media manipulation — along with some chilling conversations I’ve had with colleagues who are media insiders — making informed decisions based on what we see and hear in today’s mass media has become a lot more difficult (if not impossible).

One colleague who works at a major metropolitan newspaper was stunned to recently hear his editors admit during a meeting on election coverage that they feel absolutely no professional journalistic obligation to cover Donald Trump fairly. The powers that be at my contact’s publication claimed that it’s all the GOP’s fault because they failed to put forth a “normal” candidate. So therefore, the media certainly can’t be expected, according to these news managers, to provide even a smidgen of balance when it comes to the Republican presidential nominee. So who died, as the old saying goes, and put a few obviously biased editors in charge of determining what qualifies as “normal” for a presidential nominee or any other candidate for that matter? My colleague wishes more media consumers knew what was happening inside today’s newsrooms.

My source said, “So you’ve basically got journalists deciding who falls within the boundaries of ‘normal’ and who doesn’t and concluding that we’re free to disregard classic journalism rules to help defeat the ‘anything but normal’ candidate.”

Another case of media manipulation that should make your skin crawl is the recent $12-million lawsuit filed against broadcast journalist Katie Couric by gun-rights advocates. On Sept. 13, the Virginia Citizens Defense League filed the major defamation lawsuit against Couric along with the director of a documentary entitled “Under the Gun.” Both are accused of making members of the group appear stumped by Couric’s questions when they were actually responding in great detail during interviews for the film examining gun violence.

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Among the major points of contention is a nine-second clip in the film; nine seconds of silence that follow Couric asking, “If there are no background checks, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?” The lawsuit details how the producers actually manufactured the fictional exchange by splicing in footage the filmmakers took telling the guests to be silent while the crew was calibrating or adjusting their equipment.

So the scene that unfolded supposedly depicting members of the gun-rights advocates as having been left apparently speechless by Couric never happened. It was all done with smoke and mirrors — or, more precisely, through deceptive editing.

If reporters at the level of the Katie Courics in the world are willing to play fast and loose with the facts on gun violence, one of the most divisive issues of late, and if major news managers are willing to forgo objectivity concerning a presidential candidate because he doesn’t fit their category of “normal,” what does that say about the state of journalism today?

It says we’re much better off relying on solid Catholic sources and our own research skills for our information. It also says that, in many ways, when it comes to secular outlets, no news is really good news after all.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.