Letter – Beware bias in news media

Published 6:14 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

In the June 5th column “In the Short Rows,” John Edwards listed every print and online news outlet in the area as “reliable” news media. Rather than suggest alternatives, I’d like to offer insight into how media outlets work.

The basic process is: News breaks, a journalist writes, an editor decides what prints, and a copy editor has to fit it in the space available. This process is overwhelmingly staffed by left-leaning professionals. Of the media professionals who donate to politicians, about 5% identify as Republicans, the balance as Democrats (Ballotpedia: Fact check: Do 97 percent of journalist donations go to Democrats?). 

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Years ago, I worked for a newspaper. The journalists there wouldn’t admit to having any bias and I’ll grant that some of them did their best. BUT, as a story worked through the publishing process, bias would creep into the mix. The journalist decides what details are important. The editor decides what articles run, what’s above the fold, and what’s relegated to Page 12. Sometimes the publisher, for various reasons, would nix a story, possibly because it’s unfavorable to a big advertiser, or for other reasons. 

The copy editor decides what gets cut to make a piece “fit,” and also crafts headlines (Google “misleading headlines” as a homework  assignment). All told, the published product is quite biased. Today we have media accused of systemic (intentional) bias by insiders. (NPR, Uri Berliner), as well as journalists who’ve published outright lies (check out “CNN controversies” on Wikipedia). Consume media with extreme caution, especially as Election Day approaches.

Is Edwards wrong? Not exactly. But realize, at best, part of the story – and probably the parts favorable to conservative ideals – lay in the dark places of the editing floor. You may never learn what was there. Or you might have to find it from “alternative” sources. 

If that guy in Tractor Supply with the MAGA hat has your blood boiling just looking at him, they’ve made a sucker out of you.


Rich Jenkins