The term “objective journalism” is deeply oxymoronic. Personal biases and strong political beliefs tend to muddle, omit, and distort the truth to forward a narrative that is proven to be beneficial for one side of the political aisle.
Everything after the separator is the opinion of this article’s author.
On May 20th, 2021, the Washington Post reported that CNN’s Chris Cuomo advised his brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, on how to respond to sexual assault claims from at least seven different women.
According to the Washington Post, “Cuomo, one of the network’s top stars, joined a series of conference calls that included the Democratic governor, his top aide, his communications team, lawyers and a number of outside advisers, according to the people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private sessions.”
CNN said Cuomo taking part in the strategy sessions for his brother was a mistake, and Cuomo later apologized live on his Thursday night show. “It will not happen again,” he said. “It was a mistake because I put my colleagues here, who I believe are the best in the business, in a bad spot.”
This also comes after Chris Cuomo reportedly advised his brother about his early COVID-19 strategies and then later reporting positively on his brother’s handling of the pandemic.
Reportedly, Chris Cuomo’s interviews with his brother “allowed the New York governor to boast about his administration’s handling of the crisis to a sympathetic interviewer.”
The Washington Post article further reports, “Chris Cuomo interviewed his brother six times about the pandemic — at one point brandishing a giant nasal swab as the two discussed the virus’s spread through the state and the governor’s response.”
In October 2020, I personally worked on a campaign for a local governing board election in my hometown of La Cañada. Before my involvement in the campaign, then-Director-of-Cinematography Luke Kim and I interviewed three out of the four candidates in the race, which prompted a roughly ten-minute video interview along with a 500-word profile of each interviewed candidate. After I began working on the social media for one candidate, I endorsed that candidate in a local newspaper and urged the Outspoken Oppa editorial board to unanimously vote to endorse her campaign as well.
By the time the candidate I worked for won the election in November, I had published three articles in two separate publications, posted a ten-minute long interview endorsing the candidate’s campaign, and urged the website’s writing staff to vote or campaign for her. And even though I am deeply glad that the candidate I worked for currently influences local governance on school policy and community affairs, I admit what I did in the time leading up to the election was a textbook definition of biased reporting.
For example, Luke and I previously interviewed two other candidates in that election before I joined any campaign or even before the website endorsed anyone. However, if anyone were to examine the differences between the three profiles I wrote on the three different candidates, there is a clear and evident preference as to which candidate I wanted to win in the way I wrote the articles or which information I choose to report on.
For my profile on Caroline Anderson, the candidate I worked for, I included the fact that she had over “600 endorsers ranging from the La Cañada Teachers’ Association and National Women’s Political Caucus- Greater Pasadena Area.” I then later said that her closing message was “sympathetic” to those children deeply affected by the pandemic. Alternatively, when I did the profile on a candidate I interviewed earlier, I did not mention any endorsers, and the article was notably shorter. In both articles, I arguably reported the truth but what facts I chose to report and how I chose to present those facts was biased.
Obviously, I have full confidence that Ms. Anderson would have won regardless of any personal endorsements, but the fact remains that journalists, those with a far greater platform I may ever will, understand the power and influence of the words they choose to use when reporting the truth. They can change the perception of significant political events or dilute the gravity of a major current event that hurts the image of a preferred politician. They have the power to endorse candidates in presidential elections and focus solely on reporting events that harm the opposing candidate.
However, in using this power to pander to a consumer audience, the general public perception of mass media declines.
According to a September 2020 Gallup poll, “Four in 10 U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” (9%) or “a fair amount” (31%) of trust and confidence in the media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly,” while six in 10 have “not very much” trust (27%) or “none at all” (33%).”
The 40 percent of Americans who say they trust mass media “a great deal or a fair amount” has dropped significantly since the 68% to 72% trust in media back in 1972.
The drop in trust of the media is also better identified when examining the party lines. A Pew Research poll found Democrats distrust 22 out of 30 major media outlets, and Republicans distrust 20 out of 30 major media outlets. 67% of Democrats/ lean Democrat trust CNN for election and political news, and 65% of Republicans/ lean Republican trust Fox News for election and political news. The divide in the news sources each political party trusts or distrusts is predicated on a disagreement of political ideologies. For example, 66% of liberals trust the New York Times for election and political news presumptively, in my opinion, because the New York Times reporting team and editorial board cater to a liberal consumer base.
And the reason why CNN has such a strong Democratic following and Fox News has such a strong Republican following is because both major news outlets report on news that can potentially incite anger, sorrow, grief, or any long-lasting emotion that could support one side of the political aisle. In simple terms, they both report on news and give commentary to that news to drive their profit from a consumer base that wants to reaffirm their pre-established perceptions of politics.
A good example is to contrast Fox News and CNN’s take on the BLM demonstrations that took place in the summer of 2020. For example, Fox News Host Tucker Carlson once called the BLM movement a “poison,” while, in June, the aforementioned CNN Host Chris Cuomo said, “Please, show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful.”
The point is that the term “objective journalism” is an oxymoron. It is literally impossible for a reporter to report about every single fact or story that occurred in a given time period, so it is up to that reporter to choose what facts are and are not relevant to a particular news story. Within that selection of particular facts, that reporter will undoubtedly be influenced by his own perception of policies, his biases, and any experiences that have thus shaped his viewpoint on the matter.
That’s not to discredit any prior reporting on this website or by me on any other publication, but really it’s to understand that the way a story is presented is greatly dependent on the author. Before I move to publish an article that contains the news, I write in italics, “Everything after the separator is the opinion of this article’s author.” And I do that to help the reader differentiate between fact and opinion, but really the two are not so easy to distinguish in today’s modernized dissemination of information.
So, what’s the remedy? It’s rather simple: consume information from multiple outlets and then make an independent thought. Another helpful solution could be realizing that no media source is the paradigm of truth-telling, and no one journalist will constantly tell you the truth without a narrative spin.
In the words of renowned American Journalist Hunter S. Thompson, “So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here–not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”