I Still Don’t Trust the Media…

Last year, I podcasted about my distrust of the news media. Since then, my feelings have not changed. However, I have found new resources to help me decipher facts from facts framed a certain way and downright lies. I’m going to share them along with the transcript of the podcast I posted last year. With so much going on with the upcoming Presidential election and Supreme Court nomination, I am all the more skeptical about what I read in the news. I crave a balanced viewpoint.

I Don’t Trust The Media. This is Why…

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

Let me read you a few headlines then, make a prediction that I am more than certain will come true. In 2016, Gallup reported that “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low.” In 2018, Columbia Journalism Review said, “Most Americans say they have lost trust in the media.” Also, in 2018, this headline from TVNewser, “Study: Half of All High School Students Don’t Trust the Media to Report Accurately and Fairly”  And quite recently, in July 2019, USA TODAY had a headline that read, “Trust no one? Americans lack faith in the government, the media and each other, survey finds.” And that article quoted a Pew Research Center study that said, “61% say the news media ignores important stories.”

All that being said, I predict that the news media, especially the mainstream news, will never again have the high confidence of the American public; as it once did decades ago when Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America. But why? What are the underlying factors of News production that have made the American public so skeptical? Well, I count the reasons why, after this message from my sponsor.

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One reason why the public cannot have full confidence in the news media is because it is in business to make money, not share truth. Case in point, consider the pharmaceutical industry. Does this sound familiar to you? {clip of Chantix commercial} Now listen to the possible side effects that could affect the people taking the drug. {clip of Chantix commercial with the side effects being listed.} I’m not a lawyer, but I imagine the drug companies are compelled by law to mention those potential harmful effects or at the least, they do so to reduce the risk of lawsuits. I get 2 notions from that.

On September 26, 2018, the blog Biopharma Dive published an article called, “Pharma advertising in 2018: TV, midterms and specialty drugs” and here is a quote:

Just considering television, 187 commercials for about 70 prescription medications have collectively aired almost half a million times since the start of 2018. And to do that, drug companies shelled out $2.8 billion, according to marketing analytics provider iSpot.tv.

With so much money coming from pharmaceutical companies, do you think that plays a factor when reporters are writing their stories? Of course it does. Listen to this clip from the TV show, “America’s Lawyer featuring Mike Papantonio.”

Reason #1 why we cannot trust the mainstream media is the influence wielded upon by big advertisers – like the pharmaceutical industry. Reason #2 is the personal bias of the people who own the media.

One thing I found surprising when I was researching this episode was how much of the mainstream media is an illusion of choice. When you follow the money, you discover that 90% of all news, again, I say, 90% of all the mainstream news is produced and controlled by only 6 companies and they are: GE, News-Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS.  When you look on sites like Open Secrets which tracks contributions to politicians, the pattern is obvious. The majority of the big 6 companies that own the mainstream media are highly sympathetic to left-leaning liberal Democrats and are more than a bit adversarial to right-leaning conservative Republicans. When I learned that, this explainer video I found on the Media Research Center website made sense to me. Here’s a clip…  

Big money from advertisers influences the news.

Political bias influences the news.

And both are reasons not to trust mainstream news. Here’s a third reason – Some reporters are not trustworthy. Reporters lie, take payoffs and make things up to get headlines. Here are just a few examples I found on the website – ThoughtCo. Each one was a scandal, let’s see if you remember them.

A 2005 report by USA Today revealed that the Bush White House had paid conservative columnists to promote the administration’s policies. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid to columnists Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, and Michael McManus. Williams, who received the most loot, acknowledged he had received $241,000 to write favorably about Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative, and he apologized. His column was canceled by the Tribune Co., his syndicator.

Popular NBC “Nightly News” journalist Brian Williams became embroiled in a scandal when he claimed to have been in a helicopter hit by a missile in 2003 when reporting on the invasion of Iraq. Actually, the helicopter hit was in front of his. He first recounted the story on David Letterman in 2013 and elsewhere. In 2015 a soldier in the helicopter that was actually hit heard the story and didn’t recall Williams being on his particular transport. Williams wouldn’t say that he lied but rather explained that his order of events was a result of his faulty memory. “I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago.” He was put on leave for six months without pay and then replaced on the “Nightly News.” Williams moved on to MSNBC.

Rolling Stone ran a huge story about several University of Virginia men who reportedly raped a woman as part of a fraternity initiation (“A Rape on Campus”). The source fabricated her story. It was only after the story was published that the source’s story started to unravel, when the writer was following up on a detail that the source refused to divulge during the interview portion of the reporting. The magazine settled a lawsuit with the fraternity, agreeing to pay $1.65 million in defamation damages, some of which was to be donated to charities dealing with sexual assault victims.

In light of big money from advertisers, media bias and the occasional bad egg, who can you trust to get your news? Well, I have a bit of a formula. I look at media outlets that are diametrically opposed to each other in terms of how they report the news then, I search for points where they agree and that is what I accept as truth. On the points that they disagree, I do my research further by looking at the alternative news outlets. And yes, it’s a lot of work, but something I feel I have to do on certain topics. I shouldn’t have to do it but, what other choice do I have?

RELATED LINKS

And all that brings me to this new and very timely resource from “AllSides Media Bias Chart.” From their website…

The AllSides Media Bias Chart helps you to easily identify different perspectives so you can get the full picture and think for yourself. Knowing the political bias of media outlets allows you to consume a balanced news diet and avoid manipulation and fake news. Everyone is biased, but hidden bias misleads and divides us. The AllSides Media Bias Chart is based on our full and growing list of over 800 media bias ratings. These ratings inform our balanced newsfeed…

The AllSides Media Bias Chart is more comprehensive in its methodology than any other media bias chart on the Web. While other media bias charts show you the subjective opinion of the one person who made it, our ratings are based based on multipartisan, scientific analysis. We use multiple methodologies to rate bias.

Now, I have another resource for discerning truth. Hopefully, it will be of use to you. Pass it on.