SAY ANYTHING: Is objective journalism dead?

Joey Bagnasco

Before I incessantly blather on with a list of grievances against televised news, I should really mention that I do appreciate the variety and quality of media in this country. 

I feel privileged to have access to the work of a multitude of journalists across many different platforms. 

Right — now for the complaints.

I have felt exasperated for some time at the lack of balanced, independent thought on major TV networks.  This discouraging trend is probably most apparent during political discussions and debates. 

Here, I am mainly referring to the content of talk shows, although the line has been blurred between objective reporting and opinionated commentary. More on that later. 

In regard to politics, televised talk shows seem to have grown increasingly partisan. Every host and guest has an agenda which they are trying to push on the public. These agendas always fall into one of two categories: conservative or liberal.  

I realize that the hosts and guests of the show need to have opinions, but why does every political debate have to be polarized into right vs. left party politics? By looking at every issue only in terms of what fits nicely into the two-party system, these shows do themselves and their viewers a great disservice. 

I am not asking for neutrality of commentary, merely the inclusion of viewpoints outside the realm of the red and blue chess match that perpetually preoccupies the country. 

This oversimplification of issues on major networks tends to favor one party over the other, but more importantly, it serves to stifle independent analysis of a problem and suppress free thought.

A much more serious issue lies in the question of media bias in reporting. 

While a certain amount of bias is tolerable in a talk show, most people agree that straight news stories should be delivered fairly and impartially. 

However, a 2009 poll revealed that two thirds of all Americans believe that “objective and fair journalism is dead.” 

Most major networks have been accused of slanting the news in support of their collective ideals.  

While Fox News is notoriously conservative, CNN and MSNBC tend to be highly liberal. 

Critics have said that these privately owned organizations have not even tried to remain nonpartisan.  

I suppose the question is: Do these media giants have the right to try to sway public opinion? 

I assert that at least for a news program, their primary concern must be for an objective, balanced account of events, uncolored by the network’s or the reporter’s opinions.  

The underlying mechanism which allows biased news coverage might be the mixing of news stories with opinion-based commentary.  

When a news report is delivered with or directly followed by “analysis,” you can end up with the equivalent of an editorial masquerading as a piece of straight news. 

The lack of respect for the distinction between fact and commentary makes watching most news broadcasts downright painful for me.  

The simple solution for networks is a bit more open-mindedness during debates and a stricter observance of the difference between what they are supposed to report during a news program, which are the facts, and everything else.

I appreciate the gift of freedom of speech, and don’t believe that news networks have done anything illegal, but I have learned not to expect impartial news coverage and to listen to media outlets very skeptically. 

I wish I didn’t have to. 


       Joey Bagnasco is a sophomore English major from Waco, Texas. He can be reached at [email protected]