The role of Political Bias in American media has grown larger and larger in the past decades with the introduction of the cable news networks. The three major networks of CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News make up what is now a spectrum of advocacy Journalism.
There has been a long debate through out the years about how the news media in this country leans. Largely it has been called a “Liberal Machine”, this dating back to coverage of the Vietnam War during the Nixon administration. During the time lots of Journalists, including renowned broadcaster Walter Cronkite, began to way their opinions against what seemed like a largely un-winnable War. However that was a time when you only had small amount of nightly newscasts from the three major networks of the time. Yet when we now move into an era of twenty-four hour news networks, the lines begin to blur.
Advocacy Journalism is the type of reporting and story telling that begins with a pre-set amount of believes, usually political, by the Journalist or commentator. This type of Journalism has always had a place in the media, however from its roots it remained mostly in newspapers, and it was there mostly to satisfy the publisher. However in the past few years we have seen the emergence of the ultra-partisan commentators. These select few inhabit the primetime spots of there respective stations, whether it be Glenn Beck on Fox News, or Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. These new ultra partisans have begun blurring the lines between news and commentary, even to the point where stations have gone out of their way to try to distinguish this line. Yet this act seems futile with all the notoriety going to these commentators, and the movements that they can start. With zero liability to whether or not what they say is true, because they are safe guarded by the “Opinion Aspect” of their shows.
The Invention of the twenty-four hour news channel by Turner Broadcasting that spawned CNN, gave way to an lofty idea. An Idea that you can find away to take all the days events and spread them throughout a day, all the while keeping your viewers involved. However what this does ultimately is create a need for revenue, because the founding principle of any broadcast station is to collect advertising dollars to cover costs and turn a profit. However when your repeating the same news over and over throughout the day, you wont be able to retain your view audience for more then a few hours. This is where the second invention of the twenty-four hour news channel came in, the “opinion shows”. Before these types of shows were held to talk radio through out the land, with guys like Rush Limbaugh, gearing partisan debate. Now they are on primetime and the at least two of the Networks have picked sides, with MSNBC on the Left, and Fox News on the right. CNN falls somewhere in the middle with a current campaign to remove most of its Advocate Journalists from it’s programming. According to Nielson Media ratings Fox News top three cable shows, O’Reilly, Beck, and Hannity combine for nearly nine million voters.
The after effects of this kind of journalism is that the facts are spun in any which direction these commentators feel best suites their arguments. This leaves the viewer possibly comforted because the arguments being made align with their political ideas, but this type of coverage devoid them of get the true facts as they are intended to be delivered via the true craft of Journalism. They interweave this miss-information with arguments against the opposing side, thus enabling the tensions to rise between the two sides. As a result you see this overly angry protests, crashing of town hall meetings, and sometimes even violent actions occurring. This comes with the smear tactics, and the derisive talk that originates in large from these shows, and the blogs that support them. This is where the larger problem comes into play, that with this growth in division it produces a government not able to provide the necessary legislation, because when debate and compromise is no longer encouraged that it becomes a game of defeating everything the other party is trying to accomplish. The problem is only growing, for as long as the ratings are high, they will continue this partisan arguments, and the viewers are taking it all in.
The politicians are playing right into it as well. They often go on these shows to answer questions, never once denouncing these programs for what they do. Because when they are no longer on the show, the hosts have the free will to tirade and scorn anyone that would go against him/her, or the show. However there seems to be a middle group, a possible silent majority, because these commentators and newscasters have been thrown into such a paradox, that in a recent Time Magazine poll Comedy Centrals John Stewart was voted most trusted newscaster in America. A man that runs a satire news show, is trusted more then any other of the major news networks, or public networks.