Amplifications: Whom do we trust for our news?More Info
I first became aware of the news during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As a tween I would run my fingers over the name on my P.O.W. bracelet as our black and white TV displayed images of flag-draped coffins unloaded from military planes. Newsweek and Time magazines displayed graphic photos of the Mai Lai massacre.
If Edward R. Murrow had been the gold standard in journalism, then Walter Cronkite was the standard bearer in the sixties and seventies. He upheld a long-standing tradition of presenting the news without emotion. In old news clips you can see him struggle when announcing the death of John F. Kennedy, but he maintained control. It was a more straightforward time and the news was the news, not entertainment. Even the weather reports were to the point. Don Kent stood in front of his blackboard in the WBZ-TV studios in Boston and told us if we needed an umbrella. There were no animated displays; there was no inane chatter. No one talked like a pirate or wore embarrassing Halloween costumes.
I miss those days. Sure, there were drawbacks. You hardly saw a female face and it was not until 1988 that a black man,Maxie Cleveland “Max” Robinson Jr., co-anchored the national news on ABC World News Tonight.
News programs began to change in the 1970s and by the 1980s we were lucky not to get a song and dance with each story. I often found the lurid reports and teasing headlines before a commercial break to be annoying, but I never doubted the credibility of the presenters. Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch changed that for me.
They wanted a conservative news show to counteract what they believed was a left-leaning press and thus created Fox News. Fine. They had and have every right; it is a free country. And because it is a free country I can say, out loud, that I do not trust that station any more than the minions who parrot conservative speak from the Sinclair Broadcast Group.
So, whom should we trust to give us information?
Personally, I trust Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow, Don Lemon, Stephanie Ruhle, Ari Melber, Ari Shapiro, Lawrence O’Donnell, Judy Woodruff, Chris Hayes, Katty Kay, and LauraTrevelyan.
Yes, I trust CNN and MSNBC. I actually put the most faith in the BBC news, but both BBC American and the BBC News Hour are only on TV for 90 minutes a day Monday through Friday. Often, I read the news at BBC.com. I regularly read the Washington Post and the New York Times. When travelling I always read the International Herald Tribune, which is now the International New York Times. I also spent a lot of time watching Al Jazeera when I was in Africa ten years ago and was surprised by the diligence of the coverage I saw at that time.
I know what it is like to work in a reputable newsroom, where sources are double and triple checked, where a story never makes it to print unless two to three verifiable sources are used. At a reputable news outlet the journalists and editors are properly educated, have experience, and are vetted before hiring.
I learned years ago that some of the best news reporting on our country came from foreign journalists. Reporters sent here to cover stories don’t have our biases or need to worry about sponsors dropping them, so we often get a clear-eyed view of America. I do not think the foreign press should be the only source of our news, but it does give one a different perspective now and again. In the meantime, please, give me ubereducated Rachel Maddow over college dropout Sean Hannity. And I prefer my news from sources that don’t fabricate or willingly alter facts.
I recommend the site Punditfact.com, which is published by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and the Tampa Bay Times. It rates news stations for their honesty. There isn’t a network or newspaper out there that doesn’t make mistakes, but legitimate news sources do make corrections. According to Punditfact.com, Fox misrepresents its facts 50 percent of the time, though all the stations misrepresent to a certain extent. I am sure some of it is human error, but when one hears something truly outrageous that does not bear up under a fact check, it often comes from the talking heads at Fox. For example, only Fox News depicted the round up and incarceration of immigrant children as “summer camp,” (Laura Ingraham, “The Ingraham Angle,” June 18, 2018).
If Fox News had fired Ingraham for stomping on the truth, or even censured her, I would have thought it a more credible news outlet than the joke I believe it to be. And while there are a few journalists at Fox who have won awards for their reporting, they are few and far between compared to CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and ABC.
I wish that the dignity and credibility Cronkite brought to the evening news would reappear. The jokes, the opinions, and the silly banter used to boost ratings are simply distraction. If you want to spout opinions, do so. Just do not call it a news program. Tell us your sources, as Maddow does, challenge our government when facts are misrepresented, as Cooper has done. And, unlike our president, be transparent.