Fake News and Toxic Media Bias Are Nothing New – Just Worse

The mainstream media's coverage of President Donald Trump is unprecedented in its lack of fairness and its constant negativity.  It represents the ultimate weaponization of big reporting that's in sync with efforts by the shadow government to mobilize the national security apparatus and the other entrenched Deep State bureaucracies for the purpose of weakening and ultimately taking down the 45th president of the United States.

As bad and biased as the reporting is today, it really is nothing new – just more of the same, only much worse.  It's become fake news on steroids.

The chart below, by Media Tenor and included in Harvard's Shorenstein Center's May 18, 2017 report "News Coverage of Donald Trump's First 100 Days," measured the "tone of coverage” on President Trump by major mainstream media outlets between January 20 and April 29, 2017. 

Notwithstanding the orders from on high that may be dictating how the media spin their political coverage, the vast majority of working journalists today are hardcore progressives and leftists who vote en masse for Democrats.  One need look no farther than a study by the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity highlighted in an article in the Columbia Journalism Review, published on October 17, 2016, titled "Journalists shower Hillary Clinton with campaign cash."

People identified in federal campaign finance filings as journalists, reporters, news editors or television anchors – as well as other donors known to be working in journalism – have combined to give more than $396,000 to the presidential campaigns of Clinton and Trump, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

More than 96 percent of that cash has benefited Clinton: About 430 people who work in journalism have, through August, combined to give about $382,000 to the Democratic nominee, the Center for Public Integrity's analysis indicates.

About 50 identifiable journalists have combined to give about $14,000 to Trump.

Ninety-six percent of journalists' contributions went to Clinton, four percent to Trump.  These percentages parallel almost exactly the percentage of negative stories about President Trump that were published or broadcast during his first nine months in office.  A study by the Pew Research Center for Journalism & Media, published October 2, 2017, found that news stories about President Trump and his administration through September 2017 were positive only 5% of the time.  This contrasts with coverage of President Obama during his first year in office, which was only 20% negative.  It is obvious that the MSM had a love affair with Barack Obama that lasted for most of his presidency.

The Swift Boat Thing

Leftist media bias goes back even farther than 2016, needless to say.  On August 1, 2004, the New York Times published an article by John Tierney on the overwhelming bias of the media in favor of Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry.  Tierney cited an:

... unscientific survey we conducted last weekend during a press party at the [Democratic National] convention.  We got anonymous answers from 153 journalists, about a third of them based in Washington.

When asked who would be a better president, the journalists from outside the Beltway picked Mr. Kerry 3 to 1, and the ones from Washington favored him 12 to 1.  Those results jibe with previous surveys over the past two decades showing that journalists tend to be Democrats, especially the ones based in Washington.  Some surveys have found that more than 80 percent of the Beltway press corps votes Democratic.

So, almost 14 years ago, journalists based in the nation's capital supported the Democratic Party candidate by a margin of about twelve to one.  Journalists from flyover country also favored Kerry but by four to one.

The easy transition of top journalists from their comfy and influential reporting jobs and into positions of spinning news on behalf of the federal government is an everyday occurrence, especially in Democrat administrations.  On September 12, 2013, The Atlantic published an article noting:

Time managing editor Rick Stengel is leaving journalism to go work for the State Department, making him at least the 24th reporter to go to work for the Obama administration.

Appearing during the second hour of Sean Hannity's radio program on January 12, Ari Fleischer, a political commentator and the press secretary during the first term of President George W. Bush, noted that "it's even worse with President Trump in the White House because the press can't hide their bias anymore."

"Extremism in the defense of fake news is no vice"

Media bias favoring Democrats goes way back.  An egregious example of fake news and toxic bias in the MSM occurred in 1964, and the perpetrator, CBS News correspondent Daniel Schorr, went unpunished and emerged with his career unscathed.  Brent Baker reminded us of this sad but still relevant old story in an article at NewsBusters on July 25, 2010 on the occasion of Schorr's death.  Baker cited an article published nine years earlier in The Weekly Standard by Andrew Ferguson, who was reviewing a book by Schorr.

During the Republican Convention in San Francisco in 1964 that nominated conservative icon Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) for president, Schorr reported a fake news story that aired on the CBS television network during its wall-to-wall coverage of the convention.  Speaking from Germany, where he was based as a prominent foreign correspondent, Schorr said:

It looks as though Senator Goldwater, if nominated, will be starting his campaign here in Bavaria, center of Germany's right wing.  It is also known as Hitler's one-time stomping ground.

The only problem was that the story was completely made up and false.  Goldwater never traveled to Germany after he received his party's nomination for president in 1964, and he never intended to do so.  With no bills to pay for reporting fake news even back then, Schorr continued to report for CBS News for the next decade and a half and then spent the last 25 years of his life working in high-profile reporting, hosting, and commentating positions for National Public Radio with the title "senior news analyst."  When he died on July 23, 2010 at age 93, NPR headlined its lead story "Journalism Legend Daniel Schorr Dies At 93."

These days, poll after poll is confirming, as Gallup headlined one of its reports on the subject published on September 14, 2016, that "Americans' Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low."

Now that "fake news" has entered the popular lexicon, The Hill reported on May 24, 2017 – three months into the Trump administration:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the mainstream press is full of fake news, a sentiment that is held by a majority of voters across the ideological spectrum.

According to data from the latest Harvard-Harris poll, which was provided exclusively to The Hill, 65 percent of voters believe there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media.

These recent reports appear to confirm the classic observation by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, first published in France in 1849, that "the more things change, the more they remain the same" ("plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose") – except that the situation regarding the news business is arguably worse now in light of the mainstream media having almost completely lost what was left of their minds, and all of their remaining credibility, in their totally biased coverage of President Donald J. Trump.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran reporter and analyst of news on national politics, media, and popular culture.  In addition to his writing, Peter has appeared as a guest commentator on NBC; PBS; the CBC; and, on January 4, 2018, the BBC.  For announcements and links to a wide selection of Peter's published work, follow him on Twitter at @pchowka.

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