Trust no media

As the Democratic convention kicked off in Boston, breathless pols called for unity within the Democratic Party, and, indeed, the speakers all seemed to be singing off the same song sheet.

Some national media commentators critiqued the message and message delivery with all the scrutiny of a second grader writing a “Why I love this country” essay. From one standpoint, maybe that’s the way it should be; this is the Democrats’ week. On the other hand, some networks, be they cable or otherwise, eviscerated the message, the messengers and the party without pause. Maybe that’s the way it should be. How else would the public become aware of the speakers’ lies, half-truths and irrelevancies?

With some outlets coming exclusively from the left and others coming from the right, there seems to be little analysis from any outlet. Can even Democrats believe that every single Democrat shares the same views as those that were spoken? They all support fully funded No Child Left Behind? That a tough war hero is the best person to lead this country away from Iraq? Maybe the way to conduct a convention is to allow some dissent among the party faithful.

But, if a political party can’t be expected to show chinks in the armor of their single-minded drive to the election, shouldn’t news outlets be expected to take the speechifying with more than a grain of salt? TV viewers and readers of newspapers haven’t generally shown that they have the sophistication to recognize when a network is spear-carrying for the administration, advertisers or an unbendable ideology.

Ay, there’s the rub. While the average viewer may grow familiar with a network or association’s slant over time, or media reportage may brand a station as ideological (for example, the Fox News Network is considered to be somewhat right of center just as this newspaper has been accused of being somewhat liberal), irregular viewers can’t be expected to know when they are being offered coverage untainted by bias or full-on spin.

So what’s the solution? Should media outlets declare their conflicts at the beginning of every broadcast or publication? ABC News wouldn’t have time for the weather if the station were to disclose every conflict caused by its Disney ownership.

Nope, it’s a caveat emptor world, and it’s up to the consumer to beware of every piece of information passed along as news coverage. There’s a reason there’s so little thoughtful examination in these days of faux "Just the facts, ma’am," coverage of events: Thoughtful analysis costs money and takes time, and news is all about money and scoops.