What’s News?

What’s News? What’s Opinion?


Leonard Zwelling


         It used to be easy to discern what was news and what was editorial opinion. They were on different pages of the newspaper.

         Now that so many get their “news” on the Internet where the separation may be less clear, the two begin to blend. Factor in the extreme bias of television news with MSNBC and CNN to the left and Fox to the right and it has become ever more difficult to know what’s news and what’s someone’s idea of what the news really means.

         This piece from The Wall Street Journal on the editorial and opinion page describes two incidents of major job losses that hinge on the difficulty even major media outlets have in making the distinction. There are facts in this piece even though it is on the editorial page.

         The Philadelphia Inquirer just fired its editor over a story entitled “Buildings Matter, Too.” It was the title of a piece written by the architecture critic who was expressing concern about the toll being taken on buildings in Philadelphia by the rioters. The staff of the newspaper took offense in what seems to me to be a reasonable story and the editor, Stan Wischnowski, was gone. I guess the headline offended some people.

         This pales by comparison to what occurred at the venerable (or “failing”) New York Times. Tom Cotton, the Senator from Arkansas, wrote a piece called “Send In The Troops” in which he backed President Trump’s plan to use the active military against the civilian demonstrators. Cotton’s ideas are pretty offensive, but he has the right to express them and kudos to the left-leaning Times for being willing to publish the piece. Ooops! Not so fast. The editorial page editor James Bennet resigned because the staff of the Times was vehemently opposed to Cotton’s view and its publication in the Times. The editorial didn’t make it to the print version, just the on-line edition.

         Now I may be old fashioned, but unless someone is advocating the commitment of a crime on the opinion page, I can see no reason not to give that person the space, especially if that person is a U.S. Senator. When is it up to the rank and file employees of a newspaper to decide on the content of the on-line or print editions? This seems like more political correctness and undermines the independence of the various voices on any good opinion page.

         What it demonstrates even more clearly is the inherent bias in much of the media today. It is getting almost impossible to get an untainted view of what actually is happening in the world from a Tweet storm, a Facebook insult, or a Tic Tok video of nurses dancing among the ill. It seems that the networks and the newspapers may be no better.

         I have no solution to this problem. I hear from my readers on both sides of the political spectrum about the bias in the media, including my blog. Usually the complaint is about the electronic folks, but now it seems to be permeating print journalism as well and the Internet is so crowded with nonsense that anyone who clings to social media for their news is really risking any sense of objectivity whatsoever.

         The reason I like the newspaper, the printed one, is that the opinion is physically separated from what is supposed to be objective reporting.

         It is getting harder and harder to watch the news on TV because it comes with such a left or right bias, you cannot really be sure what the truth is. This is a real problem because along with doubts about political leaders if doubts about the media continue to rise, there will be no trusted institution left in the United States and that would be tragic.

         The only solution is to get as many points of view as you can and take everything with a grain of salt. A large grain of salt. Even this blog.

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