A long way from Grant — Lou that is.
Following the death of actor Ed Asner, Howard Kurtz, host of the Sunday morning show “Media Buzz” on Fox News, noted on his Sept. 5 broadcast: “For me, his most important role was as hard-boiled City Editor Lou Grant, who dealt with complicated newspaper stories in a sophisticated way from CIA press to going undercover, to paying sources, to the owner Mrs. Pynchon demanding that a routine speech be covered.”
Kurtz than cut to a video clip showing an exchange between Grant (Ed Asner) and Charlie Hume (Mason Adams):
Grant: “Are you kidding? We can get the speech from their PR guy, and any kid can check out the rest.”
Hume: “Well, the bottom line is that Mrs. Pynchon (publisher) feels that we’ve gotten a little unbalanced with negative police stories.”
Grant: “Huh, we don’t make the news.”
Hume: “Sure we do, by what we pick to cover.”
At that time, with only so much space in a paper, so little available airtime, it was accepted that choices had to be made. The three television networks pretty much spent their days filling in the narrative set that morning by The New York Times and The Washington Post. Same reporting, just different anchors. No muss, no fuss.
But as the Lou Grant years were winding down, the Reagan years were ramping up. And with it, a slow but steady awakening by millions of Americans that the “news” they were being fed had a lot more bias in it than was being stated on the ingredients label.
By the time Fox News debuted in October 1996, the juxtaposition of eight years of media assault on Ronald Reagan to four years of fawning over Bill Clinton laid bare the bias.
In July, lifelong liberal journalist Kevin Drum examined political attitudes by party from 1994 through 2017. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being consistently liberal, 10 being consistently conservative) the base line of 1994 has the average Democrat at 5, and the average Republican at 6. By 2004 both parties became more liberal as Democrats dropped to a 4 and Republicans to 5. But by 2017, that gap was a gorge. Democrats had dropped all the way down to 2 with Republicans a 6.5, just a half point higher than 1994.
For all the blame placed on Fox News and the “hard right” for our political divisions, it turns out the Democrats are twice as far from the median as Republicans.
In just four decades, we’ve gone from the Lou Grant days of “picking” the news to our largest media outlets actively pushing a particular ideology. That’s not bias, that’s activism — activism that saw the Hillary Clinton campaign-Russian collusion hoax promoted for years as hard news, activism such that when the New York Post broke the Hunter Biden laptop story in October 2020, Joe Biden allies and Big Tech put a blackout on even just sharing the Post’s reporting. We will never know how many votes for Biden were protected by that blatant censorship, but the fact that it even happened in the first place is a stain on the industry that can never be erased.
National Public Radio, a taxpayer subsidized news organization, rolled out a new ethics policy in July, eliminating the requirement that its reporters not engage in “marches, rallies and public events” or to not personally promote “controversial” or “polarizing” issues.
The USA Today factcheck section had to correct a story saying that Biden did not check his watch while the bodies of the men and women his incompetence got killed in Kabul were being returned to U.S. soil.
And in just the past two weeks, there were outrageous attacks on the horse-mounted border patrol agents who have been falsely accused of using whips against Haitian migrants attempting to enter the country illegally. Those agents are now on desk duty, the horses stabled, and the president of the United States stating in a press conference that “those people will pay.” So much for due process and the rule of law. All because of a photo that even the photographer says is being misinterpreted.
The constant protecting and creating of narratives to promote one political party over another is destroying the social contract that has held this nation together through even our worst moments. A reasonable person is not wrong for thinking that after so much rushing to judgments, so many corrections and retractions, that there would be at least a modicum of introspection as to the damage such lack of responsible reporting is causing.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of the national outlets that drive the news cycle, it’s that reasonable person who is deemed the most unreasonable.