When the American media were born, in the 18th and 19th
centuries, there was no presumption of objectivity, fairness or
even civility. Most of the early newspapers and magazines
(there were no other media in that era) were associated with
either one point of view or, later, when the party system emerged,
with one political party or another. By today’s standards, perhaps,
much of what was reported was subjectively described, usually
contrived, and often slanderous.
At the infancy of the U.S. republic, many of the top leaders,
virtually sanctified today as founding fathers, were subjected to
poisonous and deliberately false accusations. Stories were often
concocted by reporters. Speculation was rampant. (One mild
example from so many: A leading New York newspaper, during
the Civil War, reported an outrageous incident, and subheaded
the sensational headline with the notation, “INTERESTING IF
After the muckraking era at the turn of the 20th century, U.S.
media seemed to mature. With the advent of radio, then television,
the media seemed to prize objectivity as networks sought to
appeal to larger and savvier audiences.
In recent years, however, the old established media (the major TV
and radio networks, long-time news magazines and journals, aging
major newspapers) began to slide back into an earlier and less
trustworthy mode. Most of the Old Media have become distinctly
and unmistakeably leftist and sympathetic to the Democratic Party.
This is made unambiguously clear by nearly every survey of this
media and their product.
But the emergence, first of cable television, talk radio, and then of
the internet has provided a balancing effect, with more conservative
views and interpretations, likewise partisan (to the right), to very
large numbers of listeners, viewers and readers.
The 2012 national election campaign would seem seem to be the
apotheosis of this trend. The Old Media side mindlessly on the side
of Barack Obama and the Democrats. In reaction, talk radio, many
websites, and numerous new print and internet venues are critical of
the incumbent administration, Mr. Obama, and of the values of this
We are long past even pretending that the media, Old and New, are
non-partisan. The Old Media go further. They pretend that events,
facts and statements that contradict their opinions can be totally
ignored. Most media polls, which of course are part of the media,
are deliberately distorted this year (sometimes by bias, other times
by ignorance). The political center has very few media outlets which
they can trust.
This is the state of our media affairs. No use complaining. It isn’t
going to change any time soon.
Perhaps the voters, through the elections themselves, will force a
new direction to the media.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.