How to Stay Rational and Civil: Avoid Following Only One Mainstream News Outlet08.27.10
Upon mentioning the absurdity of that whole “fair and balanced” slogan and declaring that Fox News Channel is clearly biased toward the political right, I’ve received the instant response of “Oh, and MSNBC isn’t?” more than once.
Obviously that is not a defense whatsoever. Deflecting the attention to another biased source doesn’t alleviate the bad editorialized journalism of the former. That response effectively proves the argument that FNC is just a GOP propaganda machine.
Now, I’m not going to get into the differences between MSNBC and CNN versus Fox News. I honestly don’t watch any cable news channel. I don’t even watch cable TV in general as I haven’t has a subscription in over a year and a half. I get my news from social media, so when I hear things about Fox News or MSNBC it’s usually with regard to specific news anchors. O’Reilly said this. Beck said that. Maddow claimed this. Jon Stewart snarked that.
And while Fox News doesn’t shy away from the fact that it primarily endorses the Republican Party, the current divide in many Americans’ view of the press is that Fox News represents one side while every other outlet represents the other — that FNC is a necessary evil to battle back against the liberal elite. Fine. I don’t even have any interest in arguing with those people because it’s pointless.
The polarizing nature of our news networks does nothing to ease the increasingly extreme sides of the political divide. It seems like a chicken or the egg situation when trying to discern whether or not the news has created this or if its merely reflecting the climate of our times. It seems to me that the anger on both sides rose up from our economic crash and fear of things getting desperately worse and blaming the other side for the problems, which the pundits swooped up and ran with, which then incensed the sides further, which the pundits ran with… rinse and repeat.
My solution is to not solely follow any particular news network. Don’t only read The Huffington Post and don’t always read The Drudge Report. Don’t always watch Keith Olbermann and don’t always watch Sean Hannity.
Avoid the gut-check emotional response off the bat as much as possible. It’s a lofty goal for which I strive but don’t always attain, I admit; but, it’s something that I’m working on. In my last major blog post that was on Proposition 8, I ended up being engaged in a long discussion in the comments section with people with whom I vehemently disagreed and vice versa. Throughout it all — surprisingly — it remained civil and without name-calling or offensive attacks. We all had to agree to disagree (as is often the case), but at least the discourse didn’t digress into schoolyard bullying as is extremely common on blogs and in the news. That’s not to say that I didn’t feel emotionally heated at times or frustrated to the point of exasperation. But, one thing I’ve learned is to write out my response and then take a step away before hitting the Submit button.
I encourage everyone to take the same measures, on the Internet and in real life. I will do my best. I can’t say that my status updates and Tweets will always be rational beacons of logic, but I will try to always respond to criticism and commentary with respect and civility. Our press might not always live up to these same standards, but there’s no reason that we can’t.
I included the image above because that’s what sparked this entire post even though I didn’t end up including it into the discussion. The graph relates to the coverage of the story that former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman has come out as being gay. According to the image, Fox News has covered it all of zero times (at the time of the stats) while CNN and MSNBC ran over 30 stories. Perhaps 30 stories is overkill, I really can’t say. But zero seems strikingly low for a news channel.