Visual Bias Ethics

Let’s see: Hack, hack, probably a hack, and hack.

One aspect of broadcast journalism ethics that the Old Guard—Murrow, Cronkite, Brinkley, Huntley, Thomas and the rest— observed and respected was a neutral demeanor. They knew (and today’s hacks know as well, but with different results), that tone of delivery, body language and facial expressions can convey a journalist’s personal views and biases as clearly as a direct statement. Their practice, therefore, was to maintain a poker face and a matter-of-fact delivery. When Walter Cronkite brushed away a tear while announcing JFK’s death in 1963, it was considered newsworthy because Walter did not bring his own feelings into the news. The consensus was that hee could be forgiven this one time.

If that professional practice is taught in journalism classes any more, it is ignored. Now broadcast journalists and reporters deliberately use every tool at their disposal to signal to viewers what they think, and thus what the viewers should think as well. The election of Donald Trump represented a full-on, industry wide rejection of objectivity by the broadcast media, as many reporters allowed themselves to appear in mourning, or close to tears.  Unlike the assassination of JFK, however, this  was not an excusable exception, or, as we have learned, an exception at all.

Look at the faces of last night’s CNN panel reporting on what had been built up as a bellweather election in North Carolina that, should a Democrat have won, would be string sign that President Trump and Republicans were in trouble nationwide. Is there any doubt who they were rooting for?

This is not only unethical journalism, it’s incompetent journalism.

But that’s the way it is.

11 thoughts on “Visual Bias Ethics

  1. Speaking of neutrality, I found this paragraph from the Wikipedia article amusing:
    “Dan McCready, the Democratic candidate, ran on a platform of cutting taxes on the middle class, ending gerrymandering, renegotiating trade deals, and reducing military interventions overseas. His platform also supports protecting Social Security and Medicare, overturning Citizens United, and granting full federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe. [2] Republican candidate Dan Bishop is best known for his opposition to LGBT rights, particularly the drafting of North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill”.[3][4]”

  2. They haz the sadz. My feelz goes out to them.

    Seriously, when journalism becomes pure partisan advocacy, it’s just tragic. Yes, it’s destructive to the republic, but unfortunately, there are no laws that can be applied to require honest journalism. Perhaps they could be prosecuted under the fraud statutes, but I think that pesky First Amendment would get in the way.

    If only people would stop settling for advocacy and demand actual journalism. Alas.

    Clarence Darrow strikes again!

  3. Add to your list of bias:

    CNN: No mention of special election on the website front page
    ABC: No mention of special election on the website front page
    CBS: Link to article on front page
    NBC: No mention of special election on the website front page
    Washington Post: No mention of special election on the website front page
    NY Times: Link to article on front page

    What do you put the odds at that if it came out the other way, they would be citing it as evidenced that Trump was DOOMED in re-election?

    • “What do you put the odds at that if it came out the other way, they would be citing it as evidenced that Trump was DOOMED in re-election?”

      This isn’t a gamble. Those odds are 100%.

      Such a victory may have even gotten Brian Stelter to stop talking about Alabama and Hurricane Dorian.

  4. This could easily be a police-mug shot card: “Can you identify any of these people as a “resistor?” It would be hilarious if not unethical, frightening, and, worse, the norm.

  5. That’s how they treat every little one-off election. The Republicans winning the Oval Office, both sections of Congress and most of the governorships was not a referendum on Barack Obama, but a single Congressional seat changing hands is reflective of Donald Trump’s failure.

    The first time this happened after the 2016 election, you wrote about it and commented that they all looked like they swallowed a bug.

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