Savannah Guthrie, one of the anchors on NBC’s Today show, interviewed Covington student Nick Sandmann yesterday morning. I watched the interview, then watched the response. It was as though two completely different conversations took place.
Critics on the left lambasted the show for giving Sandmann a platform to tell his side of the story. Critics on the right castigated Guthrie for asking the young man if he felt he did anything wrong or owed anyone an apology.
Meanwhile, his Catholic school reopened later in the morning under extra security measures as the students face continued criticism and threats.
How the media covered the DC conflict
I described last weekend’s confrontation in Washington in yesterday’s Daily Article. One factor the conflict made clear is that media coverage of news events seems more biased than ever.
When video of the confrontation first emerged, it seemed to show white students wearing Make America Great Again hats instigating the clash. Liberal media outlets and celebrities were quick to brand Sandmann and his fellow students as racists.
When longer videos emerged that faulted others, conservative outlets and celebrities rose to the students’ defense and condemned liberal media for their earlier response.
Is this an isolated event, or is media bias real and growing?
Is media bias real?
Our ministry is nonpartisan and attempts to be as objective as possible. However, the facts indicate a clear bias in the media favoring liberal candidates and agendas. For instance:
Only 3 percent of major newspapers who endorsed a presidential candidate in 2016 endorsed Donald Trump.
A recent study found that over the last fourteen years, employees at Google gave 90 percent of their political donations to Democrats. Amazon, Apple, and Facebook employees gave to Democratic candidates at similar rates.
Social media companies use algorithms that seem clearly biased against conservative sources. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently admitted that conservative employees “don’t feel safe to express their opinions at the company.”
Even financial journalists, long considered the most objective members of their profession, are more liberal than many thought. In a recent survey, only 4.4 percent said they were “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative.” By contrast, 58.47 percent said they were “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal,” while 37.12 percent claim to be “moderate.”
In other words, the ratio is one conservative to thirteen liberal/moderates.
One journalism expert has classified eight different types of media bias, with specific examples of each. According to a Wall Street Journal reporter, liberal media bias has been an issue in America for more than five decades. Of course, liberals consider conservative media to be biased against their agendas as well.
Unsurprisingly, Gallup has found that 62 percent of Americans believe news media to be biased. Today, 66 percent of Americans believe most news media do not do a good job separating fact from opinion. In 1984, 42 percent held this view.
Why is the media biased?
Media bias is a large and complicated issue, but we can identify two trends that are relevant for Christians in our post-Christian culture.
One: Postmodern relativism claims that there is no objective truth, only “your” truth. In such a world, we interpret the news through the prism of personal security and fear. (A perceptive CNN article noted that “Our reptile brains were triggered by MAGA hat video.”)
Liberals fear that conservatives will force “their” morality on the culture. Conservatives fear that liberals will limit their freedom of speech, worship, and life. Thus, both are motivated to report and interpret stories that reinforce their bias.
Two: Information technology has remade the rules for the media business. Anyone can be in the media now (for instance, Apple says there are more than 550,000 active podcasts today). With so much content, platforms and consumers must segment what they report and we consume. We use technology to curate the news, limiting our feeds to the sources we want to hear or read.
Media outlets derive much of their income from advertisers. Advertisers know which market segments they want to capture. As a result, news outlets increasingly tailor their reporting to the biases and agendas of the markets their advertisers are paying them to reach. The result is the demise of objective reporting and the escalation of agenda-driven media.
Three steps to take now
The purpose of this Daily Article is not to condemn the media. Rather, it is to help us recognize media bias and understand the news effectively.
In today’s culture, discerning Christians can take three important steps.
One: Identify our beliefs and biases. They will influence our decision to consume or reject reporting and social media. We want to be sure we are seeking truth rather than reinforcing our opinions.
Two: Read across the spectrum and especially for viewpoints that counter our own. As we have seen, no news or social media platform is neutral. We need to know the agendas that drive the various outlets (click here for a helpful guide).
Then we need to seek out a variety of positions and to consider viewpoints that contradict our own. For instance, I read the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times early each morning, then check reporting on particular stories from sources as varied as The Blaze and HuffPost.
Three: Pray for the wisdom to interpret the news and world biblically. Scripture promises: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).
Our goal should be to imitate our Lord, about whom even his enemies testified: “We know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances” (Matthew 22:16).
The tribe of Issachar included “men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Will you join them today?