The Media Spin: The
Who decides whether you hear more about
the Red Cross or the Salvation Army? Itís the news producers.
Sept. 9, 2005
As we watch the coverage of the hurricane story, it should be a
reminder of the power a mere few people can exercise each day to
influence the opinions of millions of viewers worldwide.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Working behind the scenes, these are the TV news and
entertainment producers, documentary filmmakers and some of the
other self-appointed literati. Their creations work like power
steering: multiplying the opinions of each one into a much greater
force and imprinting these notions about behavior and politically
correct thinking on huge audiences.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Hurricane Katrina is one of the major stories of the
past 100 years. We deserve to be told the entire story in order to
understand what can be done to mitigate such disaster in the future.
But, will that happen? Is balance in this politically loaded story
¬†¬†¬†¬† A producer may decide a sound bite of a grieving person
makes for good TV. That particular video, which may distort large
parts of the actual events, goes into the news channelís video
storage system, making the bite available for endless repeats while
other news clips with different reactions, people and events may be
ignored. This takes place in line with the producerís philosophical
bent. If a political cartoonist could draw it, he might show a news
channel tottering in top-heavy slanted stories, then finally falling
over to the left and crashing down in a great smoking heap.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Is all this a little scary or what? That much of the TV
news comes to us in this way, filtered through some hands that may
be incapable of objective news decisions, should be unsettling. Some
TV anchors and reporters believe there are two general classes of
Americans: conservatives and normal people. On-camera personalities
often canít stifle their urge to perform, sometimes without being
aware, apparently, of even body language that can betray bias.
¬†¬†¬†¬† They are more visible than their producers, the grey
eminences who steer public opinion by deciding which stories and
video spill into our homes in a torrent, leaving either true or
distorted impressions of events in the hurricane-devastated areas.
¬†¬†¬†¬† For example, the Red Cross gets and deserves a lot of
credit and publicity for its work. The Salvation Army also deserves
as much air time and support as other agencies. Its operation is
huge and involves many volunteers and heavy equipment.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Thus far, the Red Cross gets the lionís share of
publicity on many of the news reports. Why would that be? Arguably,
part of the Salvation Armyís name puts off some producers. I know
this because I have met them along the way.
¬†¬†¬†¬† I donít want to see slanted news. I yearn for the days
when print and wire service reporters were the only ones to take up
the cudgel of reporting news on the early novelty of TV. Those days
seemed to be fairly free of complaint about bias. It was considered
dťclassť to do anything other than tell the entire story in a
measured and credible way and leave the opinions to the viewers of
the new medium.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Things have changed with the decades. The power of the
media, with its fierce competition for audience numbers, is immense
and we now have not only anchor and reporter drama but also
hollering and editorializing gabfests poorly disguised as news.
Watch what happens in the weeks to come in those round table
¬†¬†¬†¬† Iíd like to know why New Orleans and Louisiana havenít
moved to get these problems solved before now. The causes and
solutions have been known for decades. National Geographic published
an article titled ďGone
with the WaterĒ last October. Itís a chilling narration of the
present situation. But, it can be a complicated story and sound-bite
thinking on the part of news producers is antithetical to that sort
of an in-depth treatment. Too bad for viewers.
¬†¬†¬†¬† If we allow a relative few unknown opinion leaders, in
the persons of the TV news producers, to make up our minds for us as
they decide what we consume in the news, it is our own fault. Whatís
the answer? Sample other news outlets. Theyíre there by the dozen.
Watching news should go hand in hand with remembering whoís really
in charge at the other end of that report. Most of them, by their
own admission over time, are liberal.
¬†¬†¬†¬† And so the media spin.
David Goodnow is a veteran reporter and former CNN anchor. He
serves as an adviser to the Free Market Project.