January 18, 2016

Diversity in Mainstream Media

From 1975 to 2015, Marc Rosenwasser worked as correspondent for The Associated Press and as a writer and producer for ABC News, NBC News, CBS News and PBS. He was the co-creator and, for its first two seasons, executive producer of PBS NewsHour Weekend.

Today, Rossenwasser penned a post, Does TV News Need Its Own Brand of Affirmative Action?

What prompted him were Facebook posts from fellow journalists, past and even present, that "routinely mock the Republican candidates, particularly Donald Trump, They portray him as a buffoon and all of his millions of supporters as ignorant yahoos, or, worse, haters."

His concern is that too many journalists come from similar backgrounds, have the same orientation, and hold similar world views. As the New York Times public editor wrote about its newsroom four years ago, it is overwhelmingly progressive, politically and culturally. To correct this imbalance, newsrooms need people with diverse backgrounds and different perspectives. "That will help us understand — and better explain — the complexities of the nation and the world that we cover."

This brings back memories of Matti Friedman's 2014 article, "An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth" in Tablet Magazine. Dealing with a different topic, journalism about Israel, a similar happenstance among journalists is presented. Friedman shows how a collective mindset conspires to achieve an purposeful political end, as it obscures objectivity.

A monolithic media often gets things wrong. Friedman illustrates:
And there was the Spanish civil war: “Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which do not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. … I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what had happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines.’ ” That was George Orwell, writing in 1942.

Orwell did not step off an airplane in Catalonia, stand next to a Republican cannon, and have himself filmed while confidently repeating what everyone else was saying or describing what any fool could see: weaponry, rubble, bodies. He looked beyond the ideological fantasies of his peers and knew that what was important was not necessarily visible. Spain, he understood, was not really about Spain at all—it was about a clash of totalitarian systems, German and Russian. He knew he was witnessing a threat to European civilization, and he wrote that, and he was right.
Perhaps we could do with some affirmative action to allay suspicions that journalists in the mainstream media have some sort of political agenda to advance when they show up for work. After all, voters are deeply divided, yet most journalists seem to come down on the same side of the political spectrum every time.

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