Why the Fourth Estate Needs to Come First

newspaper-press-thumb-283x424If you have been following the news, you have probably heard that the Obama administration has once again attacked Fox News for bias, claiming it is not a news organization. Please don’t think that I will use this blog as a political soapbox; in the interest of full disclosure I will say that I supported the president through his campaign and I support him now, except on this issue. This is an issue of freedom of the press, which is a critical part of the American democratic process.

Just because you don’t agree with the politics of a news organization doesn’t mean you have to censure them. Bias in the news is fairly commonplace, and always has been. In socialist countries the media are state controlled, so they issue propaganda and the populace knows that the media is biased. In democratic countries, the press promotes dialogue, offering views and opinions that ultimately create balance. The bias is there, of course, but the populace knows how to filter it.

As far as I know, the United States is the only country in the world to guarantee freedom of the press as part of its constitution. Freedom of speech is guaranteed, no matter what you have to say,

This is why I find it curious that the office of the President of the United States would take such an adversarial stance against a recognized news organization. Bias notwithstanding, Fox News still reports the news and they should get the same consideration as any news organization.

In looking for news coverage of this particular issue, I did a quick comparison from three randomly selected news sources dealing with the most recent statements about Fox News from the White House: Fox News, the New York Daily News, and the Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom. The three reports have very similar information and tone, and even the Fox News report seemed to have its facts straight. There is bias that shows in each report, whether through the Daily News’ snarky style or Fox News statements such as “Though Fox News has won the cable news ratings race consistently for years and is closing in on network news numbers…” All news reports have bias, and it’s up to the reader to filter that bias and make up his or her own mind.

And as the definition of “journalist” continues to expand to encompass bloggers and smaller news organizations, it shouldn’t matter if journalists “buy ink by the barrel” (to paraphrase President Bill Clinton). Every voice should be heard, and the people can filter out what is noise and what is relevant.  As a PR professional I have come to acknowledge the efforts of bloggers and the more obscure news organizations, not because all coverage is good coverage, but because every media outlet is due respect for the sake of their respective audience, whether their readers number in the tens or the millions.

The floor is open for comments…

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One Reply to “Why the Fourth Estate Needs to Come First”

  1. Having been trained many years ago at university as a journalist, there is no doubt that Fox is a pretender to being fair and balanced as it once claimed to me. News is not a one-sided matter. All sides should be presented and often that is more than two. News should be presented factually to enable the recipient to make a judgement about which side of any issue has the facts on their side. Opinion is one sided and requires no objectivity only a point of view. One’s point of view is not where I search to determine what is true and what is false.

    I think the President with the help of his advisors has figured this out and made a decision to provide his point of view that Fox News is not news as defined professionally. I know few people with a college degree who take Fox seriously as a legitimate news outlet.

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