Every now and again I’ll have a difficult time understanding our media. Now, it’s not that the content is too esoteric, although sometimes it can reach over in that direction (I’m still astounded as to why a “fist bump” is worth half a mention in any medium with the gall to call itself a news source). It’s more that some decisions made by higher ups are so incredibly ludicrous I end up asking myself why I trust these people.
This past Thursday was one of those days. It began with an interview I watched of Barack Obama on the New York Times website. The interview begins with a fairly harmless shot of Barack in front of an American flag backdrop but then, when switching to a wider shot to display both Obama and interviewer John Harwood, unbelievably reveals that unmistakable sign with the mantra “Change that Works for You.” This slogan is one recently unveiled by the Obama campaign and one that it is eager to promote. It should also be noted the slogan was ripped from the Hillary Clinton campaign that once used the similar “Working for Change, Working for You” as her own campaign slogan. But, no matter what you say about the slogan, there is no way it should have been placed in the background of what should be an unbiased interview with a member of the media.
The fact that the banner was displayed is an incredible betrayal of standards that should be held to when presenting news to the general public. If I saw an interview with an oil executive trying to explain to me new policies of his firm, I would be outraged if I saw a promotional banner with his firm’s promotional slogan in the background. These interviews should be given and presented in a neutral manner; the second I see the Times advertising to me that Barack Obama represents change that works for me, I know something is up and this does not make me happy. There are no two ways about it–John Harwood and his producers should have had that sign removed. Heck, Barack should have asked for it to be removed. No matter how tough the interview was (it wasn’t so bad) whatever was said now lacks credibility in my mind. The Times should think about this next time it presents an interview.
Equally disastrous, in my mind, was the decision Fox News made to air a John McCain town hall meeting live Thursday night from New York City. The purpose of it, in my opinion, was to rub in the fact that Barack Obama has declined to hold ten town hall meetings together with McCain as proposed by the McCain campaign. In doing this, not only is Fox giving McCain an incredible amount of free advertising (this would be bad enough by itself), but using the network as an intentional tool to actively hurt Obama. This type of partisan “news gathering” has no place in the national political arena and needs to be rethought as America goes into one of the most important elections of our time.
I doubt very much that our news sources will change their explicit or implicit biases as November 2008 approaches but, I do hope will all my heart, that someway, somehow we as a people will reject the partisan approach to media that exists in today’s America and ask for something better. We deserve to be told not what we want to hear but what is actually taking place; I’d rather be told upsetting truths than comfortable lies. Until we, as consumers of media, ask for and demand that change, nothing can be done. If there ever was a time to act, that time is now.