There are signs that the media is learning. Nikhil Deogun, senior vice president and editor-in-chief of CNBC, recently discussed confirmation bias and trust in the media with Yahoo! News anchor Katie Couric on a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival and his thoughts were actually encouraging.
“Consumers are increasingly gravitating toward outlets that basically tell them what they want to hear, reinforce their beliefs,” Couric said, quoted by The Blaze. “A friend of mine said, ‘They’re seeking affirmation, not information.’ So, given that, how do you restore trust in the media writ large if people are so divided about which media outlets are actually fair and accurate?”
“I think sometimes there’s too much of a tendency to interpret a fact to a degree that it goes into opinion,” Deogun said. “And I think part of our job is to — again — remind ourselves that our … readers, viewers, users, are not as ignorant, as stupid as we think they are.”
Deogun continued, “I think part of that is to be more transparent. Part of that is to be more forthcoming about what we know and what we don’t know.”
The injection of opinion into news stories to give a biased slant on the news has long been a criticism of the mainstream media by conservatives. Numerous surveys have shown that the vast majority of reporters identify as liberals and Democrats so when a bias exists it almost exclusively reflects a liberal viewpoint.
Journalists were traditionally taught the “five w’s and one h” for their writing. A good news story answers the basic questions of “Who, What, Why, When, Where and How.” Contrary to the apparent belief of many modern journalists, the “What” is a reference to “What happened?” and not “What people should think.”
Deogun’s statement is an admission that at least some journalists realize that they have gone too far and alienated their customers in the process. While 90 percent of journalists may be liberal, political views of the general population are much more mixed. The majority of the population that is not liberal doesn’t like to be talked down to by liberal journalists, especially when they have to pay for subscriptions to outlets that insult their views and values.
There are encouraging signs that the media is trying to fix its ideological problem. Deogun’s admission that there is too much opinion in news stories and that journalists talk down to their readers and viewers is one such sign. CNN’s firing of three journalists who violated the news site’s standards is another action that conservatives should applaud, rather than using it to attack the network’s credibility.
Of course, the media still has a long way to go in regaining lost trust and respect. After all, Deogun didn’t say that viewers weren’t stupid, he just said that they are not “as stupid as we think they are.”
Old habits and attitudes die hard.