Former CBS News boss: Journalism has become the ‘clarion voice of the resistance’

Former CBS News president Van Gordon Sauter criticized the media for becoming the voice of the “resistance” and losing any semblance of fairness in its reporting.

Sauter, who served as CBS News president from 1982-83 and again in 1986, expressed his disappointment with the media in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Monday.

News organizations that claim to be neutral have long been creeping leftward, and their loathing of Mr. Trump has accelerated the pace. The news media is catching up with the liberalism of the professoriate, the entertainment industry, upscale magazines and the literary world. Recent arrivals are the late-night TV hosts who have broken the boundaries of what was considered acceptable political humor for networks.

To many journalists, objectivity, balance and fairness—once the gold standard of reporting—are not mandatory in a divided political era and in a country they believe to be severely flawed. That assumption folds neatly into their assessment of the president. To the journalists, including more than a few Republicans, he is a blatant vulgarian, an incessant prevaricator, and a dangerous leader who should be ousted next January, if not sooner. Much of journalism has become the clarion voice of the “resistance,” dedicated to ousting the president, even though he was legally elected and, according to the polls, enjoys the support of about 44% of likely 2020 voters.

This poses significant problems not only for Mr. Trump but for the media’s own standing. If Mr. Trump prevails in November, what’s the next act, if any, for journalists and the resistance? They will likely find Mr. Trump more dangerous and offensive in a second term than in the first.

Journalists have found that they can improve their own stature among their colleagues if they challenge the president as CNN’s Jim Acosta did early on during Trump’s term, followed by CBS News’ Weijia Jiang, who has tried to use her Chinese heritage to portray Trump as racist.

Sauter then wonders how the public will ever trust the media if it puts its own interests ahead of the country’s as it seeks to defeat Trump at all costs.

More important, how will a large segment of the public ever put stock in journalism it considers hostile to the country’s best interests? Unfortunately, dominant media organizations have bonded with another large segment of the public—one that embraces its new approach. Pulling back from anti-Trump activism could prove commercially harmful.

On the other hand, how would the media respond to a Joe Biden victory (beyond exhilaration)? Will Mr. Biden be subjected to the rigor and skepticism imposed on Mr. Trump? Will he get a pass because he is a liberal and “not Trump”? The media’s protective coverage of the sexual-assault allegation against Mr. Biden is perhaps a clear and concerning preview to how his presidency would be covered.

The media seems uninterested in these issues of bias. But wouldn’t a softening of its editorial orientation bring new readers or viewers? Probably not. The growth of new customers would be more than offset by the defection of outraged members of the current audience. The news media seems very comfortable with its product and ability to sell it.

There’s probably no way to seal the gap between the media and a large segment of the public. The media likes what it is doing. Admires it. Celebrates it. There is no personal, professional or financial reason to change. If anything, the gap will expand. Ultimately, the media finds the “deplorables” deplorable.

He added that it would be delighted if journalists admitted their bias which he felt would help their credibility.

It would be delightful if a publisher, an editor, a reporter, would just say: Yes, I am left of center! I’m proud of it. I think our reporting is accurate. It best serves the public. And the credibility of the media. So there!

Publications open about their bias might feel freer to focus on the specifics: story selection, presentation, facts, fairness, balance. Not devoid of subtlety for sure, but manageable.

Accuracy in Media has been called on the media to admit their left-wing bias for decades, but maybe with a push from Sauter a few honest journalists will emerge and declare their leanings.


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Author: Don Irvine

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