Sunday mornings is a time for coffee and a chance to scan the weekend papers from around the country and the world, thanks to the internet.
I check the offerings from The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, The Telegraph (my newspaper employer for 12 years), The Roanoke Times (my first daily newspaper job), the Christian Science Monitor and other news outlets (print, cable and online).
As a rule, I ignore partisan offerings from Fox (known as Faux) News, MSNBC and blatant propaganda sites like The Daily Caller.
I also drop in on The Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, although the LA paper is little more than a shadow to what it once was or should be today.
Sadly, most Americans now admit they get most of their “news” from social media offerings like Twitter or Facebook and they, sadly, accept misinformation as “news.”
“Social media is now a part of the news diet of an increasingly large share of the U.S. population,” says Pew Research Center in a report released late last year.
But they are not getting news. They are getting information that is promoted, not reported, even if the information comes from a source that may be objective, but the use of that information is subjective.
“Every newspaper is owned by someone or a group of ‘someones’ that have their own political and otherwise agendas,” says social media consultant Lon Safko, author of The Social Media Bible.
Bias that might not exist in the actual pages of the newspapers does unfortunately have a way of showing up on social media. There have been several notable cases where reporters have been reprimanded or even fired for their comments on social media.
Where the issue could get worse is if the actual reporting that is shared on social media also crosses boundaries.
“Whether its newspapers, television, Facebook, YouTube, or Google searches, someone is pulling the strings lobbying their own agendas, because there are no consequences,” said Safko. “you can say anything you want and there are no consequences.”
The other danger is that what is being passed off as “news” on social media is often times misinformation or outright propaganda.
“We know the Russians influenced a massive amount of political views with their war with the Ukraine by using Facebook; and we know they had an impact on our presidential election,” added Safko. “We also know that Google has had an inordinate influence on the upcoming Presidential Election by giving priority to liberal/Democratic news agencies like CNN and Yahoo. We will never have truthful reporting again until there are consequences.”
The sharp partisan divide that exists into America today is fed by media sources that bolster one point of view or another with little interest in providing both sides of any story.
Conservatives watch Fox News, read Breitbart News and other such sources that feed their preconceived perceptions. Liberals go to MSNBC. The seek not news but propaganda that feeds their biases.
The intense polarization leaves out individuals who seek information that serves the truth, not bias.
I’ve tried to be non-partisan in my roles as a newspaperman. Yes, I have beliefs and biases, like most people. I’m a gun owner who also believes in a woman’s right to choose. I support social services programs like food stamps and assistant to the needy but I think crackdowns are needed on those who breed to obtain larger welfare checks or game the system when they are capable of working for a living.
When someone starts a conversation by saying “as a Republican” or “I’m a Democrat,” I usually walk away.
Our nation needs Americans, not party members. We need elected officials who put the needs of the people they serve ahead of their personal desires.
Until that happens, we will continue to sink into the toxic swamp that threatens us all.