Robin Diel: Network television news: the sin of omission
Over the last year I’ve made an effort to broaden my daily news gathering activities and have noticed some trends across the spectrum of major network television news broadcasts.
Besides “cherry picking” quotes that emphasize one narrative rather than inform the public of the wider implications of major political events, there is also a disturbing lack of coverage that doesn’t fit a “tailored” television network viewpoint.
Two recent stories portray this trend, the tragic death of Jazmine Barnes and President Trump’s recent visit to the Mexican border.
Jazmine Barnes was an African-American girl killed in a drive-by shooting in Houston on Dec. 30, 2018. Major network news covered this tragic event on a national scale. Initial testimony and an artist rendition of the suspect suggested the murderer was a white male driving a red pickup truck. This immediately led to speculation that this shooting was a racially motivated hate crime.
These reports fueled racially charged outrage that news reports were happy seize upon as more proof of racial tensions in the United States. By Jan. 7, two suspects were arrested in the murder of Jazmine Barnes, both were African-American males who shot Jasmine’s car “by mistake.” Major network TV news largely failed to correct their previously broadcast story. Credit where credit is due, several newspapers and local news broadcasts updated this story while major network television news did not.
Apparently, racially inspired hate crimes are good for TV ratings but random drive-by shootings are not.
The second story worth highlighting was President Trump’s recent visit to the Mexican border. Major network TV news hammered the themes of “Trump’s Wall,” barrier ineffectiveness, and the president’s refusal to compromise (regardless of both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s concurrent refusal to compromise). Interestingly, these same news broadcasts failed to broadcast the president’s roundtable discussion at the U.S. Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas.
The roundtable discussion included border patrol agents and Reggie Singh, the brother of the California peace officer Ronil Singh who was shot to death by an undocumented immigrant. It also included Marie Vega, the mother of Javier Vega Jr., a border patrol agent killed by undocumented immigrants in August 2014. This roundtable meeting was followed by a trip to the Mexican border where the president met with other border agents.
The perspective of Ronil Singh, Marie Vega, and the border patrol agents contributed to a wider perspective to the debate about border security and the human cost of doing nothing. The Monitor newspaper (Jan. 10, 2019) reported border patrol information that showed a greater number of arrests in recent weeks which involved people from places outside Mexico and Central America, namely people from Pakistan, China and India. Apparently major network news determined that the public didn’t need this information.
While broadcast news might not be “Fake News,” it is definitely “Incomplete News.”
“Incomplete News” lacks information that allows the public to fully appreciate the complex nature of world events. Television news runs stories on Jamal Khashoggi, but not journalists arrested in Myanmar while investigating the massacre of Rohingya Muslims. We hear about “Brexit” and riots in France, but receive no investigation that uncovers the root cause of these events. Omission of information in many aspects is just as disingenuous as fabrication of information. This has led to a credibility problem for major network news.
The credibility problem with network news broadcasts has not gone unnoticed. Major Garrett, current White House correspondent for CBS News, highlighted in a recent interview that the mainstream media has a credibility problem and needs to fix it.
“Credibility is collapsing,” Garrett said, “This industry must ask itself relentlessly why?”
Garrett’s own reporting follows the ‘just the facts” method and investigates issues with no “… dreaded anonymous sources.” In his own work, Garrett explained that “everyone is quoted by name … they know I’m a faithful chronicler of what they said and what they observed and what has happened.” Part of being a “faithful chronicler” is not only good source citation, but also showing both sides of an issue even if that doesn’t fit a “tailored” network television news viewpoint.
In the modern era, the public does not need to rely on major network television news. Many government meetings can be watched in real time or as recorded on services like YouTube.
Read local and online newspapers that follow up on headline stories that television news passed by. Don’t be misinformed by network television news’ “tailored” viewpoint.
Robin Diel lives in Penn Valley.
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