Cable news short on objectivity

These days, objectivity is hard to find in media. If you go on Google and type in any political topic or person, you will have to go through at least 15 pages of results before you find a link that isn’t a blog or a watch-dog site for some radical group. This lack of objectivity has especially manifested itself in one branch of the media tree: cable news.

In the past, I have criticized Fox News for being nothing more than right-wing propoganda, whose slogan promising "fair and balanced" coverage is a bald-faced lie. But, the truth is all of the cable news outlets, including CNN, MSNBC and CNN Headline News, are also unwatchable.

I hate them all for different reasons. I cannot stand Fox News because it warps the news and violates journalistic ethics on a frequent basis. One of their most egregious ethics violations came this summer, with the Shirley Sherrod situation. Fox News ran a clip of a speech showing Sherrod, who worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the time, telling a story about how, over 20 years ago, she did not help a farmer when he was about to lose his farm because he was white. Sherrod lost her job, but the entire speech was leaked the next day. Anyone who saw it realized the story was about Sherrod getting over her racial prejudices, and she wanted to help others do the same. If Fox News had checked their sources and saw the whole speech, like a news network should, Sherrod would still have a job. The whole episode was indefensible on every level.

CNN implements technology into their news coverage so much that some of their programming can be surreally funny. They have approximately 400 people with laptops doing election coverage at any given moment. They have touch screens for absolutely everything. They’ve used holograms and I think Wolf Blitzer’s beard is going to start developing a life of its own pretty soon. But I will say that their credibility went up about 1,000 percent when they fired news correspondent and resident-nutcase Rick Sanchez for making anti-Semitic comments about Jon Stewart. Sadly, it is still not enough for CNN to be taken seriously.

CNN Headline News is worse, it often feels like a tabloid on steroids. They focus heavily on sensational stories dealing with celebrities, parents doing crazy things to their kids and missing children. They pound these stories into the ground. Also, I could write a whole book dealing with my hatred for Nancy Grace, who I think is pure evil. Your show doesn’t have a lot of credibility if you bring in reporters from the National Enquirer to talk about the news.

MSNBC is not as over-the-top in their bias, but it is obvious that they lean to the left more often than not. I used to watch MSNBC a lot, but I got tired of them over-reacting to everything the Republicans did. Keith Olbermann is the perfect symbol of this. His show used to be entertaining, but he has gottenn more and more hysterical. I finally tuned out when he started resorting to immature name-calling of anyone who opposed him. He compared this year’s Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to donate unlimited funds to electoral campaigns to the court’s infamous decision in the Scott v. Sanford case from 1857, which indirectly caused the Civil War. One crazy overreaction too many.

This past week, Olbermann was suspended from the network for donating a total of $7,200 to three Democratic candidates running in the midterm elections (he has since been reinstated). This was a big deal because Olbermann frequently attacked Fox News correspondents for making campaign donations. This was an obvious "pot-calling-the-kettle-black" situation.

People have called MSNBC hypocritical because some of its other employees, such as "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough, have also donated to campaigns. I think the reason Olbermann was punished was the Rally to Restore Sanity that Stewart and Stephen Colbert held two weeks ago. One of the highlights of the rally was when they ran a montage of cable news clips, and they indirectly compared MSNBC to Fox News for their biased coverage. Perhaps MSNBC felt the Olbermann situation would prove this assertion correct so they wanted to scapegoat him (they were right for firing him though). Olbermann broke the rules plain and simple, but I don’t like that they reinstated him so quickly because of public pressure. Stand by your principles guys. I know people like Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Fox’s Sean Hannity are essentially op-ed columnists and not objective reporters, but they should still have to operate within the boundaries of a code of ethics.

It is a good thing that the rally focused on how cable news is marginalizing selectivity and hard-hitting coverage for biased and pointless stories with a slick presentation. We should try to have as little to do with them as possible. Most of my news comes from the Associated Press, Yahoo! News and The New York Times. I still end up pretty well-informed on the daily news. If cable news networks want to be taken seriously, they need to go back to the drawing board and focus on compelling and timely stories with legitimate sources and objective reporting. The power of the press is too important to waste.