Why is news coverage of issues that matter to animal agriculture often so biased?
Certainly the concentration of corporate media, with the consequent focus on profitability, makes it almost inevitable that hard news coverage would be replaced with tabloid journalism as a way to fatten bottom lines, if not enlighten viewers minds. The days of digging deep to make sure the facts are solid has given way to ratings-based coverage of celebrity news and entertainment industry sideshows that grab eyeballs, rather than investigation of serious issues that might require critical thinking.
But a parallel reason news coverage has gotten so one-sided is traceable to a trend that started decades ago in the colleges and universities that churn out journalism graduates.
In the very first class I took—literally Journalism 101—it was immediately apparent who was working toward a career as a news reporter and who was aiming at graduating with an appealing video package that would land them an interview at some mid-market TV station as a “broadcast journalist.”
Those of us who had at least a notion that investigative skills, research capabilities and the ability to organize information cogently were the prerequisites of a professional reporter or editor spent untold hours poring over interview notes, making endless trips to the “morgue” where newspaper clippings were filed (hate to date myself, but there was no Internet then) and writing, re-writing and re-writing again our pitiful six-inch stories about some minor league campus curfew passed by the toothless student governing body.
Those who were planning on a career wearing pancake makeup and smiling into a teleprompter made no such effort. Why bother? Broadcasters don’t get hired on the basis of their copy. Their readiness to appear on camera is based on one singular “skill:” How good they look on air.
Blatant shock value
That’s the prime reason that if you actually listen to TV news reporters with their “live updates!” and the local news anchors at all but the top 20 media markets, they’re mouthing words that would be immediately deleted by any veteran print editor five seconds after they landed on his or her desk.
Because most of the time, there’s little attempt to bother with actual journalism. It’s a game of pitching a “grabber” of a headline, then backfilling the 60-second report with pre-packaged drivel straight from whichever interest group managed to get the news producer’s attention that evening.