Thursday, September 13, 2018

Interview from the Archive: Bernie Goldberg cautions that "we’ve somehow become intolerant of hearing the other side"

Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 11, 2017.

This is the second of three articles spanning my discussion with Bernie Goldberg. The first segment is available here. 
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
Like actors on tour, issues enter and exit America’s political stage. Debate rages, then quells, and is often forgotten -- if not rewritten -- in the pages of history. 
One topic that manages to remain en vogue, though, is media bias. Both sides of the aisle claim that powerful press agencies have stacked the cards against them. They say it is all but impossible for the whole story to be told because certain individuals have no interest in truth.
Where there’s smoke there must also be fire, correct? 
An interesting, not to mention important, question for our day and age. The dawn of Donald Trump's presidency ignited a firestorm of scrutiny toward media figures. There has likely never been a time during which so much distrust and hostility flows at our supposed 'guardians of democracy'.
When the public no longer, on a general basis, places stock in the watchmen-and-women-on-the-wall, it does not take a clairvoyant fellow to see that dark storm clouds are on the horizon. 
Over the last several years, veteran journalist Bernie Goldberg -- whose resume includes, among many other things, the CBS Evening News and Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor, has devoted much of his career to analyzing media coverage. While this has not come without controversy, it has resulted in a string of bestselling books and a revived conversation about the role that bias plays. 
He recently spoke with me about key issues relating to the American media. Some of our conversation is included below.
Joseph Ford Cotto: Print publications, by and large, are going -- or have gone -- the way of the dinosaurs. Internet news outlets, meanwhile, are flourishing. What has been the most important consequence of this?

Bernie Goldberg: That people don’t open the paper and are exposed to whatever is on the page.  More than ever, they’re going to places because they do know what’s on the page – at least they know the political leanings they’re going to be exposed to.  

Cotto: Today, anyone can favor a news outlet on the basis of his or her political stances. Such a thing makes media bias an advantageous for certain outlets who seek to provide a profitable echo chamber. Why is there such a market for echo chambers in today's media landscape?  

Goldberg: As I mentioned earlier, we’ve somehow become intolerant of hearing the other side.  Speaking for myself, I can take just so much commentary I don’t agree with.  Rather than get annoyed, I change the channel.  And it’s part of a bigger concern:  We’ve become more polarized in America than at any time in recent memory.  We were pretty polarized during Vietnam, but that was about one issue.  Now it’s about everything!

Cotto: Despite having unparalleled access to news outlets which confirm one's view of reality, a majority of Americans view the press itself negatively. To what can one chalk up this odd state of affairs?

Goldberg: The media have brought a lot of this on themselves.  There’s no question that a lot of mainstream journalists are liberal and bring their values and their worldview to the way they cover the news.  No wonder so many of people don’t trust the media.  Some liberal journalists acknowledge the obvious:  that the media has a liberal bias problem.  But many others circle the wagons and deny the problem.  “If you think there’s bias in the news, then that only proves your bias,” some of them say.  

Having said all that, it doesn’t help when the president talks about how the press is the enemy of the American people.  And how he labels just about everything he doesn’t like as fake news.  He’s trying to de-legitimize the media and the media are trying to delegitimize him.  How nice!  A democracy needs a strong, believable mainstream media.  And right now, we don’t have it.

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