This Sunday Forum is in response to J. Peder Zane’s column “Live from Blueville – fake news” (Sept. 13)
Not ‘just fine’
At times I believe that Zane is an objective critic whose interpretations simply differ from mine. This is not one of those times. First, I recommend that Zane read the column just below his about Sinclair Broadcasting. This massive conservative network with Trump connections makes hypocritical the Republicans’ “fake news” rants against media they just don’t like.
Second, Zane stoops to the standard Trumpian misdirection about the Russian investigation: that no proof of collusion exists. But the investigation is primarily about Russian interference, not collusion. Nonetheless, as we keep learning of meetings and real estate deals, the possibility of collusion becomes a valid topic.
Third, Zane’s most telling claim is that “our state has done just fine since Republicans won power in 2010.” While we’re not yet going to hell in a hand basket, many of us recall when our education system was on the rise, we were progressive on race and gender, science mattered in decisions about the environment and laws were meant to protect the vulnerable. I don’t have space here to list how these have degraded since 2010. Things aren’t “just fine.”
Look at evidence
In J. Peder Zane’s latest column, he accused various media companies of peddling partisan lies and came within an inch of accusing The N&O of the same thing. In what mounted to an audition piece for a job in the Trump White House, Zane denied that there is any evidence for a number of things about Trump and his associates for which there is in fact a good deal of evidence, including that Trump is mentally unfit for office.
To pass off all this accumulated evidence as fake news might be expected of those on Trump’s payroll. Why is it acceptable for someone on a newspaper’s?
‘Doubts about’ bias
Let me get this straight: Jesse Helms was the unbiased one because segregation and integration were equally valid options and should have been debated as such. And the media was the biased one for criticizing his racist rants, instead of saying, “Say, maybe you have a point there.” If J. Peder Zane sincerely wanted to make a valid example of media bias, he could have used something else in history that might have shown actual bias, not the claims of a racist blowhard. The very fact that he tried to paint Helms as a man of principle causes me to have serious doubts about him.
In his latest rant J. Peder Zane embraces the Trump administration’s efforts to discredit a broad array of national media outlets as purveyors of “fake news” intended to accomplish Donald Trump’s removal from office.
Donning the mantle of a forlorn Jeremiah, Zane professes bewilderment concerning a longstanding failure of national news organizations to heed his “media bias” warnings and those emanating, over the years, from such “neutral” stalwarts as Jesse Helms, Fox News, and the Media Research Center.
What, of substance, does Zane offer as his (and Trump’s) examples of “media bias” and “fake news” intended to engineer a “slow-motion coup” aimed at the president? He cites allegations concerning Trump’s collusion with Russia, allegations that Trump and some of his supporters are “white supremacists,” media coverage of Trump’s rescinding of Obama’s executive order concerning the status of certain immigrant children and media coverage of proposed changes in Department of Education guidelines for how schools handle sexual assault charges.
In leveling his broadsides, Zane does not distinguish between news stories and editorial commentary. With respect to each of the controversies noted above, many of the media outlets criticized by Zane have indeed staked out positions, editorially, that are critical of the administration (just as other news organizations have editorialized in support of the administration).
In that sense, news organizations can be categorized as “liberal” or “conservative” partisans. To express partisan views, editorially, is entirely consistent with both journalistic integrity and constitutionally-guaranteed “freedom of speech.”
However, when it comes to news coverage, different considerations apply. Most national media outlets, with varying degrees of fidelity to even-handedness, include the reactions of persons affected by or interested in the controversy. Surely, to canvas and report such possibly conflicting points of view is not a manifestation of “partisanship, “fake news” or “media bias.”
I appreciated J. Peder Zane’s column on fake news. I have been very disappointed in what has been biased political coverage, mostly not even subtle. My high school journalism teacher would have been appalled. If biased coverage were in red print, I’m sure all but the sports and entertainment sections would be mostly red.
Fake news is propaganda
J. Peder Zane only gives half the story. “Fake news” is a new term for the old word, “propaganda.” “Evidence” is material collected by a court of law. Since President Trump or his associates have not been in court, there is, therefore, no evidence. What Zane knows full well but does not say is that there is an established record of lying by the president and his associates regarding their involvement with Russia.
From Trump saying that he “doesn’t know any Russians,” to his former campaign manager, to his former national security adviser, to his son, Donald Trump Jr., this group has had a lot of contact with Russians, and they are now starting to walk back their previous denials. What is not yet determined is the full extent of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 Presidential election and whether the outcome was thereby swayed. President Trump’s use of the term “Fake News” is an effort to get people to disbelieve available information. Zane should be more concerned about a foreign adversary being involved in our politics and elections.