The Negligence of Mainstream Media
Corbet Darden '22
In October of last year, the New York Post published an article documenting the exploits of Hunter Biden, son of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden. The article concluded with allegations against both father and son in regards to ties to Ukrainian businessmen. Naturally, readers wanted to know from where the Post received such potentially-damaging information about Biden’s presidential campaign. It could not possibly be from a credible source—perhaps from a Russian disinformation campaign or a gasping attempt to discredit the Bidens by President Trump.
People everywhere were quick to point out the suspicious timing of the article. Twitter, as expected in this situation, banned the newspaper’s account to prevent readers from accessing the information. Sarcasm aside, it is hard to imagine those responsible for this incredible breach of public trust were in a normal frame of mind when they misconstrued the information.
As with so many current “scandals,” the actual event can be blown way out of proportion without further investigation. In this case, Twitter blocked a media company’s access to their readership, and mainstream TV anchors used Twitter’s claims of disinformation as sufficient evidence to neglect further research into the story and presented it to a larger audience as an unsubstantiated hit-piece. These events demonstrate a growing issue at the heart of mainstream media: narrative at the expense of facts. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with opinionated anchors, or writers, or networks. Watching five minutes of Fox News or MSNBC will let you know exactly where each network lies on the political spectrum. The problem arises when an opinion becomes a dismissal of truth.
Oh, by the way, the source that provided the New York Post with its hit-piece was, you guessed it, Hunter Biden. Well, Hunter Biden’s laptop. Once the article regained traction, the media again tried to destroy the story. They had to pivot—as they could no longer claim the laptop didn't exist, or that the entire thing was made up by Russian agents—and chose to call the story an attempt to derail Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. This line is not wholly untrue, but it is irrelevant. It is not up to the media to decide what information about presidential candidates will influence voters; their duty is not to tell you what to think. It is okay for pundits to live in political echo chambers if they wish, but it is not okay for them to coerce on-the-fence voters into these echo chambers. The reality is this: journalists who are upset at attacks on their integrity should remind themselves that their job is to ask questions first and shoot critics later.
As if to prove critics like myself right—and I don't want to be right—media outlets are already lobbing softballs in the direction of the Biden administration. After four years of doing fine work keeping up with the erratic Trump administration, it is painful seeing major outlets and “breaking news reporters” go from not asking President Biden questions on the campaign trail to broaching such dramatic topics like who is responsible for feeding the Bidens’ dogs. As long as media outlets refuse to cover major stories, for insignificant pieces do not lead people to vote for their chosen candidate, they will continue to lose viewers’ trust.