Editorial: I Am Calling Out Some Media Outlets Over Debate Coverage

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It has been about 25 years since I wrote my first article for a college newspaper at the Middletown campus of Miami University.  I have some wonderful opportunities in journalism and those have led me to starting the Warren County Online News this year.  

From the beginning, I have taken my job very seriously.  I understand the responsibility that I have to my readers to write accurate, unbiased stories.  Journalists are human and it's not always easy to set aside our own views.  Regardless, it is important that we do it anyway.  Before people start combing through the hundreds (probably thousands) of stories I have written over the years, I am sure there have been times when my opinions have come through.  That's something that I try very hard not to do.

It's a much different thing when journalists choose to blatantly show bias in their coverage of a story.  I've seen that happen with some publications in their coverage of the election.  When I saw how some newspapers and news stations reported on last night's presidential debate, I knew I needed to call some media outlets out for it.  

It's not  trying to shame anyone.  I am certainly not trying to say I am perfect or imply that I am better than any other reporter.  I want everyone who works as a member of the media to be mindful of the power they have and what they are telling the public.  We simply have to do better.  Those who are not being good journalists are making it harder for those of us who are trying to do the right thing.  We just need to commit to giving our readers or viewers accurate information without putting opinions into news story.  

I know that my readers are intelligent enough to take the information that I give them and decide for themselves how they want to feel about it.  If we feel strongly enough about something to give our personal opinion, we need to do it in the form of an editorial. Even then, we need to be careful that we aren't abusing our power.  

I am not going to call out individual reporters, but focus on certain publications.  This is not about a certain party or a certain candidate.  It is equally as bad when a publication try to sway opinion for or against any candidate.  Almost all of the opiniated coverage was against President Donald Trump.  I didn't even look at the stories for balanced coverage or a statement of opinion in the article that wasn't in a quote from a source.  I just looked at the headlines.  In some cases, clicking on one biased headline led to a story with a different headline.  

Here is what I found:

New York Times:  With Cross-Talk, Lies and Mockery, Trump Tramples Decorum In Debate With Biden

Washington Post:  Trump plunges debate into fiery squabbling

Boston Globe:  Heckling and interrupting Biden, Trump causes chaos in first presidential debate

Los Angeles Times:  An evening of insults and accusations as Trump repeatedly interrupts the debate

Politico:  Why Trump resorted to torching the debate

CBS News: First debate descends into chaos as Trump and Biden exchange attacks

NBC News: 'Will you shut up, man?': Debate devolves to name-calling as Trump derails with interruptions

It bothers me that those I mentioned were some of the biggest media names.  These are the publications and stations where a lot of people turn to for the news.  I say it again that we have to do better.  

There were some that did a good job.  Even if there were some opinion implied, it didn't seem as blatant as the others.  I think the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a better job.  ABC News also did a better job.

There are some who might be reading this who would argue that those publications and stations have the First Amendment right to write what they want to write.   That's not the way I see it.  Of course, they have the right to have and express their opinion.   They also have the right to give the news to the people without interference of the government.  I believe, as journalists, that we owe it our audience to separate our opinion from the facts.  I might not interpret things the same way another person interprets them.  The readers or viewers deserve the opportunity to make their own decision.

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