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New Era, Same Mistakes

We talk about the bias of stories and bias of news but we don’t think about our own place in the world.

Barrett News Media

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As we approach another presidential election, we’ve seen a lot of discussion about avoiding past mistakes, specifically the election of 2016 and the inaccurate predictions of Hillary Clinton becoming the next president. While the times have certainly changed since then news media has largely stayed the same. Rather than recognizing how news coverage affects discussion and taking a more balanced approach, it is steering towards attention-grabbing headlines creating a more stressful and hostile environment.

News Media has done a poor job prioritizing which headlines to focus on in the past. The majority of Black Lives Matters Protests have been peaceful but because violence broke out at some of them.

“About 93% of racial justice protests in the US since the death of George Floyd have been peaceful and nondestructive, according to a new report. The findings, released Thursday, contradict assumptions and claims by some that protests associated with the Black Lives Matter movement are spawning violence and destruction of property.” (CNN)

Because news media had failed to take a nuanced approach, only covering the protests in which violence broke out, opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement have been able to characterize all protests as being inherently violent, prompting actors like Kyle Rittenhouse and The Proud Boys to take matters into their own hands.

“In 2016, Trump stoked nativist fears, placing his electoral chances as part of an activist strategy to limit non-white immigration. In 2020, as Black Lives Matter protests attempt to change the structure of America’s racial caste system, he is cultivating a “law and order” fear in frightened whites”. (NBC News)

By deciding which stories take precedent, News outlets steer the national conversation in a certain direction. When the person in the driver’s seat steers news towards stories that produce a profit, the consequences can end up being very real.

As with the Black Lives Matter protests, Trump’s COVID diagnosis taking precedent over the revelation about his taxes, steers the conversation away from the president’s crimes, moving it towards what drugs he’s taking, and how the president’s opponents should be reacting to the news.

Our president is committing tax fraud. Did everyone forget? Before Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 a New York Times Expose revealed that last year the President paid a total of $750 dollars in income taxes. That would be a lot for me, but I’m also a recent college graduate living during the second recession to happen in my lifetime. The New York Times bombshell report was released on September 27 a mere five days before Trump announced his testing positive for COVID 19.

While the Coronavirus is an ongoing issue, with more than 7 million contracting the disease resulting in 210,000 deaths, the news cycle continues to move forward covering the presidential and vice-presidential debates and how these diagnoses will affect the future debates. Unfortunately, these updates have not affected how the U.S is responding to the Coronavirus pandemic, the president maintaining that the Coronavirus is not a real threat. 

Trump’s COVID diagnosis has become the first  “October Surprise” of the 2020 campaign season. The concept is self-explanatory, a month before the election some revelation comes out that puts a different light on the presidential race, throwing into question all predictions preceding it. In 2016 there was a flurry of surprises in the month of October, the infamous recording from Access Hollywood in which Trump casually admitted to sexually assaulting several women, to the Comey verdict on Hillary’s emails a week before the election. 

The October Surprise has a tendency to cause a stir in the News, pundits speculating on how it affects polls, pulling attention away from other headlines.

In another universe where Trump did not contract COVID, we would be talking about how the president has repeatedly used the office of the presidency to promote his own brand, used taxpayer money to travel back and forth from Mar-a-lago to the White House, and passed a tax bill that put millions of dollars into the pockets of large corporations. The president is not only using the office to enrich himself and his family, but he is also using it to escape the law.

Several figures are still focused on the NYT’s expose. Allan Sloan, a columnist from The Washington Post reminds us why we shouldn’t lose sight of this story.

“Our leaders are supposed to set an example, both to help cover the costs of the benefits they get from the government and to encourage tax compliance by regular citizens.”(The Washington Post)

News Media not focusing on Trump’s taxes excuses his actions and contributes to the disenfranchisement of Americans taking place in the political system. “He can get away with it because he’s rich and that’s just the way things are.”

With the advent of streaming and social media, people can pick and choose which news they get. Network News is now competing against online publications, news radio, and podcasts, but we’re finding out that those sources have nefarious motivations, social media websites letting suspicious characters post fake news to their followers. Podcasts and websites being backed by big money and big politics.  

We expect the news media to take an unbiased approach, giving us the hard facts. The truth is that the headlines we see, the stories we hear, the people reporting it, are in front of us because someone cared enough to share it. Most people know this. Fox News, Breitbart, and The New York Post are associated with the right side of the political spectrum, while MSNBC, Huffington Post, and The New Yorker are on the left. From the examples, I’m using for this article you can guess where my views lie politically. In a much broader perspective News media in the U.S. has one huge glaring bias that most Americans aren’t even aware of and that is our America-centricity. 

We talk about our media bubbles as either being conservative or liberal but whichever political ideology our media bubbles sway towards they are almost always located in America. This is where I think the issue starts. We talk about the bias of stories and bias of news but we don’t think about our own place in the world. I think if we want to do something about bias in media, we should talk about the self centered-ness of the media. Learning about the world, and how it affects us. To have a more holistic media atmosphere Americans have to think more holistically as a society first. 

In order to see something different, we have to do something differently. When you repeat the same behavior and expect a different result, it’s called insanity. What would happen if we changed the way we define news? What if we didn’t separate world news from domestic? News media, in its current state, is on track to make the same mistakes as it had in the past.

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BNM Writers

Activist Journalism Should Have No Place in Mainstream Media

Lord of the Flies might only be a book, but many journalistic outlets are becoming savages for the sake of activist journalism.

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A photo of a protest

Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan was shocked most Americans are supportive of deporting illegal aliens (because that is the actual legal term for undocumented immigrants). CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan has no idea America is not a democracy (the Irish journalist might want to take a civics class before making this false claim). And the Surgeon General is calling on social media outlets to have warning labels. It’s just more proof that activist journalism has grown all too prevalent in mainstream media today.

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.” Lord of the Flies might only be a book, but many journalistic outlets are becoming savages for the sake of activist journalism. Perhaps we (the media) are becoming the beast we once feared.

Brennan’s shock at her own outlet’s poll made headlines because many felt it shouldn’t be a surprise. No country in the history of Earth has been or will be completely content with an exorbitant amount of people from another country landing within their borders. The report, which claimed 62% of Americans support deporting those who come here illegally, is now framed with additional results. 53% of Hispanic voters say they would favor the program.

The new CBS poll also found more Americans “overwhelmingly” trust President Trump on border security than President Biden. While we have yet to see Ms. Brennan’s jaw drop on air a second time, I’m confident it’s already happened behind the scenes. Reactions like this are not only un-journalistic (because just give us the news, we don’t care about your opinion that’s what talk radio is for), they show how out of touch some members of the media are with America outside of the large markets.

Speaking of out-of-touch with America, CNN seems to believe it’s a good idea to have a biased non-American report on the election. Regardless of his citizenship, Mr. O’Sullivan needs to learn more about the Constitution and the founding of the American government before reporting on it. I have said it before and will say it again, America is not a democracy, it is a democratic republic. Those on the right saying America is just a Republic are also wrong.

Mr. O’Sullivan’s false narrative that America is a democracy is a prime example of activist journalism in the works. Other “reporting” from him (if you can call it that) also included interviews with Pro-Palestinian groups who say they will not back Biden. Yet he does not ask one very simple question: Then who will they back? Trump? Doubtful, but if that is the answer it never made it into his story.

These national outlets might want to take a lesson from their affiliates, as local news now has more Americans’ trust than the bigger, more staffed, and better-paid counterparts. Why? Because there is less opinion and more journalism at the local level. This is likely why a May Pew Institute Research poll showed 69% of Americans believe that local journalists in their area are mostly in touch with their community. With even more (85%) believe local news is “somewhat important” to the well-being of their local community. National news poll numbers don’t even come close (as I previously commented).

What’s most concerning out of all the past week’s headlines, however, is Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy’s call for social media to come with a warning label. This would be as effective as posting warning labels on cigarette packs (meaning this is going to do nothing to stop people from partaking in addictive habits).

You can not save everyone and you certainly can’t save agenda-driven “journalists” from developing propaganda and posting it to social media. If a warning label on cigarettes won’t stop smokers from smoking it won’t stop social media users from scrolling. It is a drug, some people are addicted. It is an unfortunate but true part of life.

Most, if not all, Americans are aware of the addictiveness of social media just like they know the dangers of smoking. Warning labels won’t make people stop and think. It’s just more government overreach.

This is the thing local news does best, gives you unbiased information, it does not tell you how to think about certain issues (usually), and the good outlets call out government overreach when they see it.

We can not regulate our way out of life nor can the industry continue to render activist journalism and try to pass it off as real news. People are getting smart and turning to local news for facts. Hopefully, these stations won’t be corrupted by the same powers that now influence our national outlets.

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BNM Writers

Fox News Leads 80th Anniversary of D-Day Coverage

More than 3 million viewers watched coverage of the 80th anniversary on cable news.

Doug Pucci

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A photo of Fox News coverage of D-Day

One of the notable news events in June was the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that helped liberate Europe from Nazi Germany back on Thursday, June 6. More than 3 million viewers watched the coverage on cable news with Fox News leading the way.

President Biden attended a ceremony at Normandy American Cemetery in France alongside French President Emmanuel Macron. In his remarks, Biden pledged “We will not walk away” from Ukraine, using the example of the fight to liberate Europe from Nazi domination In parallel to the current war against Russian aggression. “To surrender to bullies, to bow down to dictators, is simply unthinkable. If we were to do that, it means we’d be forgetting what happened here on these hallowed beaches.”

The morning news programs televised the D-Day remembrance ceremonies within the 8-9 AM ET hour on Thursday, June 6. Fox News was tops on cable overall, according to Nielsen Media Research, with 1.467 million viewers including 153,000 within the key 25-54 demographic. The network sent host Martha MacCallum to Normandy to broadcast live from the site of the invasion, sharing stories of combat veterans.

The MSNBC’s entire 6-9 a.m. ET block averaged 1.019 million viewers and 128,000 adults 25-54.

CNN/HLN’s combined broadcast drew 475,000 viewers and 110,000 in the 25-54 demo.

Later in the month, on Tuesday, June 11, music superstar Céline Dion joined Today co-host Hoda Kotb on NBC for the singer’s first one-on-one interview since publicly revealing she suffers from a neurological condition called stiff person syndrome.

Getting a huge assist from its America’s Got Talent (5.527 million) lead-in, the one-hour news special entitled “Celine’s Story” delivered 3.227 million viewers, marking it the most-watched program on all of television within the 10-11 p.m. hour on June 11. It outdrew such other 10 p.m. news shows as Fox News’ Gutfeld! (2.496 million), MSNBC’s Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (1.078 million) and CNN’s NewsNight (433,000).

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How KDKA Transformed Overnights to Grow Its Future and Reach Younger Audiences

“The overwhelming feedback has been positive. It makes us local, it gives us a bench … it makes the radio station’s brand bigger and connects us in different areas.”

Garrett Searight

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A photo of the cast of KDKA Next Take and the KDKA logo
(Photo: KDKA)

In February, venerable Pittsburgh news/talk station KDKA announced a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh that would see students from the college host a weekday overnight program.

The program — KDKA Next Take — is heard from 1-5 AM and replaced the nationally syndicated Red Eye Radio in the Audacy-owned station’s lineup.

A product of the imagination of Audacy Pittsburgh Senior Vice President and Market Manager Michael Spacciapolli, he believes the show has been a success in its early run.

“The show certainly offers a different perspective on the way that this generation looks at the world and from their viewpoint as opposed to other hosts who are in a different time in their life than them,” Spacciapolli said. “So we certainly are able to share a different point of view from them, while at the same time utilizing those points of view on social and getting them to really engage the radio station from a social perspective and hopefully engaging in and not just speaking to, but engaging people in that demographic, as well.”

Needing to attract younger audiences has been at the forefront of the news/talk radio industry for quite some time. Another issue discussed by leaders of the format are often centered around where stations will find the next crop of young talent.

With the partnership with Pitt, KDKA took the initiative to seek out those who might be interested in a radio career, rather than hope those potential employees found them.

“I’m always looking for great talent. Everything I do and in every aspect of the radio station, I’m looking for the most talented people. I’m always looking for where is the next great talent in everything we do,” said Spacciapolli. “This gives me the opportunity to have them working with us on an everyday basis and learning everything they do — from their work ethic, to their thought process, to their ideas. It gives me an opportunity to have our own ‘bench’ and have an opportunity to see where talent could come from in the future.

“There’s going to be talent there that we are potentially going to take a look at in different roles. Do they leave Next Take when their time is up on the show and do they immediately become full-time hosts? Probably not. But can they become part-time hosts? Sure,” he added. “Can they become producers? Absolutely. Can they become reporters? Can they become part-time reporters? Absolutely. Working with us gives us the opportunity to certainly move in that direction much more quickly and confidently than we would have previously.”

For decades, overnights were a proving ground for aspiring hosts. The daypart allowed for opportunities for young hosts and provided a low-pressure timeslot to experiment and hone your craft. But with the rise of automation and syndication, those positions have largely fallen by the wayside.

However, Audacy Pittsburgh looked at the partnership with the college and saw opportunity. The collaboration allows a younger generation access to the station that is largely dominated by older hosts and listeners.

Additionally, it provided even more local coverage to a station that prides itself of being “The Voice of Pittsburgh.” That factor wasn’t lost on Spacciapolli.

“A big part of my vision was it gave us the opportunity to be local, gave us the opportunity to be local overnight, which for me is how we win in this business is being local, staying local, talking to people in Pittsburgh about Pittsburgh, and this gave us the opportunity to do that on a pretty big scale and with fresh content every day.”

It would be natural for a full-time or even part-time employee of the Pittsburgh news/talk station to be jealous that a four-hour program was being given to college students. But that hasn’t been the case, Spacciapolli shared.

“The overwhelming feedback is very positive … Because there’s no expense it’s not like it’s somebody else could have been doing it. It would have continued to be syndicated if we weren’t able to do it through the partnership with the University of Pittsburgh. So it just makes the radio station’s brand bigger. It connects us in different areas and hopefully grows the brand and gets the brand younger.”

The program is recorded live-to-tape earlier in the day before airing in the 1-5 AM timeslot, which allows for some fine-tuning and takes the pressure off the radio novices, while also allowing them to helm a show instead of working in the wee hours of the night while trying to focus on their studies.

Spaccipolli shared that an overnight program hosted by college students interested in one day working in the industry doesn’t have to be proprietary to KDKA. He said there’s one deciding factor in the success of the endeavor.

“It’s about the relationships and the partnerships. And, fortunately, I have a great relationship with the University of Pittsburgh, they’re a great partner. I was able to get deep enough into this relationship with them and find ways to potentially make this work,” he stated.

“This is not easy. It’s not something you can pull off easily because, traditionally, I think, people think about it and they think, ‘Oh, there’s got to be significant expense.’ And in this situation, there’s not because that wouldn’t have fit our model for where it is and what we’re trying to do with it. So there isn’t that expense. You’re not gonna be able to make it work everywhere. Fortunately, we were able to do it here.”

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