I titled my July 2022 TV program episode “Recognize and Counter Mainstream Media Bias.”
You can watch it and/or read a thorough summary of what we said (and see links to additional information) at this link: https://parallaxperspectives.org/recognize-and-counter-mainstream-media-bias
I interviewed Janine Jackson from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR = https://fair.org).
Here is more information about what we said — AND INFORMATION ABOUT ECONOMICS:
We briefly discussed media biases in covering economics.
What aspects are covered/ignored? How are issues framed?
Why don’t newspapers print a “Labor page” to counter the “Business page”?
Why obsess about the stock market instead of ordinary people’s concerns?
Notice bias in reporting about inflation and putting consumers against workers.
We did not have time to explore many of the implications of Janine’s insights early in this interview about recognizing the context that corporate media are big businesses that persistently favor big business over workers and ordinary people when they deal with economic issues.
But Glen did mention a few things, such as the fact that big newspapers have a “Business” page, but no “Labor” page. He said radio news reports on the economy sometimes simply report numbers about the stock market – as if that’s the only aspect of the economy that matters. He said these are just two examples of the narrow pro-business bias that he sees in mainstream news media’s coverage of economic issues. Media fail to report on how big business has manipulated the economy for its own benefit. He said that now that people are concerned about inflation, media fail to report on business’s price gouging and excess profits. Instead, they want to reduce prices by blaming workers for wanting better wages, so the media are pitting consumers against workers – when actually workers are consumers, and both constituencies are being hurt by big business – and the media are letting big business off the hook by failing to report how their price gouging and excessive profits are increasing inflation.
Janine said she is angered by the reporting that pits consumers against workers, as if we were different people. She said the media’s reporting denies the realities that Americans who work are also American consumers. She also gave the example that if people express concern for underpaid workers on South American coffee plantation workers, media would blame us for increasing the price of coffee. She said coffee is already expensive, even while those workers are underpaid.
She also said she is concerned that when powerful people discuss the issues in mainstream media, they often “are allowed to absent themselves from these stories.” She said, for example, that a news article might say that if we enact a policy that would make international trade more fair for workers, this might raise prices (again, setting up the workers vs. consumers frame that we mentioned a moment ago), the big business officials who are making decisions refuse to comment. Notice how often corporate officials refuse to take responsibility for the decisions they are making. Media allow them to avoid that accountability. Glen agreed and said journalists simply take that denial at face value instead of pursuing the matter. Janine said the big business official is the single most powerful person in this scenario, but they are allowed to avoid responsibility by refusing to comment.
Janine said this is one more example of why we need to recognize the limits of corporate news media. She said that even while the media do report many significant – and even ground-breaking – stories, we need to “recognize the structural barriers that they face when they are actually trying to tell the stories and offer the kinds of solutions that might actually get us past this.” She said the people who sign the journalists’ paychecks do not want the journalists to dig deeply enough. Honest journalists say they really do feel that influence. She mentioned an example of a journalist who toed the line while he wrote about economics and labor issues for the New York Times but has been writing more radically since he left that job. She said she really wishes he would write now about why his employment at the New York Times constrained him from writing things he probably knew he should have been writing about then. People who read that newspaper now need to know about the pressures he felt then, so we can understand the constraints that are limiting what current reporters are able to write about.
Glen said Janine’s example pertains to other kinds of professions too. He said her example of pressures on journalists that go away when the employees move on have been constraining people in the criminal justice system (prosecutors, judges, etc.) too. He said he read a book by a very prominent psychiatrist who interviewed retired prosecutors, judges, etc., who had been allowing horrible injustices to occur while they were working, but who – after retiring – were reporting that they had knowingly convicted innocent people of crimes, supported unjust sentences, and so forth. Now they have come out against the death penalty and the other abuses in the criminal justice system. While they were working in the criminal justice system, they felt pressure to do things that they knew were wrong, but they never spoke up until after they retired.
He said the lesson from that book – and the lesson from what Janine has been saying – is that our institutional systems do a very bad job of critiquing themselves.