Opinion: How does your media and political bias run?
Don Rogers is publisher of The Union, a sister newspaper of the Sierra Sun’s that covers Grass Valley, Nevada City and the Sierra Foothills, as well as all of Nevada County. Email him firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes I think conservative readers of The Union only notice the liberal crap they hate, like they’re keeping score. And liberal readers pan us as loathsome right-wingers for the same reason.
This place, these times. They amplify something inherent in small-town papers across the country. But especially here, once a conservative bastion that’s become split more or less evenly between Republicans and Democrats. And not just Republicans and Democrats, but Progressives feeling the Bern and Trumpists thoroughly enjoying watching D.C. blow up.
This shift might be from younger, more liberal retirees supplanting the older, more conservative wave before them. Also, more folks who lived under the radar have registered to vote and be counted, it appears.
In any case, slightly more Democrats are registered to vote here than Republicans, a phenomenon unseen since World War II.
Right or left, though, a few thunder at the outrage of an opinion not their own. This is hard for me to understand. I prefer opposing views. Here’s a chance to better understand what forms a different outlook and what I might be missing in forming my own conclusions. Turns out there’s often plenty.
How reading what someone else thinks wounds you is beyond me. It’s not like you’ll be poisoned or tortured into agreement, after all. You don’t have to “win” discussions, decide to be insulted by someone who sees things differently, take anything personally. Even when meant personally, it’s not really. Something else is going on with people who roll that way. You know this, right?
I believe the very path to enlightenment runs through politics as well as faith, the two subjects we’re not supposed to discuss in polite company. Our ability to listen well, speak free of rancor, and extend generosity to fellow humans are all tested never so much as in our faith and our politics.
And if we pay attention, we can know exactly where we fall on this scale at any given time.
Oh, I know. This is campfire talk with maybe a snort too many of fine single malt.
From a media standpoint, the middle of the road, as the joke goes, comes with a white or yellow line. Straddle that and you’ll be run over from both directions.
There’s another joke, funny mainly because it’s true, if cynical: Readers don’t want an unbiased media. They want it biased their way.
I have a budding theory about this: Each news outlet is shaped by its audience.
Big city papers run more liberal because their readers run that way. National media pick their paths more ideologically. FOX goes one way, and CNN quite another. Broadcast networks suffer from being neither fish nor fowl, hanging on to an age when they were it and felt more responsibility to everyone, like the small-town papers tend to be today.
And on (and on) with every flavor of online news and mainly opinion media. It’s true that most get their news from us, the newspaper wretches. Then they slice and reshape it all into their own images. The connection to absolute truth varies greatly in partisan refractions. And you put your faith where you choose.
There’s CNN, which in “walk like a duck, sound like a duck” fashion sees itself as “normal,” but really views the world as a liberal confused by these faintly odious conservative creatures.
FOX resents CNN’s conceit and is eager to tweak those know-it-alls who look down at conservatives.
MSNBC suffers no illusions. They own liberal, believe they’re correct, and there’s no faintly about it.
National Public Radio earnestly tries to understand conservatives, but remains politely perplexed.
The New York Times and The Washington Post will listen to conservatives with an understanding that they’re a little dim and prone to being the crazy uncle.
The Wall Street Journal knows this is what those smarty pants elites think, but they’re just wrong and here’s why conservatism makes a lot more sense intellectually.
Radio talk show hosts are on one team or the other. As are the various blogs and websites proudly outside the “lamestream.”
And, lately, Eastern European teenagers and crafty American college kids have done pretty well making a buck off their fake news from fake sites. After all, the National Enquirer has made a killing off fake news for generations.
So why wouldn’t folks suspect the local paper has torn a page from all this?
Here lies our brave new world.
Don Rogers is publisher of The Union newspaper.