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Three True Stories that Prove the Media has Never Been Objective Or, Facebook Edits Your News…Get Over It

Posted by on June 7th, 2016

There is a truth about the media that PR people have always known, and the public is quickly coming around to realizing, as well. The media is not objective. It never has been, and it never will be.

 

Most importantly, the definition of what the “media” is has changed so dramatically over the past decade that few truly understand what constitutes media anymore.

 

Take, for example, the kerfuffle over Facebook and the gnashing of teeth by some over the perceived slights in terms of what gets into the “trending” news column.

 

For the past few weeks Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) was at the center of a media storm over its use of humans who work in concert with algorithms to determine what news is displayed into someone’s newsfeed or which trending topics appear. The right wing was in a tizzy over the idea that Facebook was skewing the American consumers’ / voters’ perception of what was taking place around the world.

 

Facebook was accused of keeping “conservative” news off of the trending news items and pushing “liberal” stories. To get to the net-net of my thoughts, WHO CARES – and, more importantly, who is surprised?

 

Facebook picks my stories? So does The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The hullaballoo is not only a non-issue, but it’s also actually funny, as it shows either a lack of understanding of the history of media or a feckless attempt to attack the media to sway public opinion.

 

Let’s take a quick walk down memory lane to refresh your memory about the history of American media.

 

  • The history of journalism, media sources and media companies in the United States is based on bias. My favorite story about media bias is the history of the New York Post – the longest continually published newspaper in the United States. The Post was founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801 to serve as a vehicle to attack President Thomas Jefferson (clearly not an unbiased news source).

 

  • American media has always taken an active role in shaping public opinion. Just look at the Spanish-American war in the late 1800s.

 

“The Spanish-American War is often referred to as the first ‘media war.’ During the 1890s, journalism that sensationalized—and sometimes even manufactured—dramatic events was a powerful force that helped propel the United States into war with Spain. Led by newspaper owners William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, journalism of the 1890s used melodrama, romance, and hyperbole to sell millions of newspapers—a style that became known as yellow journalism.” – PBS

 

  • More recently, the mainstream and niche media were not only complicit but also active in the promotion of the second Iraq War. To this day, the media is still stung by its role in shaping public opinion around that war.

 

While Facebook is now the largest global media company in the world, it has no more a responsibility to be “objective” than The New York Times, Daily Caller or Talking Points Memo do.