Affirmation and assertion journalism models create problems with the public. It’s that simple. Catering to a set of beliefs, or rushing out with a story without checking the validity can be dangerous. While assertion journalism has arisen out of our immediate need for information, I think affirmation has grown out of mental laziness.
Be it a conservative-leaning program….
or liberal one….
an ignorant public doesn’t do anyone any good.
A classic example of the political agenda behind media industries can be viewed in this video from the Republican Governors Association:
Did you notice how the overwhelming majority of the clips were from MSNBC programs? Only two clips were taken from non-MSNBC shows, and FOX News was missing from the video altogether. The reason? During this time when people, who turn to these shows for their news, were under the impression Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was all but recalled, Fox news was showing that Walker was a trend-setter and doing just fine combating the vocal minority. Can both be true? Obviously not… and yet both were stated for days and then weeks. The media was happier to push a political narrative then the truth. In the end Scott Walker did do major damage to the unions by stripping their ability to negotiate AND he was not recalled. In fact, he’s running for President as I type this blog.
People need to have their views and beliefs challenged when they don’t fit the news narrative, instead of bending the stories to fit a public misconception. The media’s bias is such a hot topic it has its own hashtag on twitter.
Also, media outlets need to slow down, put their focus on accuracy over speed. As a former journalist I take personal offense when media outlets print information without checking the validity. This makes our entire industry look bad. Also, I feel that many of the pundits shows are posing as legitimate news and this is untruthful to the public that watch or read their coverage. This is a real problem since O’Reilly’s ratings are on the rise, (de Moraes, 2015). In March, O’Reilly pulled 3.3 million viewers. He also averaged 590,000 viewers in the news demographic, a 166 percent increase than the crowd he clocked the same time last year, and 100 percent better in the demo viewers, (de Moraes, 2015). Meanwhile, Chris Hayes’ MSNBC crowd for the same week was – 767,000 viewers, a difference of about 2.5 million viewers (de Moraes, 2015).
Mistakes of assertion journalism is equally troubling. In an article from Rosenstiel and Kovach, (1999) the pair discuss how the media handled “Jane Doe No. 5” – Ms. Broaddrick, who alleged former President Bill Clinton forced her to have sex with him in 1978. The article focuses on the tough decisions news managers had to make during/following Clinton’s impeachment hearing. “The pressure of the new journalism of assertion is to go with stories before they have gone through the discipline of reporting – and that is what reporting is, a discipline. The foundation of journalism’s role in society is its “ruthless respect for the fact,” as Columbia Journalism School Professor Jim Carey has said,” (Rosenstiel & Kovach, 1999).
Marsh comments, in his 2005 article, that the traditional model of journalism has been replaced by a model of assertion, wherein information is offered with little time and little attempt to independently verify its claims. The proliferation of blogs expands the volume of assertions and carries a philosophy of “publish anything, especially points of view, and the reporting and verification will occur afterward in the response of fellow bloggers.” This news climate makes it easier for those who want to manipulate public opinion.
And harder for us who with to simply turn on the television and trust the reporter is doing their due diligence to tell an accurate story.
Also, it would really help the public if “legitimate” news reporters would stop making a point to insert themselves into the news. Especially when it turns out they’ve incorrectly characterized their role in specific situations. Yes, I’m looking at you Brian Williams…
Becoming part of the news is different from reporting it. While our desire to make news people celebrities, perhaps we should embrace a lack of personality and desire to tell the report the news without bias or concern for their personal standing.
Assertion and affirmation journalism may be interesting, but they’re not enlightening our society. As someone who studied journalism I was told repeatedly that my first responsibility was to report the story, and to do so accurately. Every human has bias, we cannot ignore that fact, but catering to audiences because of theirs is a shameful act. It doesn’t help people better themselves and it certainly doesn’t lead to a better country. This change has to be created by the viewers though. Instead of continuing to tune into these shows, we must redirect our attention to those who truly make an effort to report the facts, even when they challenge our beliefs.
Finally, there are other issues out there I haven’t touched on, I think this video will leave you with some other things to think about.
de Moraes, L. (2015, March 4). Bill O’Reilly Scores His Best Ratings of 2015. Deadline|Hollywood Retrieved from http://deadline.com/2015/03/bill-oreilly-ratings-2015-controversy-1201386281/
Marsh, M. (2005, 06). The death of fact-checking. Sojourners Magazine, 34, 8. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/212839383?accountid=3783
Marriott, S. (2007). American election night and the journalism of assertion. Journalism, 8(6), 698-717. doi:10.1177/1464884907083119
Republican Governors Association. (2012, June 6). Great Moments in Liberal Punditry. Video File. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzVPeO4lmn0
Rosenstiel, T., & Kovach, B. (1999, Mar 07). JOURNALISM BY ASSERTION A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT. Palm Beach Post Retrieved from
The School of Life. (2015, March 16). What’s wrong with the media. Video File. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwPdAZPnk7k