WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

De-escalate the war on media

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Many of us remember North Carolina U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms’ war against CBS news, complaining the “liberal press” consisted of “men and women who, if they do not hate American virtues…certainly have a smug contempt for American ideals and principles.”

The war has only escalated and the media is in the crosshairs. Maine Gov. Paul LePage recently said, “The sooner the print press goes away, the better society will be.”

Really?

Count me among those with a healthy skepticism for the current state of the media. Too frequently, media outlets have strayed from straight reporting and appear to be taking sides in the partisan debate, especially on cable channels that often disguise “breaking news” with opinions. Many polls reflect media distrust and dissatisfaction, leading us to question how we got to this place.

How can a sitting president proclaim the media is the “enemy” of the people? Is “fake” or biased news reporting so much worse than in times past? Are these attacks intended to intimidate and silence the media, or could they be diversionary tactics to create distractions from real issues?

Further, is it permissible for some outlets, like Fox News, to be so obviously biased, but unacceptable for others?

What is the end-game strategy of media bashers? What outcomes do they hope for? Are they expecting a sudden revelation and abrupt change in direction from voices they criticize?

Would they prefer a totalitarian media voice, like “Big Brother,” or be willing to give someone the prerogative to eliminate certain voices? Who might that someone be?

I’ve been on the receiving end of media bias, as well as attempts to silence my voice. It isn’t pretty and is neither right nor correct. People feel at liberty to express any hateful, hurtful, even untruthful thing they feel like saying and the bullying, threatening and violence against my brethren in the media has increased exponentially in recent years.

Is that really acceptable?

In far too many instances, media “stalkers” only call more attention to those they dislike and strengthen their resolve to continue. The best way to silence or muffle media voices with whom you don’t agree is to ignore them.

Stop watching and stop reading their work. When enough stop paying attention, those in the media world will either be forced to change or go away.

We would also say that media responses to those who criticize them are counterproductive, especially when they give too much airtime to the criticisms. The proper response should be to listen, examine whether the criticism is legitimate and redouble their efforts to ensure reporting is accurate, fair and balanced.

When they err, as they most certainly will, they have a responsibility to acknowledge mistakes publicly and take necessary corrective actions.

Media bias and partisanship have always been present, going back to colonial times and the first printed broadsides. There has always been accompanying criticism, but no purpose is served in the current climate.

Our nation has constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech and any attempts to stamp out or silence media voices is unworthy of those who fought to ensure them. We caution our “N.C. Spin” television viewers each week to stay informed and watch out for the spin, but would add that it is time to de-escalate the war on the media.

Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina state treasurer and is creator/host of “N.C. Spin,” a weekly statewide television discussion of North Carolina issues airing Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on WRAL-TV and at 8:30 a.m. on WRAZ-TV Fox 50.  Contact him at www.ncspin.com.

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