As a PR consultant, I often get asked about my position on the age-old issue of whether or not the news media is partisan to the left side of the political spectrum.
I my experience, I find the political leaning towards the left to be real1.
Unlike many of my peers, however, I actually don’t mind this general leaning to the left. And I say this as someone who is leaning towards the right personally2.
While I wouldn’t credit the left with being better storytellers per se, they do have better stories to tell. Also, I find it reassuring to know that journalists are relentlessly working to expose any wrongdoings amongst those that have worked the system considerably better than the most of us. Now, power and influence doesn’t make anyone evil by default, but strength amplifies the negative effects of harmful behaviour. With limited resources, it makes sense to prioritise accordingly.
So, I have no problem with this classical leaning to the left. I believe that capitalism does better long-term when balanced socially, even.
But there are, of course, different varieties of left-leaning political agendas. From a news media perspective, one particularly hazardous variety is where journalism abandon stories about individuals on behalf of sweeping generalisations based on demographic affinity. When news stories are filtered through ethnicity, group beliefs, sexual orientation, or historical dynamics, we’re left with a journalism where it’s not only acceptable, but often mandatory, to selectively disregard objectivity on behalf of social justice.
Imagine being a medic arriving at a scene of a massive accident with lots of wounded people all around you. Triage, the practice of medical priority, means that you won’t tend to those who are screaming the loudest first; they have enough energy and life spark to shout and make noise. If saving lives is your priority, you should be tending to those who can’t even make noise to save themselves.
If the medic, however well-intentioned or righteous, takes it upon him- or herself to save people based on group identity, the whole medical system will quickly start to break down from within.
If we allow the news media to become platform amplifiers instead of platform providers, we simultaneously pave the way for censorship, cancel culture, propaganda, and damaging identity politics on both the far left and the far right of the spectrum.
It’s my firm belief that we need a journalism of the classical left where the individual without a voice is given the opportunity to speak truth to power. We need objective and brave reporting of uncomfortable realities in the face of severe repercussions from organised and institutionalised agendas — no matter if they stem from commercial propaganda or moral gospel.
A journalist’s job is to convey the truth and to provoke those who already have a voice and a platform. It’s not a journalist’s job to protect and promote those who already have a voice and a platform.
In short: It makes sense for journalism to be leaning towards the left. We just need that left to be better at being themselves.
- However, this only seems to be true when you regard the news media as a macro phenomenon; as soon as you move in a little closer, there’s no telling what you might find. In my experience, news coverage is not only skewed by ideology, but also by culture, formats, and profit demands. As with so many other media and communications phenomenons, any given story is mostly situational.
- I’d say that I belong to a more classical moderate and free-market type right; not the moral conservative Christian type found in many Western democracies today.