pub notes

Last week’s article in Up & Coming Weekly penned by contributing writer and Fayetteville resident, Karl Merritt, “Diminishing Effectiveness of the Race Card,” lit up social media like the Las Vegas strip. The topic of race took on a life of its own as dozens of misdirected posts debated the validity, or lack of, the use of race when it comes to the influencing decisions being made in our community. I’m not going to debate Merritt’s subject matter or the content of his article. Those who are interested can click on the link above to read it for themselves and draw their own conclusions. However, what I do find extremely interesting is that Merritt, who is an African American, made an intelligent observation based on facts and reason. He then articulated this information in a clear, intellectual, logical format for which he took full responsibility. Yet, Merritt’s name was never mentioned or referenced in any of the fiery and critical social media posts that appeared online. Why? Maybe, just maybe, it’s because criticizing someone else’s position when that position is supported by intellect, facts and logic would be akin to someone showing up at a gunfight with a butter knife. It has become the norm to blame race bias for any unfavorable experience or outcome rather than take responsibility for the outcome itself.

In the case of Merritt and his article, the distractors knew it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find fault with the truth of his content. Unfortunately, what played out on social media only confirmed Merritt’s position that the biggest obstacle to finding meaningful solutions when addressing problems of race bias is through open and honest communication. The inflamed responses to his article only reinforced the position that all too often, people tend to speak in vague generalities while stating innuendo as truth and drawing conclusions based on predetermined and subjective opinions rather than truth and fact. Unfortunately, this is becoming a common mainstream media practice at all levels. Traditionally, mainstream media, especially newspapers, were referred to as the Fourth Estate of the U.S. government. Journalistic integrity, truth and honesty of all media kept the other three branches of government in check. The mainstream media acted as the watchdog for all Americans who searched out the truth. Unfortunately, over the last decade, the media has morphed into a partisan political strategy, depriving the general public of their right to know the truth while pushing non-transparent hidden agendas. There is no better example of this kind of mainstream media bias than in the memo that was sent out recently to all N.C. media outlets by Daniel Keylin, communications director for North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis. With his permission, I have reprinted this memo below as an example of how the media is compromising journalistic ethics for the purposes of political gain and depriving taxpayers of the details of the real issues. Read the following and know that Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley are probably turning in their graves.

TO: North Carolina Media
FROM: Daniel Keylin, Communications Director,
Senator Thom Tillis
RE: Coverage Bias In North Carolina Media
The media has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism lately, particularly for chasing shiny objects designed to attract viewers and page clicks, rather than focusing on the important policies that actually have a meaningful impact on the lives of the American people. Reflecting this, a recent Gallup poll found that the nation’s trust in the mass media is at an all-time low. I know many good journalists who are incredibly frustrated by this development, and this memo is not meant to be an attack on North Carolina’s media outlets or reporters. It’s simply a presentation of enlightening data points that I hope all reporters and editors in North Carolina will take to heart when they consider what to cover and how they cover it.

Yesterday, many television stations in North Carolina provided air time to Rev. William Barber for a protest he held at Senator Tillis’ constituent services office in Raleigh. Barber was protesting the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, demanding that Tillis oppose his confirmation. In total, 14 television stations covering North Carolina devoted air time yesterday to Rev. Barber’s protest at Senator Tillis’ office regarding Senator Sessions. And of those 14 television stations, only 1 reached out to Senator Tillis’ office to give the Senator an opportunity to share his thoughts. 

Consider what this television coverage was about: a partisan political activist opining on what a duly-elected statewide official’s position should be. Then consider how few media outlets in North Carolina actually covered Senator Tillis when he publicly declared his position on Jeff Sessions’ nomination back in November, through a press release that was sent to the news desk of every single television station in North Carolina. In total, only 4 television stations devoted air time to Senator Tillis’ statement on Jeff Sessions’ nomination during the November 18, 2016, news cycle. None of the 14 stations covering Rev. Barber’s protest yesterday included Tillis’ original statement in their story.

This poses an important question: why did media outlets believe it was newsworthy to cover a partisan political activist’s opinion on what Senator Tillis’ position should be, even though they previously made the decision not to run a story when Senator Tillis publicly expressed his position months earlier? Or, more simply put: why are views of a partisan political activist deemed newsworthy, but the views of a statewide elected official are not, even though they are in a direct position to influence the subject matter? Whether this type of coverage bias is intentional or not, it’s bias nonetheless, and it’s a disservice to North Carolinians. [end]

Whether you agree or not, this makes a grand argument for “fake news.” I’ll conclude with this: We have come to a point in our nation where every issue and every situation we deal with has become politicized. It is frustrating and heartbreaking. Last week, I penned an article about how the amount of litter on our streets is trashing our community’s image. I advocated for the city and county to initiate a countywide beautification campaign that would involve education, awareness and enforcement of littering ordinances. Believe it or not, some of my good friends and loyal readers pushed back and were upset with me. They objected to my bringing up the subject of litter. They became defensive, saying that I didn’t appreciate what the city and county were doing in regards to controlling the litter. Not true.

Here, they took a simple observation and recommendation and applied a political value to it that the city and county elected officials were not doing their jobs. Crazy! I, along with everyone else, just want a cleaner community. Nonetheless, this misdirection will serve to do nothing to move the community forward. Only progressive action can do that.

In closing, I say we need many more people like Karl Merritt and Daniel Keylin. Fayetteville, the state of North Carolina and America all need journalists and media outlets who are honest and not afraid to speak out for truth. And, they must be willing to report the facts without a personal agenda or political bias. We gain nothing from ignoring the facts and even less if we don’t speak truth to power. Make no mistake about it, without the Fourth Estate, it’s all fake news! Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
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