Republican Twitter pundits are all aghast at WRAL owner Jim Goodmon’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech in Rocky Mount. Goodmon criticized Republicans for failing our schools, extreme gerrymandering, and leaving so many North Carolinians without medical coverage in the midst of a pandemic. They say Goodmon cost his media company its credibility. Cry me a river.
Those same people blasting Goodmon cheered the development of Fox News which was founded by a Republican political consultant with the goal of influencing viewers despite its misleading and Orwellian motto, “Fair and balanced news.” In fact, conservatives created an entire media eco-system in response to the traditional media because they didn’t like what they heard on the news. That eco-system produced a largely uninformed and easily manipulated public that gave us Donald Trump, believes the election was stolen despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and tolerates White nationalists but fears Black Lives Matter.
In today’s diverse and complex media world, Goodmon is CEO of a large company, not the editor of a newspaper. The news team at WRAL has been excellent, even if Republicans don’t like them. The reporters are journalists, not like the pundits or bloggers hired by conservative outlets. They try to uncover truth instead of prove a point of view. Republicans will dispute that notion, but that’s just because they are in charge. The role of the media in this country is to keep a check on those in power.
The matter really gets back to a point about conservatives, facts, and news. Since Watergate, Republicans have distrusted the media. They believe the Washington Post was out to get Nixon. They quickly began saying “All politicians do it,” fueling a cynicism about our politics that discouraged participation and excused bad behavior. Republicans have resisted accountability for decades and have used modern technology to demonize the journalists who make up traditional media, calling legacy news organizations the enemy of conservatives.
A few months ago, J.V. Last, a former columnist with the now-defunct conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, took on this same subject. As Last noted, “The conservative broadcast ecosystem — Fox, OAN, Newsmax, talk radio — is so untethered from reality that their legal departments occasionally force them to air libel-remedy hostage videos condemning their own ‘reporting.’ They air anti-vaccine nonsense and false-flag theories.”
Last notes that the mainstream media, of which WRAL is a part, sometimes gets things wrong, but they usually correct themselves. He writes, “The media is a vast space where actors and institutions are interconnected, but operate semi-independently, according to a variety of incentives. Sometimes independent actors make good-faith mistakes. Sometimes they make bad-faith mistakes. But in most cases — in nearly every case, actually — the marketplace of ideas eventually wins and the truth outs…By its diffuse nature, the media can’t be optimized. There will always be flaws and inefficiencies.”
The conservative eco-system has no such corrective because its goal is to persuade, not inform. Republicans attack the mainstream media because it so often gets facts right, not because they get them wrong. They aren’t looking to find the truth. They are pushing an agenda and the conservative outlets obediently fall in line.
For all the criticism of Goodmon, there’s a lack of historical perspective. Owners of news organizations have often had political preferences, even while their newsrooms searched for truth. Conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife owned the Pittsburg Tribune-Review while funding investigations into Bill Clinton’s personal life. The Los Angeles Times was owned by the conservative Chandler family who smeared progressive candidates and funded anti-union efforts.
It’s rich watching conservatives who have embraced propaganda criticize a man who openly admits his political biases. If Republican leaders spent as much time condemning the lies about voter fraud and a stolen presidential election as they did criticizing the so-called liberal media, they might have some credibility. But they haven’t and they’ve shown little tolerance for those who would prove them wrong.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Mills spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant. Republished from PoliticsNC.com.