It’s interesting to watch how media report the same story. Same facts. Different conclusions and emphasis.
Disregard editorials and op-eds. They’re opinionated by definition. Only consider the news pages. Also disregard media that wear their bias on their sleeve (Fox on the right, CNN on the left).
Look at the grand dames of American journalism — the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Try as they might to stay above the partisan fray, bias sometimes creeps in.
At least in part, this reflects an increasing polarization of society — an attitude you must take sides and stand for something, or you stand for nothing.
Take coverage of the U.S. economic recovery. No question it’s been steady, if slow. But given the same numbers (GDP, jobless, consumer confidence), what’s reported can be very different in tone.
Recent composite samples:
Economic growth is up, but barely enough. (WSJ)
Economy continues steady expansion, slowly. (NYT)
The difference? Is the economy stumbling and in danger of slipping backward? Or is progress on a solid path that is likely to continue?
This isn’t splitting hairs. What people read or hear colors what they perceive. It determines how they define reality, what they hope to achieve, whether they believe their lives are getting better.
The more you control those perceptions, the more effectively you can manipulate. Politicians — and those with power and money — have realized this for ages. Demagogues and true-believers more so than most.
In a sad commentary on current politics, Tea Party groups in Tennessee published an open letter to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a conservative by almost anyone’s measure. The letter warned darkly that if Alexander ran for re-election, the Tea Party would do everything possible to defeat him because the nation “can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship.”
What are we left with? Even the leading journalistic institutions are being infected by partisanship. And the political gulf seems so wide and unbridgeable that the most likely result is more paralysis.
Frightening prospects. For the public. For those of us who do Crisis & Reputation Management.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Los Angeles-based public relations firm that specializes in high-stakes Crisis & Reputation Management. If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog Insights on High-Stakes PR. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.