I have often quoted Peggy Noonan’s observation in her book Patriotic Grace of the great media shift. In the days before cable and internet we had fewer sources, but we all read the same news, heard the same stories and generally with the same frequency; a story did not get three times the coverage on one network than another. Editorialists may have offered different perspectives and opinions, even different ideologies, but it was not based on different facts and information.
With the proliferation of offerings from cable, internet and social media this has changed. We consume news for confirmation, not information. When we only had a few news offerings we did not rely on third party fact checkers. Journalistic standards were assumed, and civility was expected. With the new media markets partisanship has hardened and the media became far less trusted, long before the ‘fake news’ trope.
In the internet ecosystem of instant feedback, the clicks and shares have replaced reasoned criticism and provides the currency value for the media that circulation used to provide in the printed media. Reasoned and balanced commentary is boring. Outrage is the product and the market is unlimited. Objectivity, civility, and professional standards have become liabilities and sacrificed to the more lucrative marketing of outrage.
Bias is as much a product of what is covered as what is not, as much a product of the frequency of a story as the content, and as much a product of the context as the facts.
Fox News may have been a reaction to the developing media market, but it is now a part of it. If your news diet is filled with only Fox News and hard right bloggers you are not getting the whole picture, and often not an accurate one. But if you only listen to MSNBC, CNN and read the editorials in the New York Times you are getting just another distorted and often equally inaccurate picture.
Personally, I find good columnists will provide valuable context to the stories, even if their narrative may be biased. It has taken some time for columnists to build reputations that merit consideration.
If your first reaction to an article is rage, you are likely being played. If your reactive response is that the other side is stupid or evil, you are likely the narrow minded one. Intolerance for dissent is a sign of a weak argument. It is much easier to discount a difference as racist, bigoted, communist, socialist, anti-science or whatever your preferred pejorative than to address ideological differences; it becomes just intellectually lazy.
Most news is not worth the time. Instead of parsing every comment from every broadcast we would be better served to wait a week to get the whole story. In most cases it will no longer be relevant.