A campaign urging viewers to boycott CNN demonstrates a frustrating truth those of us who work in the journalism field face every day.
If you ask most news viewers what they want from the news, most — regardless of political affiliation — would claim they want “fair and balanced” coverage. One news network, which is not known for being all that fair or balanced, depending on your political persuasion, even made that into a marketing campaign. But calls to boycott CNN earlier this month show that viewers don’t always want what they claim they do.
The calls for a proposed boycott of the network began after viewers feared a shift more toward the center. That shift, they argue, came at the expense of more left-leaning coverage, Newsweek reported.
The magazine ran a quote it attributed to Jon Cooper, a former finance chair for Barack Obama:
I decided to #BoycottCNNas soon as the network began its shift to the right. … It was a tough decision, since I’ve been a devout CNN viewer since I was in my 20s. If I wanted to watch right-wing propaganda, I’d watch Fox. So for now, it’s ONLY MSNBC for me.
I decided to run the quote for one very important reason: it perfectly encapsulates the maddening paradox those of us who work in TV have to deal with.
Look at the last sentence of that quote. He badmouths Fox News for being a source of “right-wing propaganda.” So, one must assume, he thinks propaganda is a bad thing.
But then he implies he’s perfectly happy with propaganda that points the other way. He’s been a devout CNN viewer. Why? What’s so great about CNN? More importantly, what’s the problem? From his own words, he implies the introduction of right-wing propaganda is what’s driving him away.
He doesn’t say that MSNBC, which he now plans to watch exclusively, apparently, is centrist. I don’t know anyone who I’ve ever heard call MSNBC “centrist.”
But if you’re watching MSNBC because you feel it leans left, you’re part of the problem. You’re part of the same problem if you’re watching Fox News because you think it leans right.
Becoming ‘centrist’ shouldn’t prompt a boycott.
If a news network has a reputation for leaning either way begins an apparent shift toward the middle, that’s not something to complain about. That’s something news consumers should celebrate. Of course, news consumers have to want what they claim they always want: coverage that gives both sides of the story, not just one.
You can’t give both sides if you’re reporting from either one perspective or the other.
Look, I get it: Many of us want to hear opinions that match our points of view.
But if we are capable of thinking for ourselves, we shouldn’t be afraid of hearing opinions that disagree with our own. One of the nice things about blogging is that you can work in other opinions. You can debate them. You can even discuss why you agree or disagree. Your readers can then weigh in.
I’ve always considered myself politically centrist. There are certain issues on which I lean more to the right. There are others on which I lean to the left.
Too many people in this country treat politics like a football game. They want their team to wipe out the other side.
For the past several election cycles, when the ever-increasing number of initial candidates first file, I immediately look for two things: I look for the candidate who I think has the most common sense, who’d be most likely to work “across the aisle,” seeking compromises to get things done. Then I look for the candidate who has the slimmest chance of even making it to the primaries.
They’re almost always the same person. Every time.
Boycott a news network because you feel they don’t give both sides.
Don’t boycott a news network because they’re trying to work in opposing views when you simultaneously claim you want “fair and balanced” coverage.
You can’t take both points of view at the same time.