With C-SPAN suspension, yellow journalism has come full circle

Yellow Journalism cartoon from Puck late 1800s

Yellow journalism is not new in US media. It is actually part of the American reporting culture. Once perceived as a negative moment in US history, with C-SPAN’s suspension of an influential political editor, yellow journalism has come full circle. It’s been here for quite some time, but the suspension described as lasting “indefinitely” by the network is a strong indication politics and news media have become hands on actors, not just messengers, in our country’s political campaigns and elections.

I personally have had many discussions about media influence on our affairs, with an emphasis on the divisiveness so many so-called reporters claim to decry. I’ve worked in media all my life. I have been accepted into two of the most distinguished organizations a writer can apply to. I can say with no doubt whatsoever that for years, the outlets described as “legacy” or “mainstream” media favor leftist policies and politicians across the board.

I say that without rancor. The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the government cannot interfere with the press in our country. That is a vital and necessary limitation on the sprawling government and bureaucracy both major political parties have created.

My complaints here do not apply to publishers who openly declare their biases, or to pundits. We expect partisanship from these entities.

Every day on social media I see statements that are not true. Sometimes, if it shows up on my page, I offer a correction. Even when I point out that a particular story is completely untrue, and even if I back up my statement with a link to a left of center fact check, the individuals who post such memes and propaganda cannot bring themselves to acknowledge they are not correct.

For a long time I believed C-SPAN lived up to its promise of neutrality. No more. Are we to assume this is the first manifestation of the suspended reporter Steve Scully’s longtime service to C-SPAN? He’d worked there since 1990. He’s worked in media and also education for all his adult life.

His politics are his business. His actions ahead of what would have been the second presidential “debate” indicate he directly injected his personal politics into his work and worse, his decisions on how to cover politics. Just as certain reporters at other networks have done, Scully injected himself into the political coverage. That is not acceptable regardless of ideology.

I wouldn’t have watched the debate anyway. I tried to watch part of the first debate and when I realized no one would ever ask the Democrat candidate why he led efforts to levy a tax on a tax, taxing social security again. Consider the fact check from leftist website Snopes—the checker admits the claim is true and then tries to set the story up to provide cover to Joe Biden. If you read the fact check, you will see how government policy controls and depresses income for seniors who tried hard to provide for themselves in their old age.

I knew any debate would be skewed just as it was for most debates in my lifetime.

Yellow journalism has returned with a vengeance. It’s time we admit it to ourselves and acknowledge that most legacy outlets are spinning news and have been spinning news to benefit one side of the aisle and in the case of “reporters” to benefit their own careers. Clickbait is the standard. Truth is irrelevant. Context is irrelevant.

That Scully was poised to serve as moderator when one candidate helped give Scully his start in politics—this indicated his selection was a terrible choice to begin with.

Has yellow journalism come full circle? It has. Now the better term for “legacy” or “mainstream” media would be blue journalism.

Featured Photo: “Print shows General William R. Shafter holding up a diminutive newspaper reporter labeled ‘Yellow Journalism’ and appears ready to drop him in the ocean.” [Udo J. Keppler, artist; Puck Magazine; NY: Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1898 August 17. Caption and cartoon from US Library of Congress archives]

(Kay B. Day/Oct. 16, 2020)


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