Earlier this week, I posted a story about Glenn Beck taking his media company the Blaze in a new direction, with the news-gathering arm focusing less on opinion journalism and more on the facts. Glenn’s rationale is that while there is a glut of programming and websites dedicated to offering up conservative opinion and analysis, it’s becoming damn near impossible for audiences to find a source of straight-up news. Ditto the liberal end of the spectrum, which faces an even greater problem in that most of what the mainstream outlets offer up as news is really just left-wing agitprop dressed up as objective reporting. Just as Roger Ailes, when he started Fox News, said that he wanted his programming to target an underserved niche–i.e., half the country–the Blaze will aim for people who are tired of the usual cast of characters who bark talking points at one another night after night on the cable news shows.
Make no mistake, this will be a Herculean task. Audiences may not like the dog food they’ve been served since the cable news model became dominant, but they’ve been conditioned to accept it–and cutting through the cognitive dissonance bubbles in which people have been living is going to be tough. I think it’ll be a lot like deprogramming members of a cult: there will be a lot of resistance, but if just a few people can be convinced to leave, they’ll spread the word to others. Get enough people on board, and pretty soon the chain reaction will become self-sustaining.
But how can the Blaze do that? The key, I believe, is fairness. Right now, the network’s brand is as a conservative news outlet. Changing that will be the hardest part, and will require ideological balance at the top–and a ruthless dedication to objectivity in reporting.
For years, I’ve postulated that the only way the mainstream media could solve their bias problems would be to install managing editors from both ends of the political spectrum. Right now, the biggest issue with outfits like CNN and MSNBC is that the people who decide on content live in the same leftist bubble as the reporters who work under them. Accordingly, they make the same assumptions and have the same prejudices. A good example is the way the MSM covers an issue like gun control. Reporters routinely make rookie mistakes such as confusing the difference between a semi-automatic weapon and a fully automatic weapon, which completely undermines the entire story. That’s because most of these reporters have never even met someone who owns a gun, much less fired one themselves. If there had been an editor around who actually understood the issue from a conservative or libertarian perspective, those kind of mistakes would be less frequent.
From the perspective of the Blaze, this means employing editors who understand issues from a more liberal viewpoint. This doesn’t mean running “liberal stories” to balance out “conservative stories”–rather, this would entail running all news stories past both editors to ensure that all facets are covered, including ones that might have been overlooked because a reporter’s own political leanings. That is, after all, the job of a good editor.
Moreover, having people in charge who run the ideological gamut provides insurance against groupthink. They will question all assumptions, and make reporters back up their stories with solid facts. They will kill stories that are simply “too good to check” because they confirm an institutional bias, before fake news can trash the network’s reputation. And they will make sure that all stories of importance get covered, regardless of whom they make look good or look bad.
In short, they’ll provide what the MSM won’t: real news, and a reputation for providing it.
That’s something worth building.