Friday, July 12, 2024
Friday, July 12, 2024

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HomeBreakingHow the Media Bend Into Pretzels to Avoid Reporting Conservative News Scoops

How the Media Bend Into Pretzels to Avoid Reporting Conservative News Scoops

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This same trend is playing out in the media’s failure to aggressively cover Joe Biden’s cognitive challenges.

When I first started writing for Wisconsin Right Now four years ago, I found myself completely baffled by the media’s news judgment.

I’ve been an award-winning journalist for more than 25 years, 10 of them spent at the state’s largest newspaper. I’ve won so many journalism awards I lost count. My point in raising that is to underscore: I know when something’s a story. But now – things that I knew were stories suddenly weren’t.

For example, there’s no question that it should have been a huge story that a state Supreme Court candidate was accused of serious allegations from her past (and I’m sure it would have been if they were raised against conservative Dan Kelly). It should have been a huge story that the state was systemically failing to notify victims’ family members of the paroles of brutal killers and rapists, a requirement of the law, and that the victims were really upset about it.

It should have been a big story that the mother of the child victim of one of the most notorious killers in Wisconsin history – the Halloween killer Gerald Turner no less, the state’s top bogeyman – felt ignored by the state AG. It should have been a big story that the AG’s office so bungled the response to an audit of crime victims’ services that they got Wisconsin labeled a “high risk” state for important grants that help domestic violence and sexual assault victims. And so on.

Parole transparency act balsewicz john tate
Some of the victims of brutal killers released (in the case of johanna’s killer, it was rescinded)

Yet, instead of covering these stories as the outrages they were, the media either 1) ignored them or 2) downplayed them or 3) tried desperately to poke holes in them. The only times they seemed to aggressively cover the stories we broke were when they weren’t good for a Republican (GOP candidate Ryan Owens’ missing podcasts comes to mind. He stepped down.)

When they did cover these stories, the media did so through the narrative of: conservatives claim X, Y, and Z, and here’s how the process actually works. For example, instead of covering the paroles of brutal killers and rapists or the lack of victim notification as an outrage or serious concern warranting scrutiny, the media ran umpteen borefest stories that outlined “how the parole process really works,” effectively distancing Democrat Gov. Tony Evers from his own (2X) appointee and DOC (which is involved in victim notifications). He proved in the end that he CAN do something about paroles when he used his bully pulpit to get his 2X appointee to step down as Parole Commission chairman.

The one exception to this trend was our expose that Evers was writing taxpayer-funded emails in the name of deceased baseball legend Warren Spahn. That one, they blew up. However, they dropped it pretty quickly even though his office has still refused to produce a single email. And they failed to cover the fact that Spahn’s granddaughter wasn’t too happy about it and wanted an apology. Seemed like a story to me.

Yet they’re breathlessly concerned with every utterance that comes out of the mouths of Republicans Ron Johnson or Derrick Van Orden, it seems. And they were ALL OVER conservative Supreme Court candidate Jennifer Dorow’s kid. Or at least Dan Bice was.

I was reminded of this trend when I learned that the Associated Press had submitted an open records request to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections for… their communications with Wisconsin Right Now about parole! If only they had shown so much interest in victims’ concerns. Nope. So weird. We won gold Milwaukee Press Club awards for the parole stories, and they spurred a change in state law that even Evers ended up signing. But the AP was interested in… WRN.

Media biden

I was also reminded of this trend due to the media’s systemic failure to aggressively cover President Joe Biden’s obvious cognitive challenges before now.

Here’s how it connects.

When stories are broken by conservative or just non-liberal media, the media tend to go into overdrive and either ignore or downplay the stories or spin them as “Republicans claim” or “GOP misinformation.”

What they’re missing is that these news sites are proliferating and growing in popularity because of the MSM’s failure to aggressively cover Democrats or issues that don’t favor them. We started Wisconsin Right Now, for example, to cover the stories the media ignore or twist and to do so with traditional journalistic techniques of source verification, open records requests and the like. There’s a thirst for what we do; we have had more than 20 million reads of our stories since 2020.

We couldn’t stand the way in which the media were sanitizing protest movements and villainizing police, for example. Probably Daily Wire, Breitbart, National Review, Newsmax, and the Washington Times have a bunch of similar tales. If the media would just do their jobs in the first place! Half the country or so thinks they’re biased, but the media won’t admit there’s a problem.

CNN outed this reality, when it reported, “Biden’s mental fitness could have been better covered leading up to the debate, some White House reporters acknowledge.”

It’s not that the media didn’t cover Biden’s age or cognitive issues. They just didn’t cover it with the intensity or tenor that they are now – and therein lies the tale. They did not cover it like a scandal or pressing concern or legitimate question. They covered it like a Republican talking point vs. White House denial.

They’re doing the same thing with the unprecedented fact a Democrat prosecutor criminally charged the presumptive Republican nominee in the middle of an election. It’s being normalized by the media; just another court story…

On Biden’s age question, the gig should have been up in February at the latest when a special prosecutor said he wasn’t criminally charging Biden in part because he was a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” I mean, what? And then the AG wouldn’t give up the tape of Biden’s interview to Congress.

Now the media are in overdrive because they’ve been exposed. Biden agreed to a debate, and we all got to see the president speak firsthand for two hours. And it was terrifying because he’s got the nuclear codes. Yet even now they’re covering the Biden age story through the frame of – “OMG he might not be able to beat Trump” – not, “OMG he’s supposed to be running the country RIGHT NOW.”

One of the reasons White House correspondents gave CNN for the lack of better coverage? “Biden’s age was also a right-wing talking point for years, something the White House was quick to point out to reporters, which may have inadvertently turned off any serious investigation.”

I think the bias often comes through in what gets ignored or emphasized. Sometimes it’s subjective; a reporter might have more interest in inmates’ rights than injustices toward cops, for example. An editor chafes at running a story on protesters’ serious criminal records. Reporters bluntly state that Trump’s comments are “false” without saying Democrats’ are. They affix the “conservative” adjective on news sites but don’t attach the “liberal” adjective on slanted sites like the Wisconsin Examiner or Up North News.

A journalist goes after some politicians harder than others. Exposing conservatives’ supposed “misinformation” gets young journalists jobs and accolades, even when their own reporting is filled with flaws.

It’s social control in the newsroom. Not all journalists are liberal. I’ve lost count how many former journalists have told me they love WRN! But in the newsroom, the culture can function as such. Go read Tom Cotton’s shocking expose about The New York Times to see what I mean.

Shockingly, CNN also got people to admit that they went soft on Biden because of pushback from Democrats: “Several White House reporters told CNN that the coverage of Biden’s age and his mental stamina should have pushed harder. They cited several difficulties in doing so before the debate – from the obvious political motivations of sources who either want to protect Biden’s image or project a certain image, to the blowback from pursuing such reports, especially from the White House and Democrats.”

Look, I think this derives from the fact that the media don’t regard themselves as liberal. They think they’re the “objective” ones (even George Stephanopoulos, who used to be Democrat Bill Clinton’s mouthpiece, and Jake Tapper, whose disgust for Trump seems well-known). They see conservative or non MSM news outlets as inherently biased because they think they somehow are not (even when they credibly document and transparently source the facts, like we do, including through open records requests.)

They don’t want to be scooped by them. They don’t want to follow them. But by refusing to recognize a story for a story, they are proving the bias they reject. Meanwhile, the media regurgitate stories from sites like “Wisconsin Watch” all over the state.

I challenge the media – at least the Wisconsin media – to knock this off.

If a story is newsworthy, please report it. 

Don’t go into overdrive trying to discredit it. Don’t censor it. Don’t frame it as “conservatives allege.”

Just report it.

You lose credibility every time you don’t. And we gain audience.

Jessica McBridehttps://www.wisconsinrightnow.com
Jessica's opinions on this website and all WRN and personal social media pages, including Facebook and X, represent her own opinions and not those of the institution where she works. Jessica McBride, a Wisconsin Right Now contributor, is a national award-winning journalist and journalism educator with more than 25 years in journalism. Jessica McBride’s journalism career started at the Waukesha Freeman newspaper in 1993, covering City Hall. She was an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a decade. Since 2004, she has taught journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her work has appeared in many news outlets, including Heavy.com (where she is a contributor reaching millions of readers per month), Patch.com, WTMJ, WISN, WUWM, Wispolitics.com, OnMilwaukee.com, Milwaukee Magazine, Nightline, El Conquistador Latino Newspaper, Japanese and German television, Channel 58, Reader’s Digest, Twist (magazine), Wisconsin Public Radio, BBC, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, and others. 

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