On Tuesday night, NBC News anchor Lester Holt received the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award from Washington State University. He used the opportunity to proclaim that journalists no longer need to be fair in their coverage of the issues.
Referring to what he called the establishment media’s “toxic relationship” with former President Donald Trump, who frequently criticized biased reporting of his administration, Holt said, “The media’s reliance on truth and facts was turned upside-down and weaponized as evidence of lies. The more we tried to separate fact from fiction, the easier it became to label us as partisan tools.”
He went on to list his observations about what we’ve learned from “the unprecedented attacks on the press in this period.”
“No. 1 is I think it’s become clear that fairness is overrated,” Holt said.
“The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in,” he said.
“That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention.”
The idea that journalists should be presenting the truth above all is obvious. However, Holt’s next sentence revealed the real motivation for this view.
“I know recent events assure that you won’t have to look far to find more current and relevant examples,” he said. “I think you get my point.”
Therein lies the problem.
While truth is of the utmost importance, many Americans do not trust the media to decide what is and is not “true,” and for good reason.
For many liberal media members, “true” seems to be synonymous with “fits a particular narrative.”
Take, for example, coverage of the voting laws recently passed by the state of Georgia.
If you listened to any establishment media outlet, you would think that Georgia is engaged in some sort of massive voter suppression effort.
On March 25, The New York Times published an article headlined “Georgia G.O.P. Passes Major Law to Limit Voting Amid Nationwide Push.”
Other liberal outlets followed suit. Jemele Hill of The Atlantic argued that major sports should boycott the state to protest the law.
“The Georgia law also is an obvious attempt to intimidate and discourage voters of color, who helped clinch Biden’s narrow victory in November, elected two Democratic U.S. senators in January, and gave the Democratic Party full control of Congress,” she wrote.
Hill repeated claims that the law “bans giving food and water to people in line to vote.”
The Georgia law is much different from what the establishment media would have you believe.
One of its main provisions is a photo ID requirement for absentee voters. Contrary to Democratic talking points, it is not voter suppression to ensure that people are who they claim to be when voting.
The law does make it a misdemeanor to give “any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector.” In other words, political organizations are not allowed to bribe potential voters with food, drinks or anything else as they wait outside a polling place.
However, polling places would be allowed to set up self-serve water dispensers for people waiting to vote.
At best, the claim that voters will be denied water in line is misleading. At worst, it’s a deliberate lie.
The coverage of the Georgia voting laws is just one of many examples of why the media cannot be trusted to determine the truth. Presenting a fair report with both sides of an issue allows the viewer to decide that for himself or herself — which is exactly what people like Holt don’t want.
Other leftists in the media who paint themselves as objective journalists praised the NBC News anchor’s determination that they no longer needed to be fair.
In CNN’s Reliable Sources Newsletter, Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy appeared to agree with Holt’s comments.
“As Lester Holt delivered the keynote address Tuesday night at the 45th Murrow Symposium, in which he accepted the Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism, the NBC News anchor delivered a sharp critique of bothsidesism,” the letter said.
John Hardwood, a White House correspondent for CNN, was less subtle. He sent out a tweet thanking Holt for essentially giving him permission to continue his one-sided, partisan coverage.
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) March 31, 2021
Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at New York University, said of Holt’s comments, “When the chief anchor of one of the major networks agrees that bothsidesing everything is bad practice, critics have finally won a point and they should celebrate.”
Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist for The Washington Post, signaled her apparent agreement with an emoji of a champagne toast.
— ☀️ Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) April 1, 2021
Meanwhile, longtime network newsman Jeff Greenfield claimed those who directly quoted Holt’s comment that “fairness is overrated” were guilty of “an impressive amount of dishonesty.”
Drudge headline says Lester Holt declared : “Fairness is overrated“. That’s an impressive amount of dishonesty for just three words in a headline.
— Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) April 1, 2021
Luckily, not everyone was buying what Holt was selling. Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson explained to Fox News that the problem with Holt’s stance on fairness.
“In a better world in which the mainstream major media had a history of fairness and non-partisanship, Holt’s point that journalism inherently involves filtering information might make sense,” he said.
“This is not such a better world. This is a world in which the mainstream major media wears its partisanship on its sleeve, manipulating the news cycle to the advantage of Democrats.
“In the real world, Holt’s advice simply justifies media political bias.”
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