Thu, April 02

My Turn: Fair reporting or a hatchet job?

With the end of this election cycle, the American people should be very worried about our political process. I'm not talking about the negative ads or the attempts to promote division among us. We have a much deeper problem.

When our founding fathers guaranteed freedom of the press and an educated populace they assumed that we Americans would always jealously guard and appreciate the wonder that they were passing on to us. They assumed that the press would be so grateful for their own freedom that they would champion all others and that our education system would teach us to recognize when they failed in that duty.

Apparently both assumptions have fallen on hard times

Two recent studies have shown that the country's news media has so favored one candidate, one ideology, over the other that we were not given a balanced view from which to make an informed decision as to which candidate or party we would find more to our taste. The two studies found the following:

Project for Excellence

in Journalism

• Media average negative stories for McCain, 57 percent; Obama, 29 percent

• Newspaper coverage negative for McCain, 69 percent; Obama, 28 percent

• NBC coverage negative for McCain, 54 percent; Obama, 21 percent

• MSNBC: Mccain, 73 percent; Obama; 14 percent

• FoxNewsChannelL McCain, 40 percent; Obama; 40 percent

Center for Media

and Public Affairs

• TV Coverage: Positive stories for McCain, 31 percent; Obama, 65 percent

• ABC positive stories for McCain, 42 percent; Obama, 57 percent

• NBC: McCain, 16 percent; Obama, 56 percent

• CBS: McCain, 31 percent; Obama, 73 percent

• CNN (not evaluated)

• MSNBC (not evaluated)

Of course, these figures only reflect the bias of the coverage of the stories evaluated and do not tell the whole story. The number of stories that were glossed over, buried in the back pages or not covered at all speaks volumes more about the bias of the media. The NY Times failed to report on the Rev. Wright story for nearly a year and little play was given in other major outlets. The Obama connection to William Ayers, Rezko, ACORN was given a pass. "Special" mortgage deals for Obama, Barney Franks, Chris Dodd and others was given scant attention as Fannie and Freddie collapsed under the guidance of former Democrat golden boys.

As far as voters recognizing the danger? You cannot understand or appreciate your country if you do not know its history or how it operates.

My own opinion is that most politicians are happy with current knowledge levels of their constituencies. A 2006 Zogby poll showed that only two of five Americans know we have three branches of government and can name them. Six of 10 young people (18-24) could not find Iraq on a map. How can you decide the war issue if you have no idea where it is taking place, not even considering the "why."

Less than half know who Karl Marx was, where the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought, or that their own country is the only country ever to use a nuclear device in war. And young voters are disengaged when it comes to following current events, which makes them susceptible to being misled at election time.

At the time of the 9/11 attack, only" 60 percent of young people said they were following the news closely," meaning 40 percent weren't.

That year only "32 percent followed the news about the anthrax attacks or the economy, then in recession. The capture of Kabul from the Taliban? Just 20 percent." A more recent Pew poll measuring public knowledge of current events found that the 18 to 29 age group "know the least" and "A majority of young respondents scored in the low knowledge" category - the only group to do so." Only 20 percent of them read a newspaper and studies show that, "if they don't pick up the .... habit in their 20s rarely do so later." So they pick up their info on the Internet, right? Nope. "Only 11 percent ... report that they regularly surf the Internet for news."

These are the voters ACORN and the Obama campaign were signing up by the thousands. These are the voters that made the margin of victory. Do we want them to not vote? Of course not! But we do need to start educating them to think for themselves, to question all their sources and to ask for details beyond the sound-bite method of campaigning. It is fine to be enthralled by the oratory, but understand the meaning behind the words. We, the older, supposedly wiser, citizens owe it to those eager young voters to understand and respect what they are inheriting.

We have a lot of work to do.

Camp Verde resident Jim Barber regular writes political commentary in his blog at

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