Jeff Martin 2020

Jeff Martin

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in a recent Pew Research study, Americans who name Fox News as their main source for political and election news overwhelmingly self-identify as Republican. Those who name MSNBC overwhelmingly self-identify as Democrat.

There was a time when most Americans got the same unbiased news by reading the local paper at the breakfast table, coupled with an hour of local and world news on the television each evening and “60 Minutes” every Sunday night.

I still subscribe to several newspapers, watch the local and nightly news and get my Sunday morning fix by watching “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday.”

I don’t watch cable news, but made an exception last month and watched the coverage of both political conventions on MSNBC and Fox News, with remote in hand to catch the contrast in reporting. And oh boy was there contrast and bias. It’s no wonder partisan cable news has made America dumber and more divisive. Fair and balanced it isn’t.

I also caught the coverage on both MSNBC and Fox News of the videoed shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Actually, what I watched was two completely different stories of the shooting that left Jacob Blake paralyzed after being shot seven times in the back by a police officer. I won’t say that either cable network reported anything incorrectly, but each network reported the story that fit their narrative. MSNBC concentrated on the fact that Mr. Blake was unarmed and shot in front of his three children after trying to de-escalate a domestic incident. Fox News, on the other hand, reported about Mr. Blake’s resistance, criminal history and that he had open warrants that included domestic abuse charges. If you watched one channel and I watched the other, we would be likely to have two differing opinions of the shooting.

I couldn’t agree more with MSNBC Producer Ariana Pekary, who recently publicly quit her job, decrying cable news in general as a “cancer.” Pekary, a producer of “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” wrote “the networks have incentive to amplify fringe voices and events, at the expense of others… all because it pumps up the ratings.”

Cable news channels often blur the line between fact and fiction. Most of their programming isn’t even news. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow are all biased and each attracts a strongly partisan audience.

The number of people who get their news from one of the three reputable network channels remains high, but is dwindling as more people turn to partisan cable news. When people are asked about the three different types of TV news, local TV is the most popular: 37 percent get news there often, compared with 30 percent who watch cable TV news often and 25 percent who often watch national evening network news shows.

Two-thirds of U.S. adults now receive their news from social media, with 1 in 5 American adults doing so often, according to the Pew Research Center. Which is a topic deserving of its own column.

Print newspapers remain a favored source to the most intellectual. Among those 65 and older: 40 percent get their news there often, but no more than 18 percent of any other age group favor print newspapers. Online news websites are favored among those ages 30 to 49, where 42 percent of American adults often use websites and apps.

Everybody is entitled to an opinion. You are reading mine now. But Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow and other cable news hacks preach their opinion as if they were Walter Cronkite delivering the news, while typically missing half the facts.

Cable news is filled with divisive political bull crap. Its only intention is to cause controversy and chaos. Don’t be their prey. If we all sought our news from a variety of substantiated sources and kept an open mind, the country would be in a better place.

We don’t always have to agree with each other to have appreciation for one another. Be kind. Be safe. And subscribe to a newspaper.