'The balkanization of news'

Broadcast news has erased line between news and opinion

If Americans are more politically divided than ever, the media may have a lot to do with that.

A Gallup Poll indicates that 55 percent of Americans get most of their news from television – where news is pretty much sliced and diced to suit particular points of view.

On CNN recently, for instance, anchor Suzanne Malveaux went to great lengths to rehabilitate the prosecution of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. When a friend of Zimmerman’s testified that she recognized his screams on the infamous 911 call because she’d worked with him on a political campaign, Malveaux suggested the prosecution could claim that Zimmerman’s enthusiastic cries at a political rally might be similar to ones uttered while “pummeling Trayvon Martin” with “a sense of joy.”

A guest had to remind Malveaux that the screaming voice on the 911 call wasn’t one of jubilation, but of cries for help.

Why was Malveaux so intent on propping up the prosecution of George Zimmerman? Her CNN colleague Piers Morgan appeared to share her zeal for Zimmerman’s scalp. Why –
especially when the evidence is unclear, at best, who was besting whom in that fateful fight – and when there is some pretty compelling evidence that Zimmerman was the one being pummeled.

Indeed, whereas Zimmerman’s facial and head injuries are well-documented, with ABC News long ago reporting Zimmerman sustained a broken nose, two black eyes and cuts to the back of the head, CBS News long ago reported that, “Wounds found on (Martin’s) knuckles may support George Zimmerman’s claim that the unarmed teenager assaulted him before he was fatally shot.”

Most fair-minded observers have predicted an acquittal in the case, because of the conflicting evidence and, in fact, to evidence buttressing Zimmerman’s account.

“As a legal matter, I just don’t see how a jury convicts him of second-degree murder or even manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin,” writes ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams. “...(I)f they follow the letter of the law, it’s hard to see, based on everything we know now, how they find him guilty of either murder or even manslaughter.”

If an already restive core of Martin supporters gets all its news from CNN, they would be shocked by an acquittal – and perhaps angered into lashing out.

Then there’s the little-watched but incendiary MSNBC – which a former producer there wrote recently behaves at times like the “official network of the Obama White House.”

Gallup itself fretted that its poll showing such a reliance on such an opinionated set of news channels “documents the balkanization of news” – meaning that Americans are digesting very different information on the same events.

It doesn’t help that in broadcast news, the line between news and opinion has been,
for the most part, erased. Supposed news anchors now openly advocate for certain public policy positions – and, it seems, certain verdicts in high-profile trials.

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Fri, 12/09/2016 - 11:15

Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon