Progressives have hijacked the narrative of US news stories, fuelling 'fake news' and setting a dangerous and divisive tone for the future of news reporting in America, writes Donald Forbes. 

NBC television newsreader Lester Holt has been awarded the Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. This not any old gong. Murrow was the US radio journalist who live under the Blitz and reported sympathetically to Americans on Britain at war. Later, he helped bring down Senator McCarthy.

Holt chose in his acceptance speech to denounce impartiality in journalism, adding his voice to the growing demand for the media to de-platform and censor conservatives. 

"I think it's become clearer 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. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention. Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda, in fact, it's just the opposite."

No one is demanding equal time. Honest acknowledgment of diverse viewpoints is enough as our overheated Brexit experience showed. It could be better argued that fairness has never been more underrated. The divide between news and opinion has been blurred by an effectively one-party media in the US. They demand the suppression of fake news while aggressively promoting it.

CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post, which set the agenda for most of the US media, have been caught out time and again. A television reporter can stand in front of buildings set ablaze by arsonists and say the protest he is describing live is "mainly peaceful" – a claim so absurd that it became a meme.

Even before the Mueller investigation began, most people knew Trump's alleged collusion with Russia was a partisan fabrication. Big Media reported it for two years as if it were true. Somehow, this does not fall squarely in the category of 'fake news'?

Fairness to journalists like Holt means ignoring the New York Post's scoop about the Biden family's alleged self-dealing in the Ukraine and China and banning the entire newspaper from Twitter because it harmed the pro-Democrat narrative.

Narrative is the key word.

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News stories nowadays are not factual accounts but narratives, written by reporters claiming to be impartial but really shaping the perceptions of their audience. The liberal narrative describes the violent protest at the Capitol on 6th January as an insurrection. That's a big, subjective, partisan word but Holt wouldn't let anyone disagree. To the Left, it's now the truth. Nothing is easier than distorting the news through the choice of language that frames it.

Even news agencies like Reuters and the AP, which traditionally never took sides, do opinionated reporting. The AP is an American press co-operative. In the old days, when there was a substantial conservative media, it needed to balance its reporting. Now that most US outlets are liberal, that restraint has vanished, and AP reporters and editors can slant the news with impunity.

Holt thinks truth is discoverable only to progressives. This gives them the right to shut down opposition to pet issues that affect us all like critical race theory, abortion, transgenderism, white supremacy and voter suppression. Whatever Holt is, he's not a deep thinker about consequences. Every progressive will applaud his Murrow speech. Everyone else will wonder whether he's the right guy to be reading the news.

Reporting a car crash is straightforward. Reporting the death of George Floyd, which was more complex than it appeared, required judgment that it did not receive in the cacophony of anti-police fury. When the news is reported this way it's hard for the public, which knows only what it hears and reads at second hand, to understand all sides of the debate.

Understanding is lost when, for example, journalists who themselves know nothing about the climatology of AGW that "the science is settled". By whom? Them? 

This calls into question the person of the journalist; some are good and some less so. What gives a journalist the right to determine truth? Journalists are merely people who happen to have media jobs. Whatever qualities they bring to their craft, a perfect understanding of the world is not one of them. 

The NYT has abandoned its claim to respect from the people who disagree with it. This is an important loss. It means that the good in its content does not reach readers who might be persuadable. For years it pretended not to be liberal. By abandoning the pretence, it also lost its credibility as a trustworthy source of news. It threw away the very thing that made it special.

Speaking truth to power is a popular concept with journalists. But again, what is truth? Holt's silly example about denying a platform at NBC to anyone who does not accept the sun sets in the east is so simplistic as to be laughable but typical of the left's we-are-always-right Manicheanism.

Most of what we fight about is political. Nothing could be less objective than political speech. Neither Republicans nor Democrats can prove their policies have a wholly empirical basis. Democrats are sure their $1.9 COVID relief bill will not be inflationary. Republicans disagree. That difference matters and needs to be thrashed out. It's why politics must remain openly adversarial.

What makes the views of authoritarians with power like Holt's so dangerous is that progressives are a minority even among Democrats and classical liberals. Their aim is to intimidate and overwhelm the great majority of us who still believe there are two or more sides to most questions.

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