US news me­dia bi­ased re­port­ing de­stroy­ing trust

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

Like many in China, I have long felt the US news me­dia is bi­ased in its cov­er­age of China. Much of this, in my view, is due to an in­di­vid­ual writer’s lack of knowl­edge about China, his or her po­lit­i­cal bias, or the agenda of his news or­ga­ni­za­tion.

As a jour­nal­ist, I un­der­stand the watch­dog role of the press. Yet that is to­tally dif­fer­ent from bi­ased re­port­ing.

Amer­i­cans might see such a prob­lem when they look at the news me­dia’s treat­ment of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. It is true that Trump has made plenty of con­tro­ver­sial or out­ra­geous com­ments since he started his pres­i­den­tial race, but the US news me­dia’s ex­ces­sive bias against Trump is ob­vi­ous.

A re­port in May by the Har­vard Kennedy School’s Shoren­stein Cen­ter on Me­dia, Pol­i­tics and Pub­lic Pol­icy an­a­lyzed news cov­er­age of Trump’s first 100 days in of­fice. It found that 80 per­cent of the cov­er­age was neg­a­tive, while only 20 per­cent was pos­i­tive. This com­pared with the 41 per­cent neg­a­tive cov­er­age Barack Obama re­ceived; and the 57 per­cent Ge­orge W. Bush re­ceived and the 60 per­cent for Bill Clin­ton.

Trump might be the first US pres­i­dent to face the news me­dia head on, call­ing them dis­sem­i­na­tors of fake news and dis­hon­est, some­thing that a US pres­i­dent and politi­cian would rarely do given the out­sized power of news me­dia to­day in in­flu­enc­ing votes and pub­lic opin­ion.

How­ever, it is clear the US news me­dia is not almighty be­cause Trump won the 2016 elec­tion de­spite a hos­tile me­dia en­vi­ron­ment and a pre­dicted landslide for Hil­lary Clin­ton, with most ma­jor polls con­clud­ing a Clin­ton vic­tory was a fore­gone con­clu­sion.

A re­port by se­nior me­dia writer Jack Shafter and data re­porter Tucker Do­herty of Politico in May is telling. Some 72 per­cent of all in­ter­net pub­lish­ing or news­pa­per em­ploy­ees work in a coun­try where Clin­ton won. “By this mea­sure, of course, Clin­ton was the na­tional me­dia’s can­di­date,” they wrote.

It is no se­cret that high rat­ings are also one of the driv­ers for the en­thu­si­asm dis­played by many US news out­lets, espe­cially the cable net­works, for bi­ased and sen­sa­tional re­ports.

Watch­ing and read­ing news about China in the US The au­thor is deputy edi­tor of China Daily USA. chen­wei­hua@ chi­nadai­

news me­dia gives many Chi­nese the same feel­ing of bias. China rarely gets credit for any­thing, espe­cially when it comes to re­la­tions with the US. The nar­ra­tive is: China is al­ways wrong. China is evil.

I can­not help laugh­ing when watch­ing the su­per­fi­cial and one-sided anal­y­sis by some talk­ing heads on US TV net­works, espe­cially by some­one who has pre­dicted China’s col­lapse mul­ti­ple times. I won­der why some re­spected China ex­perts, both in China and the US, are never or rarely in­vited to talk on TV. Is that be­cause they are too ra­tio­nal and not sen­sa­tional enough to help TV rat­ings?

As a jour­nal­ist, I un­der­stand the watch­dog role of the press. Yet that is to­tally dif­fer­ent from bi­ased re­port­ing.

As a Chi­nese na­tional, I feel the need to go back home from time to time to catch up with the fast changes there. That is also the think­ing of many China hands in the US I talked to. It is for­giv­able that those who have not lived in China or even vis­ited China keep pre­tend­ing they know all the prob­lems and so­lu­tions in China.

The US news me­dia are fac­ing a cri­sis of low pub­lic con­fi­dence. A Gallup poll in June re­vealed that only 27 per­cent of re­spon­dents had a great deal or quite a lot of con­fi­dence in news­pa­pers, 24 per­cent said they had high con­fi­dence in TV news; and 16 per­cent said they had high con­fi­dence in news on the in­ter­net.

If news me­dia are all about pub­lic trust, then US news me­dia have failed mis­er­ably.

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