When is the news not the news?

When it is commentary, of course! The following definitions were acquired from a Google search:

News
1. recent information: information about recent events or developments
2. current events: information about current events printed in newspapers or broadcast by the media
3. program: a radio or television broadcast presenting the important events or developments that have taken place

Commentary
1. a series of explanatory notes or annotations, often forming a treatise on a text
2. a series of remarks or observations, usually connected in a loose narrative
3. something having the force of a comment, remark, or illustration
4. a historical narrative based on personal experience

It would be nice to assume that the distinction between the two is that “news” is unbiased and “Commentary” is biased, but you won’t find those words in either definition. One would assume when reading the definition of commentary that it is biased opinion. You don’t get that same sense when reading the definition of news. Unfortunately when it comes to reporting these days, bias has a way of infiltrating the news blurring the lines between news and commentary. So, “Why is this an issue,” you say.

Everything is simple when you are reading or watching commentary. If the commentator goes too far there are usually consequences to pay. For instance, Rush Limbaugh’s off-color remarks about Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke, has resulted in the loss of many sponsors and he could end up being prosecuted for slander. The transcript has since been edited (you can read whats left of it here). In this case, I think that most people would know what and who they are dealing with. They know that the person is a commentator and they can choose to listen or not, agree or disagree.

The following was extracted from the eastwikkers website (a group blog on technology, communications, and the place where they meet). “By the time we read any news article or watch any news segment, even the most “objective” news has been run through a series of bias filters. Each news department selects which stories to cover and which reporters to cover it. Each reporter selects which aspects of a story to focus on and which details of all possible details to include in the story. And editors make selective changes to fit a variety of criteria.”

The difference between commentating and biased news is that most people who read or listen to biased news cannot distinguish between the reporting and the commentary (including me).

Eastwikkers further states, “With the blurring of the distinction between reporting and commentary, to trust the news, we must place more trust in the news organization (with all its corporate influences), which can then lead to an abuse of that trust in the form of completely subjective reporting that serves only the bias. If we can’t trust the organizations, then we’re left only with individuals – whether reporters, commentators, or bloggers – and many of these have little credibility beyond zeal.”

With a growing censorship movement in this country many are saying that Rush Limbaugh should be censored. Why is this dangerous? I will give you a couple of reasons. First, it allows supposedly respected commentators like Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press to make similar off-color remarks without any consequence. She called Rush Limbaugh a “bigot” and “terrorist” for his remarks. The transcript is here. Terrorist is a strong word to use against anybody these days and if you ever read Rochelle Riley then you know she has very strong liberal views. Should she be censored for her remarks? Second, if we censor all the undesirable commentators and leave the Rochelle Riley’s and reporting that contains commentary untouched what have we done? What we will have done is take a backward step in the fight for free speech and equality for all Americans. If anything needs to be done, it would be to stop calling reporting as news and call it for what it is really is …….commentator reporting.

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