Numerous other examples could be cited. We know for example that the press of President Kennedy’s time was scrupulous in ignoring his sexual peccadilloes. And the press has been notoriously unkind to Republicans, when, like Richard Nixon, they deserved it, and when, like Ronald Reagan, they didn’t.
Partisanship has been a part of journalism from the beginning. The first newspapers were political scandal sheets that praised the virtues of one party and damned the sins of the other, throwing in a little news as an afterthought. That’s the legacy today’s press inherited, not some mythical era of fairness and objectivity no one can exactly find the evidence for.
And it’s only going to get worse. The rise of the new media has helped intensify the partisan divide. Popular conservative Internet sites push their cause without pause, and liberal ones push theirs. They rarely present the arguments of the other side, and mostly they throw a little news in as an afterthought. And those of a political bent have taken to following only their side’s sites, so it’s becoming increasingly unlikely they will stumble across anything resembling a reasoned debate.
Our growing problem is too much information, not too little. With fewer gatekeepers to sort things out and fewer people paying attention to the ones that are left, it is harder and harder to separate the pertinent information from the frivolous and misleading.
What was true at the beginning is even more important today. From many voices, truth – and it’s our responsibility to listen to as many as we can and pay attention.