By Javin Dana
CatlinSpeak (Portland, Oregon)
Citizens consistently argue about their distrust for politicians, lobbyists, and nominees across the political spectrum. Both the partisan nature of some news organizations and the aggressive, seemingly-undemocratic actions taken by certain politicians have been enough to deter many voters from taking active roles in the democratic process. Voting turnouts are at an all-time low, and for those who do vote, many do not employ precaution when gathering information about the elections they will take part in.
It seems unproblematic to passively consume information from trusted news sources, considering the common confidence placed in our news organizations in comparison to the politicians they report on. However, in lieu of recent events, certain measures may be necessary to assure that voters have a more reasonable, accurate view of the results concerning elections, political turmoil, and even national debates. Not only must these measures be taken, but the very news organizations we hold such confidence in may need to be reevaluated.
On Tuesday, October 13 at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas, the Democratic Primary debates took place. The (then) candidates Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb debated such topics as the minimum wage, the issues in Benghazi, the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood, civil rights issues, and even Clinton’s private servers. Granted that last one was less of a debate, and more of a two-comment tagline by Sanders and Clinton with the intent of ending the onslaught of comments regarding her private servers as Secretary of State.
As most people expected, Clinton and Sanders stood out as the front-runners throughout the debate. Most of the reported “favorite moments” from the debate centered around these two candidates, and rightfully so, as they have been seen as the more competitive Democratic candidates since their respective entrances to the race.
According to CNN’s review following the debate, Clinton was the clear victor both among popular and analyst polls, with Sanders trailing behind. Initially this seemed to align with what voters had expected, but a number of individuals who watched the debates responded with outrage after hearing these results.
Numerous viewers complained that their comments in support of Sanders had been deleted from CNN’s website, and that the polls had been skewed to suit a Clinton-centric coverage of the debates. Similar complaints arose as individuals took to Facebook to question where the poll results actually came from.
During a portion of the debate, CNN’s analysts aggregated a number of reactionary polls surrounding specific debate topics. They found at the time that Sanders was winning the debates on foreign policy and economic issues by a huge margin, and that he was winning the debate as a whole.
In response to the alleged skewed coverage, many took to investigating the potential motives behind deleting comments and omitting certain polls to promote such an agenda. Some argued that CNN faces a distinct conflict of interest that would compel them to back Clinton in their debate-coverage. One such analyst argued that considering two of Clinton’s top campaign financiers are 21st Century Fox and Time Warner, both with significant control over national media outlets, it would make sense for the companies under their purview to support Clinton.
Time Warner in particular has been called into question recently because of its ownership over CNN, the hosts of the debate. They argue that Time Warner would have a distinct incentive to back Clinton’s campaign, because she is their “corporate candidate”—and thus is the most likely of the candidates to benefit them if she becomes president.
Many attribute the results presented by CNN to this theory, especially considering that Sanders is reported to be backed almost exclusively from union organizations and simply does not have the corporate support that Clinton does.
Regardless of whether or not the public supports or disagrees with these theories, the censorship and potential conflicts of interest raise questions regarding the validity of major corporate news organizations in informing their viewership. While organizations like FOX and CNN have been under fire for years regarding their allegedly skewed reporting, their biases are now seemingly infringing on the facts of major national events. This, in turn, changes the lens through which their audiences view political events. As voters, or potential voters, it’s important for individuals to evaluate both where they are receiving their news from, and the truthfulness of each of those sources.
For each report viewed on a potentially partisan network that could be backing a candidate for its own gain, one must consider investigating other sources. Rather than simply glancing at the headlines produced on CNN, FOX, MSNBC, or even miscellaneous blogs, it may be necessary, especially with respect to sensitive topics, to attempt to find a more objective view. Whether that means corroborating facts across news sources, or aggregating information across social media websites to establish a more holistic view of certain topics, individuals should strive to maintain a level of certainty in their news consumption.
As of now, the debates between individuals and CNN have tapered off, however the concerns raised are still being investigated. Neither CNN nor Time Warner have commented on this issue.
Photo Credit: Javin Dana