The First Amendment is important to our country, and one of its guarantees is for Americans to have the right to a free press. Similar to our rights of free speech, the press can and should be able to report what they want without fear of reprisal from the government. However, reporters should be responsible enough to report the facts and keep their opinions on the editorial pages, where opinions belong.
When I went to journalism school, Ronald Reagan was president, and even though many reporters didn't like him, they were generally fair. Sadly, on the national level, it is no longer that way. At college, we were taught in basic news reporting to only write the facts and have no opinion in our stories. It didn't matter what we thought; we reported facts and let the reader or viewer decide.
A perfect example I saw of this was in 1990, when Charles Coleman was the first to be executed in Oklahoma after the court reversal. Like any good journalist, the reporter from the OU Daily put his name in the drawing. His story on page one told what happened, along with the back story of the conviction.
No one knew how this student really felt about the death penalty or how he felt watching the execution. A few days later, his editorial came out about his experience.
I was surprised to learn that he personally did not agree with the death penalty and that it was a harrowing experience for him to watch. You would have never known it from his story. He had become a real journalist.
Today, it seems, opinion reporting has become the norm. For years, reporters in the national media have attempted to influence public policy based on their own agendas and beliefs. By slanting news reports and coverage to support their ideology, they have managed to sway public opinion. For a true journalist, this is an unpardonable sin.
No one can argue the point that the political leanings of the mainstream media are not in the same percentage rates as mainstream Americans. The late ABC news anchor Peter Jennings and others have admitted there is a liberal bias among national editors. "Historically in the media, it has been more of a liberal persuasion for many years," Jennings said. ("Dissecting Liberal Media Bias," Human Events, Oct. 4, 2004, p. 24.)
In its annual 2017 confidence poll, Gallup found that Americans' trust in the mass media "to report the news fully, accurately and fairly" reached its lowest level in polling history. In my opinion, a large problem of this distrust stems from opinion shows designed to look like newscasts. Many do not realize these are entertainment opinion programs and should not be considered actual "news" broadcasts.
Several news outlets have indicated they are working to regain public trust. I have the solution: Go back to leaving opinions on the editorial page and report factual news. Until mainstream media outlets get back to true and factual unbiased reporting, the terms "fake news" and "biased media" will continue to be a dominating description of our national outlets.
To my colleagues in the national media: You can't get on camera and blame President Trump. You have to look in the mirror and blame yourselves. If you don't like being called "fake news," then you have the power to change it. Report facts and you can no longer be called "fake." Until you do, the era of Walter Cronkite-type reporting will remain something to only be studied in journalism history class.
Our only saving grace for now are local outlets, which are the true bedrock of our free press.
Randy Gibson is the CEO of RDG Communications and the former director of the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce and the Texas State Rifle Association.