The imminent end of the world. Aliens (the ones from space, not the illegal kind). Witches and warlocks. Those are some of things Americans believe in.
Unbiased journalism? Not so much.
That’s what the polling tells us. A 2008 Harris Poll reinforced that belief. More Americans believe in ghosts (44 percent), UFOs (36 percent) and witches (31 percent) than believe journalists. No major media outlet scored that high according to the 2009 Pew State of the Media report.
Hollywood must be paying attention. Nearly every top film of 2009 reflects those topics. Everything from the “Transformers” sequel to the “Night at the Museum” sequel to the latest “Star Trek” and “Twilight” movies has been a success. Top 100 films have taken in more than $8 billion according to Boxofficemojo.com. Nine of the top 10 are fantasy, science fiction or horror. They amount to more than $2.2 billion of that total.
You don’t see Hollywood doing many big budget movies about journalism. Of course, that might be due to the wonky and mundane life of reporters and editors. Or it might be because simply no one trusts journalists any more.
The biggest example of a journalist in entertainment these days is the sleazy, Tokyo Rose-like reporter on “V,” who says he modeled his character after real-life CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. “V” star Scott Wolf described his character on “Good Morning America” as a “morally compromised news journalist” or in terms the viewing audience can appreciate, “he’s more of Anderson Cooper-y.”
This natural distrust of the news is essential if Americans are to dig their way out of some of the biggest issues of the day – including the economy, health care reform and climate change. In every case, journalists have been spinning the debate in favor of big government, big cost solutions.
That film is really just getting started. The fight so far has just been the opening scenes of an epic. This week the plot thickens, as they used to say in the old movies. The White House holds its summit on jobs, the health care reform debate heats up and President Obama gets ready for next week’s climate catastrophe marathon in Copenhagen.
The jobs event is laced with irony. Thanks to the stick-it-to-business policies of the Obama administration, the only one hiring is Uncle Sam. And, after the incredibly wrong predictions from the Obama gang that unemployment wouldn’t pass 8 percent if the stimulus passed, it’s amazing he has any credibility on the issue at all. Even lefty blogger entrepreneur Arianna Huffington cautioned that the “unfolding unemployment disaster is threatening to do the same for the Obama White House” as Hurricane Katrina did for Bush.
Why then did network broadcasts first promote the stimulus and then try to defend its impact on the economy. First they picked stimulus supporters by more than 2-to-1 over anyone who questioned the $787 billion bill. Then when the economy settled a little, journalists were quick to call an end to the recession. Back in August, Newsweek declared the “recession is over.”
The July 28 “Good Morning America” did the same thing, bringing on two separate experts who said the recession was over. Sure, unemployment is called a “lagging indicator,” but it’s not just lagging, it’s in double digits. Ordinary voters know that 10.2 percent – more than twice what it was for much of the Bush administration – isn’t a recovery.
The latest episode of the health care reform saga is much the same script. Obama has pushed for a quick national takeover of one-sixth of the economy. Even many liberals have balked at that. If he doesn’t get the votes, the curtain comes down on his whole plan.
Imagine where Obama would be without his media support on health care reform. Back in spring, network journalists ignored the whole issue of cost – mentioning it in just 9 percent of their many stories on the topic. Now even those rare times when journalists are honest about the failings of health care reform, they still support it. Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas recently described it as “a fiscal fraud.” Of course, here’s the kicker: “I’d still vote for it,” he said.
Then there’s the ClimateGate scandal, which is rapidly escalating into a media scandal as well. So far only a few in the media are even addressing this possible scientific fraud just days before the Copenhagen summit. Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, has stepped aside pending a probe into whether he helped overstate the danger of climate change.
That story is all over the Internet and even in major print outlets. But you can’t find it on the evening and morning news shows on ABC, CBS or NBC, even with a global climate conference just days away.
In every case, the media position has been clear: root for Obama, back bigger government and hope for a happy ending.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the MediaResearchCenter’s Vice President for Business and Culture. He is a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum and he can also be seen on Foxnews.com’s “The Strategy Room.” He can also be contacted on FaceBook and Twitter as dangainor.