Has mainstream media hurt itself twice?

“Disagreements are unavoidable, but how you handle them can make all the difference.” — Pooja Agnihotri, “17 Reasons Why Businesses Fail: Unscrew Yourself From Business Failure”

In recent weeks, the news media may have shot itself in the foot twice.

First, about a month ago, NBC News staffers revolted — on air — when the network hired former Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel as a paid contributor. Then, a few weeks later, National Public Radio’s reporters went ballistic when an NPR editor, Uri Berliner, penned a column accusing NPR of pushing a liberal narrative.

In both cases, the newsrooms won. NBC scrapped its deal with McDaniel. Berliner resigned after his bosses suspended him.

And, in both cases, the media at the very least gave fodder to its critics, who will use — rightly or not — both stories as evidence that the mainstream media not only hates conservatives but can’t tolerate different ideas.

NBC reporters didn’t want to work with McDaniel because she had joined Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. She called elections officials in a Michigan county Joe Biden won and urged them not to certify the results, telling them, “We will get you attorneys.”

McDaniel also repeatedly referred to the mainstream media as “fake news” and had long deflected questions about the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

At NPR, newsroom staffers accused Berliner of journalistic malpractice, cherry-picking anecdotes, ignoring countering evidence, and flat-out misrepresenting facts in his column in the Free Press, an online publication founded by a former New York Times reporter who had herself accused her former employer of a liberal bias.

Berliner was supposedly suspended for writing for another publication without first getting permission, then resigned after NPR CEO Katherine Maher said in a note to staff that “(q)uestioning whether our people are serving our mission with integrity, based on little more than the recognition of their identity, is profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning,” according to the Washington Post’s writeup on the dustup.

“I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems I cite in my Free Press essay,” Berliner said in his resignation letter, according to the Post.

Since Trump forced her out of the RNC last month, McDaniel finally said the Jan. 6 attack was “unacceptable” and that Biden won “fair and square,” though she continued to have concerns about the election.

At the RNC, McDaniel said, she had to “take one for the whole team,” according to CNN. After leaving, “I get to be a little bit more myself,” she said.

Berliner is one thing, I suppose. Rare is the executive who lets his or her employees publicly trash the company without reprimand. Plus, Berliner might have made it out with a suspension but decided to quit.

But McDaniel is something else.

Networks have struggled to find conservative voices — especially MAGA conservatives — willing to go on air for them, just like newspapers have struggled to find MAGA columnists willing to write for them. That’s partly because few in the MAGA crowd want to work for places they consider “fake news,” but hostile newsrooms certainly don’t make it easier.

I probably would have given McDaniel the contributor slot.

I would always have her on air with an anchor who could press her to justify any wild claims, same as should happen for any partisan, but McDaniel could provide a voice and sentiment largely lacking from the networks. That voice has value and would have helped NBC tell a more complete story about the country.

The NBC News staffers said they welcome all voices, but don’t want their network affiliated with someone who tried to subvert the election.

I understand that point, but I would argue that no one has charged McDaniel with a crime and that the value of her perspective outweighs those concerns.

Plus, the reputational damage from shouting her out of a job almost certainly outweighs any damage that could come from bringing her on.

To the press’s critics, the McDaniel fiasco is just one more example of the mainstream media’s hostility to conservatives, one more sign the press doesn’t want to tell the whole story.

It isn’t that, but sometimes — perhaps most of the time — the perception of a thing matters as much as — perhaps more than — the thing itself, especially when it comes to the bottom line.

The press ought to know that intimately.

Today’s journalists do the job the same way it’s always been done — perhaps better and more transparently than in the past, what with the online embedded videos, audio, documents, and social media posts that allow readers to fact-check stories as they read them.

Yet a large swath of the populace perceives the press as biased for liberals and against conservatives, and that perception has hurt media outlets financially.

And the reaction to Berliner and McDaniel only feeds into that perception.

Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3112 or jhinkley@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.


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