Seeing through the media bias

I just came from a really great conversation with journalist/friend John Boyanoski, a writer for the Upstate’s Community Journals (covering Greenville, Anderson and Spartanburg, S.C.).  With it being Election Day and all, the conversation took on a political tone.

But what I found so invigorating about my talk with John, was how we were able to talk to each other with respect and tolerance towards each other’s views (something I can’t do even in my own family – it turns into a shouting match every time).  It was so nice to be able to listen to John’s opinions and be able to talk about mine without feeling persecuted or like I was in the wrong for my ideas.

But what really got me thinking was our conversation about the media bias that has (or hasn’t, depending on your opinion) taken place during this presidential election year. I watched a story on Inside Edition last night (I know, not hard core news, but I still enjoy it) about how ‘entertainment news shows’ like The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The View, CBS Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, were all skewed to support Barack Obama versus John McCain.

Inside Edition aired clips of the two Ellen shows where both presidential candidates appeared.  In the Obama episode, he danced and was able to show his more personal side.  When McCain appeared, Ellen grilled him about his opposing views on gay marriage (even though both candidates have openly opposed the idea). 

Likewise on The View, Barbara Walters openly flirted with Obama asking if she could call him, “sexy,” while McCain’s appearance turned into a full-on grill-fest from Whoopie Goldberg.  And statistics show the late night entertainment shows zinged McCain and party 475 times this year, while Obama only received 69 negative jokes. 

Obviously there’s a very real bias there.  But since those shows don’t claim to be, and have never been, hard news programs, are they held accountable to the same fair and objective coverage of the other news organizations?  Should they be held responsible for using the airtime to subliminally support one presidential candidate over another, knowing the weight it might hold with the viewer?

I’ll admit when I’m watching Ellen, I’m not really watching it to catch up on my news.  I watch it for the entertainment value.  Are we, as the general U.S. voting population, astute enough to see through the subliminal messages and still make an educated vote based on our own moral convictions? It’s easy to go along with people like Ellen because you feel like you know them.

Regardless of who you voted for today (and you DID vote, didn’t you?  Hey, I’m nine months pregnant and stood in line for two hours to do it – so no excuses for you!), it’s important that we, as Americans, take the time to do our homework, research the candidates and make a decision that best fits our lifestyle and opinions. 

But how far should these types of shows be allowed to carry their opinion to the viewing public?  And how can people see through that to make sure they’re making an educated opinion?

I look forward to camping out in my living room tonight watching election returns and enjoying our American democratic process. And don’t forget to vote today!