Overcoming Biased News with Honest and Authentic Storytelling

By EW Scripps InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Overcoming Biased News with Honest and Authentic Storytelling

In 2018, fitness chain Life Time made headlines when it announced it was banning cable news channels from its communal television screens.  The Minnesota company's logic?  That removing cable news from its screens was consistent with its "desire to uphold a positive, healthy-way-of-life environment."  But the thirst for important, fact-based and opinion-free reporting has never been greater than today.  In fact, 75% of news consumers globally say they want unbiased news coverage.  In cable news, unfortunately, that's not what they're getting

Turn on your TV to cable networks before 4 p.m. and you're met by an onslaught of talking heads providing little more than color commentary on the day's most salacious events or talking points from one political party or another.  Tune in after 4 p.m. and you'll find a horde of opinions masquerading as news, reality shows that are somewhat news adjacent or reruns of old crime shows.

Perhaps this is why only 21% of U.S. adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center said they place a lot of trust in the information national news organizations provide and why only 26% of survey participants could correctly identify fact from opinion when shown five different statements.  It's the job of the news media to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the data is clear:  The incumbents have failed the viewing public miserably.

Partisan opinion programming hasn't just made our world worse for viewers.  Advertisers, the lifeblood of our industry, are viewers too.  And they're becoming increasingly fed up with their brands being associated with boycotts and scandals connected to news content.  We know advertisers want to access the kind of informed and empowered audience only news programming can provide -- but they are losing places to do so.

It doesn't have to be this way.  We can do so much better as an industry, and it all starts by going back to our roots and celebrating what makes television news so fantastic in the first place: honesty and authenticity paired with the power of video-based storytelling.

To make that happen, we have to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our industry.  We have to leave the centers of power and focus less on the echo chambers of New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.  We have to remind ourselves that people don't necessarily see news anchors as authentic or relatable.  Most importantly, our industry has to realize that there is more happening in the world than what the president tweets, no matter what those tweets say.

At Newsy, we view our approach to news as part of the solution to diminishing trust of the media.  Our headquarters is in the Midwest -- Columbia, Missouri, to be exact -- along with a new 22,000 square-foot newsroom in Chicago.  That important regional diversity amid a coastal-centric industry means we also think about what stories really matter between the coasts.  We are grounded in our roots and strong in our convictions because we truly believe there is a better way to do the news.  We're investing in journalism, not pundits, to better inform our viewers about the issues that face an increasingly complex world.

That investment is already making our country a better place.  Our recent joint investigation, "Case Cleared: How Rape Goes Unpunished in America," led the FBI to expedite a process to reform its national system for tracking crimes in order to require the nation's police agencies to report unfounded crimes.  Our reporting about doctor depression and suicide prompted state boards to reconsider and revise their handling of the mental health of physicians.  Our finding that Occupational Safety and Health Administration workplace safety enforcement is down at a time violence against nurses at work is skyrocketing inspired lawmakers in the House to introduce a bill to protect healthcare workers.

Stories like these matter and the impact will be felt for years to come.

Television is a unique medium.  Each night, tens of millions of Americans turn on their televisions and invite strangers into their home.  Some want to laugh, some want to be thrilled and many of these viewers tune in to the news to be better informed than they were before.  For those seeking the latter, it's our job to make sure they're getting that information, not more partisan bickering or opinion.

Photo credit:  Rawpixel / Unsplash

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