The New York Times is known by the slogan and masthead logo as “All The News That’s Fit To print.” A more accurate slogan would be, “all the news we say is fit to print.” But even this isn’t quite right. For the Times and every other newspaper and magazine, it’s all the news and our opinion about that news that’s fit to print. Christians have fallen into the trap set by secularists that facts and evidences speak for themselves.
The winners of any contest, whether intellectual, political, or military, work very hard to formulate the history of the conflict so their side of the story is told in the best possible way. As one might expect, there is a great deal of bias in the way history is reported. In order to put the historical accounting in the best possible light for those who are reading history for the first time, sometimes the facts are manipulated just enough to reinforce the impression that the right side did indeed win the contest and left the opposition in the dust. There are some cases where contrary facts are never brought into the discussion so as not to raise questions and doubts in the mind of readers that there might have been a good reason why there was a debate in the first place. And it isn’t beyond some historians to manufacture their own versions of historical events and then hope that no one notices or checks the original sources.
Facts are never neutral, and they do not speak for themselves.1 Facts are lined up in defense of a position and then interpreted. Some facts never make it to the interpreter’s table. Too many people believe that newscasters, journalists, and scientists simply “report the facts” devoid of biases, preconceived assumptions, or political agendas. This is hardly the case as James Davison Hunter points out in his book Culture Wars:
In the very act of selecting the stories to cover, the books to publish and review, the film and music to air, and the art to exhibit, these institutions effectively define what topics are important and which issues are relevant—worthy of public consideration. Moreover, in the substance of the stories covered, books published and reviewed, art exhibited, and so on, the mass media act as a filter through which our perceptions of the world around us take shape. Thus, by virtue of the decisions made by those who control the mass media—seemingly innocuous decisions made day to day and year to year—those who work within these institutions cumulatively wield enormous power.2
The fact that a story even gets on a thirty-minute news slot should make all of us question the notion of neutrality in reporting or in anything else. There is no such thing as pure, unfiltered, pristine news or history. All news and historical accounting is bias, whether liberal or conservative. It’s the result of how we want the world to be seen.3 Of course, the way we see the world is the right way to see the world. Anyone who sees the world in a different way is seeing it the wrong way. “Network anchor David Brinkley once admitted, ‘News is what I say it is—it’s something worth knowing by my standards!”4
William Proctor, a veteran reporter and author who has worked for the New York Daily News, explains that the “[media] gospel is rooted in a kind of secular theology that purports to convey infallible social, moral, and political truth—a truth that the paper [The New York Times] fervently promotes with all the zeal of the fieriest proselytizer.”5 Proctor describes the editorial and news-gathering policy at the Times as “Manhattan Fundamentalism,” “a well-defined but also rather rigid package of viewpoints which the paper disseminates widely to influence political, social, and personal beliefs and behaviors.”6 Even the choice of a story shows bias. Marvin Olasky writes: “Since only an omniscient God can be truly objective, man’s ‘objectivity’ is inherently biased, TIME staffers, recognizing that, increasingly emphasize subjectivity, but that’s no solution either.”7
In 1986, Robert Bazell of NBC, admitted that “Objectivity is a fallacy. . . . There are different opinions, but you don’t have to give them equal weight.” Linda Ellerbee has written, “There is no such thing as objectivity. Any reporter who tells you he’s objective is lying to you.”8 Does any of this stop them from reporting the news? Do they tell us viewers that what’s being presented is not objective news? They honestly (or even dishonestly) believe that objectivity is irrelevant because their worldview is right, and whatever it takes to promote is legitimate news reporting.
- Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), 26–27. [↩]
- James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (New York: Basic Books, 1991), 225. [↩]
- Bernard Goldberg, Bias: CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2002), 5. [↩]
- David Brinkley, quoted by Edith Efron, “Why Speech on Television Is Not Rally Free,” TV Guide (April 11, 1964), 7. Quoted in Colleen Cook, All That Glitters: A News-Person Explores the World of Television (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 32. [↩]
- William Proctor, The Gospel According to the New York Times: How the World’s Most Powerful News Organization Shapes Your Mind and Values (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2000), 11-12. [↩]
- Proctor, The Gospel According to the New York Times, 31. [↩]
- Marvin Olasky, “Progress Report: A Changing WORLD amid a subjective TIME,” World (October 14, 2006), 40. [↩]
- Dinesh D’Souza, “Mr. Donaldson Goes to Washington,” Policy Review (Summer 1986), 24–31. Quoted in Marvin Olasky, Prodigal Press: The Anti‑Christian Bias of the American News Media (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 59. [↩]