Reading and Reporting on Political News

| January 22, 2021 | 0 Comments

This week a subscriber wrote that someone in their church decided to go on a “news fast” as the news has been making him more depressed. Our subscriber agreed to join him in this and only read Plain News during this fast.  This reminded me again of the trust that many of you place in us and we intend to be as balanced as we can. Reporting news that is politicized is always a difficult task.  Choosing which news to announce and how to say it in 2020/2021 is not a job for the faint of heart. We have received many comments over the last number of months thanking us for our news service and our attempt at presenting the news as factually as possible. As we wrote some months ago, we sometimes receive comments from subscribers who think we are too influenced by Democrats and other times that we are too influenced by Republicans. We don’t always get it right. However, in the last number of months, we have had some subscribers who believe that we should not be referencing news sources that lean left, and suggest that we use news sources which favor Republican perspectives instead. Here is why we don’t want to rely solely on news sources that favor Republicans.
As we wrote in the article Plain Politics, our goal is to read from a wide range of news sources and extract what is factual and not give news that favors the Democratic perspective nor the Republican perspective. News organizations that lean right or left tend to slant the news in a way that misleads the reader. (“Left and Right” are terms that were coined during the French Revolution, referring to the seating arrangement in the French Estates General.)  Even an inanimate object like a piece of cloth can become politicized. After we published the “Mennonite Militia” article, a subscriber wrote: “Thanks for sending this article. I’m becoming increasingly aware of the sad truth that way too many Plain people have merged into the political arena. One mask-wearer in an Anabaptist church asked one of his church leaders why wearing a mask to church is causing so many problems for others. The church leader said it was because it identified him with Democrats. God help us.”

When it comes to world or political news, Plain News does basically no original research. We do not send reporters to areas of natural disaster or compile our own charts and statistics.  This forces us to rely on mainstream news outlets such as The Hill, Associated Press, Reuters, Fox News, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, etc. We have not found any secular news source that we consider completely neutral. Many mainstream secular news organizations (such as the ones mentioned above) do try to make sure that what they report is accurate.  However, they still tend to have a fair bit of bias. They mention the facts they want readers to know. They omit facts they don’t consider important. They sometimes omit facts they don’t want you to know. And sometimes they omit facts their advertisers don’t want them to publish. In addition to facts, they sometimes insert and suggest ideas based on their worldview. Consequently, their perspective on world events is not trustworthy.  Because of this, our writers need to read a variety of news sources to learn the truth about a matter. The link that is included at the end of each Breaking News post leads to an article with more information on the topic. Plain News does not endorse the specific views of the source article(s).  Some politicians like to call any news that doesn’t put them in a good light “fake news.” There is indeed such a thing as fake news, but fake news is not produced by Democrats only. We believe that none of us should rely solely on the perspectives of secular media (particularly sources that lean one direction) to form our own ethical and political conclusions.

For our Breaking News posts, we use mainstream news sources that lean Republican and those that lean Democrat. Perhaps 85% of mainstream news sources lean left/Democrat and perhaps 15% lean right/Republican. Whatever information these news sources agree on, we assume to be close to the truth. Organizations that lean left report some things that the right does not, and vice versa. Both also give their slant to the news. If we read something on a site that leans right, we like to check with a site that leans left to see if they are also reporting on the topic. If both report on the topic, we try to pull out what is factual and remove the politicized or sensationalized slant.

We avoid news sites that give misleading information or help stoke civil unrest whether they are on the far right or on the far left.  The far left tends to stoke racial equality movements, including those who have been known to riot and set buildings on fire in big cities.  The far right tends to stoke white supremacist movements, including those who stormed the Capitol and vandalized federal property.

When our Plain News writers look for news, they mostly read “mainstream” and “center” news sources. We also read some far left and far right news sources, but we don’t take their information to be factual unless it is confirmed by government agencies, “center” news sources, or mainstream sources. (Just because an organization is far left or far right does not make everything they report untruthful, but their claims do need more verification.)  In general, what is commonly agreed on by “center” and “mainstream” news sources is what will end up in the history books.

Next I will try to describe the different news camps from left to right. (When I use the term “liberal” and “conservative” below, understand that this refers to politics and not religion, although the two sometimes get intertwined.)

Extreme Left (e.g. Wonkette, DeepLeftField, Palmer Report)
News is reported that is very inaccurate and misleading. Conspiracy theories are often generated and proliferated here. Some of the most ungodly and immoral perspectives are also propagated here. Many of these people are so deceived that they barely realize they are spreading untruth. Most of these folks vote for liberal policies and candidates.
Far Left (e.g. MSNBC, CNN Opinion, Slate, Occupy Democrats, Bipartisan Report, Daily Kos, CrooksandLiars)
These media sources are often intentionally misleading. These news sources target “conservatives” and make very unfair claims about them. News is reported that will stoke “leftists.” These news organizations know the spin they are putting on the news and are doing so deliberately.  If Democrats get in trouble or make a big political mistake, these news outlets will try to keep the focus on something a Republican did wrong.  Like the extreme left, there is often a belittling and mocking of Republicans.  These news sources are known to spread rumors without correcting them later.
Mainstream Left (e.g. CNN,Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, NPR)
Most reported news puts Democrats in a good light and Republicans in a bad light. Rarely are compliments given to Republicans unless it also puts the Democratic agenda in a good light. If these outlets report something that is later shown to be false, they will issue a correction.
Center-Left (e.g. Associated Press, USA Today, ABC, Bloomberg News)
Most reported news by these organizations favors Democrats, but they often mention good things about moderate Republicans. If these outlets report something that is later shown to be false, they will issue a correction.
Center (e.g. Reuters, The Hill, AllSides, Real Clear Politics)
It is hard to tell whether these organizations lean left or right.
Reuters & The Hill mostly publish just the facts. AllSides & Real Clear Politics publish articles from both the left and right.
Center-Right (e.g. Rasmussen Reports, United Press International, Wall Street Journal, Reason)
Most reported news by these organizations favors Republicans, but they often mention good things about moderate Democrats. If these outlets report something that is later shown to be false, they will issue a correction.
Mainstream Right (e.g. Fox News, New York Post, The Washington Times, Daily Mail)
Most reported news puts Republicans in good light and Democrats in bad light. Rarely are compliments given to Democrats unless it also puts the Republican agenda in good light. If these outlets report something that is later shown to be false, they will issue a correction.
Far Right (e.g. American Free Press, NewsMax, OAN, Epoch Times, The Blaze, Breitbart, Fox News Opinion)
These media sources are often intentionally misleading. These “conservative” news sources target Democrats and make very unfair claims about them. News is reported that will stoke those who are furthest to the right. These folks know the spin they are putting on the news and are doing so deliberately. If Republicans get in trouble or make a big political mistake, these news outlets will try to keep the focus on something a Democrat did wrong. Like the extreme right, these organizations often belittle and mock Democrats. These news sources are known to spread rumors without correcting them later.
Extreme Right (e.g. QAnon, InfoWars)
News is reported that is very inaccurate and misleading. Conspiracy theories are often generated and proliferated here. Some of the most ungodly and immoral perspectives are also propagated here. Many of these people are so deceived that they barely realize they are spreading untruth. Most of these folks vote Republican.

How does this play out in the News?  Let’s use Wednesday, January 13, 2021 as an example. On the 13th, President Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.  That evening the home page headlines read like this…

Extreme Left

  • Headline: Terrorist Leader [Trump] Emerges From Cave, Says IT WAS A PERFECT CALL!!!
  • Headline: Twitter users unload their funniest jokes yet as Trump is impeached a second time

Far Left

  • Headline: Jake Tapper Shreds Kevin McCarthy’s Phony Concern For Unity
  • Headline: Whistleblowers say top Census Bureau political appointees tried last-minute anti-immigrant push
  • Headline: The surprising success of Nancy Pelosi's plan to box Trump in
  • Headline: Police officer fired and facing criminal charges for role in U.S. Capitol attack
  • Headline: Support For Impeachment Of Trump Increases In New Poll
  • Headline: Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend caught fleeing New York City in disgrace
  • Headline: TRUMP IMPEACHED AGAIN, ACCUSED OF INCITING INSURRECTION IN DEADLY CAPITOL RIOT

Mainstream Left

  • Huge Headline: IMPEACHED TWICE
  • Huge Headline: IMPEACHED AGAIN
  • Headline: It’s official: Donald Trump has been impeached for second time, several House Republicans vote to impeach
  • Headline: Donald Trump Impeached Again, With 10 Republicans Joining Democrats
  • Headline: House hands Trump a second impeachment, this time with GOP support

Center-Left

  • Larger than normal headline: Trump impeached after Capitol riot in historic second charge
  • Larger than normal headline: Key moments from the House debates on Trump's 2nd impeachment

Center

  • Average size headline: A Historic Second Impeachment for Trump

Center-Right

  • Average size headline: Trump Has Been Impeached—Again

Mainstream Right

  • Headline: House votes to make Trump the first US president to be impeached twice
  • Headline: Here Are The 10 Republicans Who Voted To Impeach Trump
  • Headline: ‘Nobody’s happy’: Isolated and impeached, Trump ends presidency on sour note
  • Headline: House Votes To Impeach President Trump For The Second Time
  • Headline: All the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump a Second Time

Far Right

  • Headlines: Antifa Terrorism Expands; Media Continues to Suppress Stories About Hunter Biden (no mention of House impeachment)
  • Headline: Trump releases video statement after second impeachment, addresses reports of new violent plots
  • Headline: If Trump Is Guilty Of ‘Incitement’, then So Are Half The Democrats In Congress
  • Headline: Trump Calls for 'Safe' Transition, (no mention of the House impeachment)
  • Headlines: Very Large--“Conservatives Move to Strip Liz Cheney of Leadership Job”; Medium Size--“President Trump Condemns Capitol Violence in Oval Office Address”; Medium Size--“Rep. Green says she will file to Impeach Joe Biden once he is elected.”; Very Small Print--“House Impeaches Trump for 2nd Time in Unprecedented Vote Tied to DC Riot”
  • Headline: Here are the 10 House Republicans who turned their back on President Trump and voted to impeach

Extreme Right

  • Headline: “President Trump Condemns ‘Calamity At Capitol’ and Big Tech Censorship” (no mention of the House impeachment)

Perhaps by this point you have more appreciation for the task that our writers attempt each day. 🙂  And we know that many of you already do!
We don’t profess to do our job perfectly, but we do try to provide political news that we think is accurate. If there is a particular article that you think is inaccurate, we do want to hear from you!

Ernest Eby
Managing Editor

P.S. If you want a copy of the article “Plain Politics,” please let us know by replying to this email.

Category: Public

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