Is media bias impairing reporting on Benghazi?

05/23/2014 1:55 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

One of the hallmarks of a democracy that is clearly lacking in a dictatorship is a free press.

Most dictators have complete control of the press and only allow it to report what reflects well on them. Recent developments in the United States make one wonder whether we are not heading into similar trouble.

For some years surveys have shown that more TV network executives, journalists and newspaper reporters affiliate with Democrats than with other parties. In the last presidential election, a large majority of the contributions from TV network executives went to Democrats.

This news media bias is clarified not by what a reporter writes but in what he or she chooses not to cover. A recent example is the Benghazi issue.

The attack on the American Embassy at Benghazi occurred on Sept. 11, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, along with three other Americans were killed by al-Qaida-linked terrorists.

Ambassador Stevens called for help, but it didn’t arrive in time to save his life. When this incident first occurred it was covered most in depth by Fox News, a network with a conservative bias, that accused the White House of deception in its report of what happened.

The major networks were less interested until after the re-election of President Barack Obama. The killing of an ambassador is a major event; as is the killing of Americans by al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists; or any attack on an American Embassy; and yet little in-depth investigative reporting followed.

Once the election was over and the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and others had testified, the story began to expand. It continues with the recent release of documents by the White House, which seemed to confirm the administration’s plan to spin the story to enhance President Obama’s campaign.

It is a sad story of incompetence and lack of attention to the protection of Americans in a foreign land. The American people deserve to know what was going on and why.

And they should have had the information before they voted. Is not the goal of news media to report the facts that are known at the time and keep voters informed?

So the question is: Did the mainline news media choose not to fully report the story because of a fear that it would negatively influence the election for Democrats? A survey done by conservative researchers during the 2008 presidential election reported that a majority of Americans believe news media bias is a bigger problem for the electoral process than large campaign donations.

There has been considerable talk lately about the low-information voter. The implication is that some voters are not interested in reading broadly or in critical thinking and are willing to accept whatever they hear. But unless you follow politics closely to know where the bias lies, it is difficult to determine, especially if facts are scarce.

There is a story recalled on a conservative website about a race between a Russian and an American during the Cold War. The American won. The Russian press reported that the Russian came in second and the American came in next to last. Although the report was accurate, it certainly gave a very different view of the race.

Americans might tolerate a biased press, if they could just get the facts.

Carol Dark Ayres is a retired educator from Leavenworth. To reach her, send email to oped@kcstar.com.

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