The role of the media in a democracy was on the ballot this week as CNN and Fox News hurt the standing of the profession in their wildly different coverage of the US presidential election. It reminded one of ANN7 and occupants of 47 Sauer Street in the lead up to 2017 Nasrec.
Top personalities at Fox News baselessly called into question the legitimacy of the election, parroting the dangerous rhetoric from Donald Trump aimed at portraying the poll as rigged.
The station has long been harnessed by Trump in his desperate effort to cling to power by impugning the integrity of the contest should, as the polls suggest, he be a one-term president.
Trump’s cosy relationship with Fox owner Rupert Murdoch is also not detrimental to this unholy alliance.
The weaponisation of the station against the very tenets of democracy worked – thousands of Trump’s defence force descended on poll counting halls demanding the counting of votes seize – a blatant attack on democratic values stating that every voter must be heard thought the power of their vote.
In Atlanta – CNN’s headquarters – the frustration and disgust (when at one stage it appeared Trump was on course for re-election) was visible.
Viewers across the world were subjected to coverage that resembled a hurt family following news of the passing of a loved one – all semblance of news reporting was thrown out the window.
However, the mood soon changed as the tide turned in Joe Biden’s favour – the analysis suddenly became sharp and happy faces resurfaced.
CNN is simply a partisan advocacy group that expends virtually all of its energy on attacking Trump and propping up Biden.
As suggested above, South Africa is not immune to partisan and factionalist media. By just reading newspapers in the lead up to the ANC’s last conference, a reasonable reader knew who different media supported. Some where blatant about their support while others were discreet – and the Nasrec hangover still dogs some publications.
We need to have an honest conversation as an industry about our biases and call each other out for failing to be impartial in our reporting. Our readers and viewers use information they glean from the media to make important decisions every day, not just during elections.
More than ever before, we need to assess whether the information that reaches the population is accurate, biased or flat-out lies.