I shadowed videographer Brandon Kusz at local NBC affiliate news station WNDU (News Center 16) during the first hours of his shift, which tends to start around 2:30 or 3 to edit and get live shots for the morning news.
While the massive censorship of war correspondents and individuals during the WWII controlled a lot of the print sources of news,
emerging technologies were treated differently from the beginning. Unlike a newspaper that you pay to read and have to pay close
attention to, radio and television could be accessed by anyone with a set. With information and content just flying around in the air, the FCC swooped in with the famous/infamous Fairness Doctrine. Broadcasters could take a stand or allow others to, but must give a
reasonably balanced presentation by having both sides. TV and radio could be a forum for opposing views, but were not meant to be places for opinionated, biased news.
At first that concept seems laughable compared to the extremes of cable news channels today, like Fox News and MSNBC. More conservative viewers might claim there is bias in what is presented as more neutral news by the so called liberal media. However the presence of those extremes, in a way, is more of a similarity to the Fairness Doctrine than a difference. Instead of forcing every source to share both sides, opening up channels to have the freedom to express each side allows for an ideologically balanced media. People can choose to go to them, and in the case of cable channels like CNN, have to pay for them, so make even more of a choice to pick what news they want to hear, see, and know.
A big difference between the big broadcast networks lied more in their motivations for being on air. NBC and CBS lost money in the 50s and 60s, but served as public interest programming to please the FCC and put them closer to the important public affairs and history being made as they covered it. Fox and MSNBC are arguably more about making money than informing the public or doing the public a service. Studies such as this one about how informed Fox News viewers are misinformed about domestic affairs show how going to the news tilted to what you agree with can reinforce what you want more than help you learn the truth about the world.
And as far as whether news should be neutral and what is better motive is news, the question of professional objectivity is still one present today. After all, having a blatant opinion or political motive isn’t the only way to be biased. What a station chooses to air as important, relevant, and interesting, as well as how they frame it and how they tell the story can give away or inject a bias. It’s more subtle and sometimes more effective, and whether or not its intentional can change the way viewers receive,feel about, and act upon what they learn about the world. Is it even possible to have truly unbiased news? Does it matter if it is pure and solely informative if people don’t watch and a show no longer has money to go on?