I am grateful for the press. Without them, we cannot have a democratic republic that functions and without people reading the press in-depth and doing their own homework and due-diligence with the skepticism of the press, democracy also ceases to function.
Our press is not perfect. I do not need for them to be perfect.
I do need them to be on the job and somewhat transparent.
They do a pretty good job of getting facts, digging, and quoting people directly. Sometimes, they paraphrase, but not when they quote what is in print or on the net.
They are gatekeepers for news. That is why I do not settle for one outlet. For instance, Hurricane Harvey has gotten a lot of attention and I saw nothing about the floods and loss of life in South Asia until it was called to my attention. So I started browsing the foreign press and there was plenty of news from credible sources.
I think the press gatekeepers are often driven by what is popular, interesting to the masses, and attractive to their corporate sponsors. That is a problem, but it can be overcome by intelligent and skeptical people who do a little digging. The news is out there --- and not just commentary and infotainment news.
They counterbalance government and are absolutely necessary for accountability and the government's tendency to say, "Trust us." They do not intrinsically trust government and that is good.
They are biased, but not the way we tend to think. Everyone is biased. Of course we are biased. We cannot be unbiased. We can admit our biases and let me know them. I know the bias of every major news outlet I read and I check them against each other. That is my job. Americans are smart enough to do their own work.
One area of bias is that what will sell gets the biggest attention. That, by the way, is neither liberal nor conservative by our faulty definitions of those terms. In the case of the rise of Trump, the media gave him more attention in the early days because he sent up ratings. They contributed to creating him as a credible contender. It was a business decision.
That being said, they have, for a hundred years, given status quo candidates of both parties the most attention. They make educated guesses on where voters are most likely to gravitate and where news is most likely to accumulate and they follow it. This has been a very conservative approach.
We can overcome our distaste of what we perceive as bias, I think, by doing more reading than viewing. My news choices are in this order:
1. Primary sources when possible - The actual words of people. For all those who tweet, blog, make statements, and issue position papers, their words are fair game for quoting and critiquing,
2. Print media and its counterparts on the internet - READING material with footnotes and the ability to fact check.
3. Non-commercial radio (and podcast) news that interviews people and covers stories in-depth - not the "infortaining news talk" that is so popular.
4. If necessary, television, but PBS and good documentaries that really dig in and give me sources I can check for myself... which I do. I rarely get enough information on the things that really interest me. So I dig more.
A good press does not assume that both sides of every issue are equally valid in their viewpoint. If one side consistently misrepresents truth, is sloppy with facts, or takes a morally dubious position, they do not deserve the presumption of equal credibility. For instance, if two sides are arguing about whether genocide is moral, I do not expect the press to say that both sides have good points.
There are two roles in the press. One is the one who gathers, digests, and presents the news. The other is the one who consumes it, weighs it, evaluates it, responds to it, and dialogues with the first. Without both, there is no real press.
If we just write them off, we are surrendering our destinies to whoever happens to be in office at any given time.
Remember that God sent the thorn in Paul's flesh and God really liked Paul and wanted to make him more effective. Our leaders should be thankful for their thorns too. Properly appreciate, they can make them more effective.
The press is like the fourth branch of any government with democratic values that values freedom.