My colleague Mike Miller reported Thursday on an eye-opening moment that happened earlier this week when NBC News anchor Lester Holt accepted the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award during the 45th Murrow Symposium, which was virtual this year due to the pandemic.
As he gave his speech, Holt told Washington State University’s College of Communications that “fairness” in journalism “is overrated,” proclaiming that some arguments were objectively true and that their counterarguments did not deserve equal time. For those who missed it, here are some excerpts, with the video to follow:
“The unprecedented attacks on the press in this period I’m sure will fill plenty of books….But I have a few early observations I’ll share about where this moment brings us and what we can learn,” Holt proclaimed during his speech. He followed up by announcing: “Number one is, I think it’s become clearer that fairness is overrated.”
Woah, before you run off and tweet that headline, let me explain a bit. The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the Sun sets in the west is a fact, any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention. And I know recent events assure that you won’t have to look far to find more current and relevant examples. I think you get my point.”
NBC’s Lester Holt declares that “fairness is overrated” and that “the idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in.”pic.twitter.com/qwya8lISz2
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) April 1, 2021
Naturally, CNN’s resident media hall monitor Brian Stelter and far-left journalism professor Jay Rosen were among the Usual Suspects who applauded Holt’s remarks:
When the chief anchor of one of the major networks agrees that bothsidesing everything is bad practice, critics have finally won a point and they should celebrate. This is from @brianstelter‘s newsletter. pic.twitter.com/Z79lvPuJsV
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) March 31, 2021
If the mainstream media had a proven track record of being consistent purveyors of accurate information, Holt’s argument would hold some weight. But this is the same media that routinely and purposely pushed a number of false or highly misleading stories over just the last four years alone, with the Russia collusion hoax being the one that stands out the most among many media critics on the right.
With that in mind, it’s hardly a shock that so many understandably do not see the MSM as the arbiters of what is objectively true and what isn’t. Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume, a veteran journalist with decades of experience in the industry, weighed in on Holt’s comments with some valuable insights:
This argument rests on the proposition that the media always know the truth. But they don’t, as his own network’s coverage of the bogus — and implausible — Russia collusion tale illustrates. Not to mention the media’s reporting of early Covid 19 advice that turned out wrong. https://t.co/riS8fQqOJA
— Brit Hume (@brithume) April 1, 2021
Hume went on to argue that most political arguments were not as cut and dry as some in the media make them out to be and that it was the job of journalists to report both sides of an argument and then let readers and viewers (and not the press) decide where they stand on the matter:
Obviously if one side says the White House is made of powdered milk, and the other disagrees, we can safely ignore the milk claim. But political disputes are rarely so cut and dried. So we report what both sides are saying and let viewers and readers make up their own minds.
— Brit Hume (@brithume) April 1, 2021
Hume’s observations will fly in the face of so-called “media reporters” like Stelter who have actually gone on record in recent months stating that they felt it was the media’s job to filter out stories and opinions they didn’t think their audiences should see. In October, Stelter framed his argument from an absurd “media as heroes” perspective, suggesting they were just trying to “protect the public” from “lies”:
East Coast news companies and West Coast tech companies are increasingly being put in the position of protecting the public from the American president’s dangerous, democracy-eroding lies. https://t.co/IKLyEAP8bD
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 12, 2020
To say this is a dangerously stupid position for a media figure to take would be quite an understatement. Reporters are not supposed to be in the business of “protecting the public” from what politicians, candidates for higher office, and the like say. Period.
If they want to do fact checks, fine (as long as they are fair and honest). If they want to include a note about putting something in context, fine. Let readers and viewers see the original comments and read/watch the fact checks and contextual links if necessary in order to decide for themselves.
But to keep it from them altogether? No. That is not the media’s role. And no amount of spin from Stelter, Rosen, Holt, or any other supposedly respectable media figure/expert should convince anyone otherwise.
Let’s also not forget that the reason Lester Holt is in the position he’s in is because his predecessor was caught in a big lie back in 2015:
Brian Williams isn’t out, but he’s not back in either. NBC’s Lester Holt will be taking over the former Nightly News anchor’s chair, and Williams will take some other role at the network that hasn’t been announced yet.
The host of Nightly News for 10 years, Williams was suspended from the program in February when reports surfaced that the anchor had misrepresented his time covering the Iraq War in 2003. The anchor stated several times that a Chinook helicopter that he had been riding in was forced to make an emergency landing after coming under enemy fire, but recanted the story this year after it was revealed the attack never happened.
I rest my case.