Media integrity, part two

Published 6:10 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Last week, I wrote about reporters that had either let their political bias or their reporting inexperience allow them to report stories that had been created by the administration in Washington, without doing the necessary fact checking they should have been schooled in before going on their first reporting assignment.

This week, I wanted to follow up with another sad situation found in today’s leading news outlets. A situation where reporters are given the liberty to move freely between reporting the news and given opinion license; leaving viewers and readers unsure of when they are reporting and when they are producing an opinion piece.

We see it on a regular basis in a gimic seen in many large newspapers known as “politifacts.” In these pieces, reporters select something that is said or written publically and analyze how pure the statement is. The reporter allows himself to be the arbitrator of who or what are the “real” facts.

Sometimes they are fair, while other times they choose to turn to bias sources to challenge the original statement. Other times they select softball statements that are of no consequence and find them factual. Using this method often leaves the impression that one speaker is more honest than another.

Recently, superstar news anchor Katie Couric used her renowned position as a news reader in support of the gun control lobby by deceptively editing to make Second Amendment supporters look foolish.

In “Under the Gun,” a so called documentary, Couric asks a group of gun rights supporters, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?” The documentary filmmakers spliced in footage of the activists sitting silently for nine seconds. One man looks down, seemingly uncomfortable, during the awkward silence. The documentary then moves on to the next scene of a cylinder on a revolver being closed. Audio later released by gun rights supporters show that there was no delay in responding.  They responded immediately to Couric’s question without hesitation.

Couric had invited gun rights advocates to be part of the documentary with the intention of using them to distort their position rather than to give them a chance for a balanced report. When questioned about this provocative editing, she denied that it was done to cast the gun owners in a bad light then half way “apologized” if they were offended. Her actions were so blatant that even National Public Broadcasting, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post did editorials condemning the piece.

None of us can be completely sure of the accuracy of reporting a generation or two ago. Maybe the bias existed then also, but with far fewer news outlets we simply were not aware of what was not reported. Reporting the news factually is an honored profession. Those who report the news must set their standards high.

Frank Ruff, a Republican, represents Lunenburg County in the Virginia Senate. His email address is