Why The Mirror did not vote for president

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest, or so an old folk song goes.

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest, or so an old folk song goes.

That is one reason The Mirror did not endorse a candidate for U.S. president. Another reason: With all the facts and garbage swirling around the mainstream media’s toilet, The Mirror chose to stay clean — and keep coverage local, as it should be.

The mainstream media has been an embarrassment on both sides of the political spectrum, from MSNBC (liberal bias) to Fox News (conservative bias). Perhaps newspapers get more of a pass because both TV and the Internet must feed a 24-hour news cycle that depends on high-intensity sensationalism. Only ratings matter in the end, and people gravitate to the news that fits their filters.

The Mirror avoided topics on this presidential election, in part because the non-local discourse was soaked in trivial arguments instead of serious issues. This self-imposed sanction offered an easy way to say no to columnists and readers.

Consider one resident who visited The Mirror’s office with a letter addressed to the president, two senators and a congressman. The resident, a regular Fox News viewer, believed Barack Obama was a Muslim and demanded an FBI security check. The letter went on to list several examples of how a Muslim cannot be a good American. The senior letter writer was a World War II veteran who also brought a military photo scrapbook showing “real Americans.”

You couldn’t have changed this man’s mind if Jesus and Obama suddenly appeared in a puff of smoke, hugging like brothers. On the flip side, Seattle liberals wouldn’t vote Republican even if Jimi Hendrix rose from the dead and played a pro-John McCain concert at the Space Needle.

Media bias will never go away. Bias shows in everything from a news outlet’s story selection to the tone of its editorials and headlines. The Mirror has been accused of bias from both sides of the spectrum, although we strive to represent as many views as possible on our opinion pages (even some we do not agree with). People will give credibility to the news that suits their views and values, and reject the rest.

Consider talk shows on Fox News and MSNBC that feature both conservative and liberal pundits. So-called liberals on Fox are meant to lose arguments in order to bolster the conservative side, thus conforming to viewers’ expectations. The same goes for conservative commentators on MSNBC’s “Hardball” who lose every argument, thus propping up the liberal view.

Regardless, news and truth should not be partisan. Bloggers and late-night comedy have become unlikely heroes as they torpedo the media’s shortcomings. Even if the media takes the high road more often than we notice, it is hard to have faith.

The media acts as a conduit of influence, but media hijackers work tirelessly to clog that channel with self-serving junk. On the other hand, in order to survive, the media must capture your attention by jacking up the emotional connection.

Ultimately, it is the public’s responsibility to decipher between amplified rhetoric and old-fashioned facts. As long as we agree to let the media make these decisions for us, “fair and balanced” will always be a matter of opinion.

Mirror editor Andy Hobbs: editor@fedwaymirror.com

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