Like all businesses, media outlets need money to keep their lights on too. This can lead to uncomfortable situations and “conflicts of interest” when reporting.
On Full Measure, we’ve reported on the many factors impacting, even slanting how the news is reported. Today, we hear from Ruben Navarrette, a nationally syndicated Latino columnist who has worked in journalism for 30 years. He has some eye-opening personal insight on how the news is shaped today.
Sharyl: You have talked about the fact that you don’t fit neatly into an expected box as a journalist. Explain what you mean by that.
Ruben Navarrette: Well, I think as a Latino journalist in particular, you have to deal with the numbers here. Latinos are, on the one hand, 60 million people in this country. They’re the largest ethnic group. You would not know any of this from the ranks of journalists. If you look at journalism and journalistic ranks on television, on radio, digital, print newspapers, we’re bare minimum, two, three, 4% at most, in many of these places. And then they try to put you in a little box based on their preconceived notions of how you should behave.
Sharyl: Do you call yourself a Democrat, a Republican, mix, neither, conservative, liberal?
Navarrette: I come from the Sharyl Attkisson school of journalism that says you shouldn’t have to choose. I’m an independent journalist. I am most effective when I’m calling balls and strikes.
Sharyl: When you look for a job as a journalist, do you feel as though they also want you to fill writing about a certain thing a certain way, and that they can count on you to feel a certain way?
Sharyl: But you don’t always. What problem has that posed?
Navarrette: I’ve been fired eight times in the course of 30 years. I had many more opportunities than I say I’ve lost, so I’m grateful in the overall. But yeah, I’ve been fired because there are people who have a certain rigid notion of what I’m going to be like. I don’t know if I fit that role. So it’s really kind of man without a country. It’s a very interesting phenomenon to go through. One example I can think of, I was at CNN for a number of years. I was covering Barack Obama and the Obama administration’s really terrible record of deportations. Over eight years, the Barack Obama administration deported three million people, separated families, put kids in cages. I was told by my boss, I needed to stop writing about that. People are tired of reading about that. People are tired of reading about how Barack Obama, a Democrat, the first black president has deported three million people, most of them Latino? What that editor meant to say was people here are tired of hearing of that. Not people out there; people in CNN, in the building, on the staff are tired of you saying that. So ultimately, given a direct order not to write about that anymore. I wrote about it. I continued to write about it until I no longer worked there.
Sharyl: Do you feel as though they would be happy if you wrote the same thing about the Trump administration?
Navarrette: Delighted. I had no way of imagining how enthusiastic my colleagues would become. A lot of white liberals in New York City and Washington DC who run media have found, suddenly, the compassion and love in their heart for immigrants they didn’t know was there, because for eight years, they didn’t give a crap about the fact that a Democrat and a black president was deporting all these people. But now that Trump is there, man, they do care, and do they love immigrants.
Sharyl: We talk about how this impacts you, but of course this impacts the product that people see and the news that they get.
Sharyl: What do you say to them?
Navarrette: This idea, somehow, that somebody promised them that they’d get the full story is nonsense. Nobody made that promise. They may have assumed it. They may have wanted that to be the case, but I think they have to live with the choices they’ve made. If you want to only watch one and be siloed in your news, your consumption of news, don’t be surprised when you only understand half the story. So digest your news. Watch your diet. We’re very careful about what we put into our bodies. We should be just as careful about what we put into our heads.
Sharyl (on camera): You can catch Navarrette’s nationally syndicated columns twice a week in 150 newspapers belonging to the Washington Post Writers Group.
One of the most flagrant examples of media “conflicts of interest” may be The New York Times partnering with Verizon to create a 5G Journalism Lab and publishing biased articles about 5G opponents. Awkward.