The Universal Notebook: Fake news, alternative facts, media bias

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The Trump administration is making a lot of noise these days about fake news, but that’s all it is, noise. They are the fakers.

In a desperate attempt to discredit the fact-finders who might hold them accountable for their misdeeds, the Trump team is attacking the media, the courts and the intelligence agencies. They even attacked the electoral system until Trump’s improbable victory.

Trump’s dirty tricks may work with his gullible base, but I’d like to believe the majority of Americans see his tweet storms for what they are. Unfortunately, there are signs they don’t.

According to a Harvard-Harris poll released in May, 65percent of Americans believe there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media. The same poll found that 60 percent of Americans think Trump treats the media unfairly. Americans don’t seem to know who to believe anymore and, as a result, don’t trust anyone.

A Gallup poll on Confidence in Institutions found that Americans have more confidence in the military (72 percent) and police (57 percent) than they do in religion (41 percent), the Supreme Court (40 percent), medical system (37 percent), public schools (36 percent) presidency (32 percent), banks (32 percent), criminal justice system (27 percent), newspapers (27 percent), television news (24 percent), big business (21 percent) or Congress (12 percent).

That sounds like a recipe for a police state.

When it comes to news, some Americans, suffering from information overload and out-of-control political spin, seem to have lost their ability to distinguish between fact and opinion. The fact that someone has a different opinion from you does not mean they are wrong or liars, but if we can’t agree on what the facts are, we are in serious trouble.

The mainstream media does not knowingly publish or broadcast fake news. Fake news stories are total fabrication (see Hillary Clinton’s pizza parlor child sex ring). To report on Trump, his family and his flunkies dissembling about their Russian connections, however, is a legitimate story, the meaning of which will not be understood until all the facts are known.

On the other hand, the velocity of events these days does result in the media making a lot of mistakes in the rush to stay ahead of a story. Unlike Trump and our own Gov. Paul LePage, however, the mainstream media usually acknowledges its errors and gets it right in the end.

Portland at one time had as many as 11 newspapers, each with different points of view. But as the news business consolidated, the numbers dwindled and the surviving monopolies began making more of an effort to present facts and represent diverse views. Still, from the 1920s to the 1950s, the Republican Party dominated Maine and the news media, so there was an inborne conservative bias.

More recently, there has been a perception that the media has a liberal bias. That’s in part because educated, urban people tend to be liberal. To counter this perceived liberal bias, conservative forces launched their own media outlets such as conservative talk radio, alt-right websites and Fox News. They were so successful that they began believing their own propaganda – and so did a lot of gullible Americans.

As long as you realize that Fox News only presents a conservative point of view and MSNBC only presents a progressive point of view, you can consider the source and make your own judgment. But if you think either network is unbiased you may no longer be able to distinguish fact from fiction, reporting from editorializing.

The erosion of confidence in the media becomes even more insidious when the bias is undeclared. Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which owns WGME 13 in Portland, for example, made a deal to give Trump more positive coverage in exchange for greater access. Now Sinclair has its own Russian-born Trump administration propagandist, Boris Epshteyn, editorializing on all of its affiliates. So while you may still be able to trust news anchor Kim Block for local news, you can no longer trust WGME for national news.

The latest conservative media monkey-wrenching is to plant fake news stories in hopes of tripping up news organizations. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow was recently sent what looked like National Security Agency documents that named someone in the Trump administration as working with the Trump campaign on the Russian hacking of the U.S. election. To her credit, Maddow determined that the documents were forged and warned other media outlets to watch out for fake news traps.

The bottom line on fake news is that legitimate news organizations will follow the facts wherever they lead. The Trump administration takes its lumps in the media because it deserves them, but Trump’s attacks on the media are both self-serving and, ultimately, a threat not only to freedom of the press, but to freedom itself.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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  • Ted Markow

    Hoo boy, Ed, you really seem to enjoy poking at hornets’ nests, and this one should bring out the hornets ready to fly in all directions.

    Allow me to address two items:

    1. We need another Fairness Doctrine (as I believe you have called for). Consolidation of the media has concentrated it in unhealthy ways and made it even more susceptible to being used as mass propaganda. In order for Americans to stop being further dumbed-down by a selective echo-chamber, we need a method of offering opposing views so that Americans can be exposed to a broad array of views. That is required in order for a healthy democracy, but is sadly now missing.

    2. Given that Americans are deluged with “information” that supports their bias and further misinforms them, it is any wonder that we would gravitate toward a police state? If there is one over-arching theme that is coming through, it is that of terror and terrorism and fear of the “other.” And when the populace is terrified, they will clamor for “protection” above all else. But at what a cost.

    A stanza from a Wendell Berry poem (my favorite poet), Song in a Year of Catastrophe, goes:

    And I heard the sound
    of a great engine pounding
    in the air, and a voice asking:
    “Change or slavery?
    Hardship or slavery?”
    and voices answering:
    “Slavery! Slavery!”
    And I was afraid, loving what I knew would be lost.

    • EdBeem

      1. Yes, Reagan getting rid of the Fairness Doctrine was a decisive development in the erosion of public confidence in the media. If I had my way, broadcast and cable networks would have to GIVE equal to all candidates and none other than registered voters would be allowed to contribute to election campaigns. 2. America voted its fears and we all ended up with a fool for a president.

    • Little crow

      Who gets to decide what’s fair? The Fairness Doctrine had noble aims but is unworkable. The best counterpoint to speech you don’t like is more speech.

      Often what is perceived as news bias or propaganda isn’t unfactual, but a selection of true facts that only support one point of view. The mainstream media is widely perceived as leftist not because it lies (which it sometimes does), but because it only features scandals about Republicans or conservatives, while tending to overlook or downplay those of Democrats or liberals.

      There is a tendency among liberals to depict those who disagree with them as uneducated morons, and this is not helpful, nor is it true.

      • EdBeem

        The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was — in the Commission’s view — honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC, which was believed to have been under pressure from then President Ronald Reagan[citation needed], eliminated the Doctrine in 1987. The FCC formally removed the language that implemented the Doctrine, in August 2011.[1]

        The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The demise of this FCC rule has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States.[2][3]

        • Little crow

          I think things would be polarized anyway. I have a grudging admiration for leftists because they stick together for the long haul, they keep hammering away and never quit. That’s why we have a government that’s entirely controlled by Republicans, but to the omniscient observer it would appear that the Democrats are in charge. The only problem is that for many leftists the end justifies the means, and lying and cheating are OK as long as you get what you want.

          The Republicans, by contrast, are the Barney Fifes of the political world, afraid of their own shadow, or more precisely, afraid of being accused of being a racist. They’re always playing defense, and always trying to get the media to like them. And the media is never going to like them.

          That’s why there’s a Tea Party movement of conservatives, exasperated with voting for Republicans who talk like conservatives, then go to Washington and act like all the other politicians. Republicans voted 5 times to repeal Obamacare while Obama was president, knowing he would veto it. Now that they are in charge and the real vote comes up, they chicken out.

          The Democrats would never do that. It would be pedal to the metal, just like when they passed Obamacare without a single Republican vote. Because it was a spending bill and those must initiate in the House (which had since gone Republican) they stripped the language out of another bill that had passed and replaced it with Obamacare, then sent it to the Democrat Senate where majority leader Harry Reid refused to seat Senator Scott Brown, and that’s how it “passed”. Then in the court challenge Judge Roberts rewrote the law as a tax, which its proponents swore it was not, and it became “law”.

          • EdBeem

            ACA was a good faith attempt to provide health care coverage for millions of Americans. The way it was passed was unfortunate, but the motives were good and honest. The AHCA and subsequent attempt to destroy the ACA are cynical attempts by the GOP to win an ideological war despite the fact that they would hurt millions of Americans. I keep thinking the few decent members of the GOP will come around and realize that what they support is bad for the people who elected them, but I over estimated how many decent Republicans there are in Congress. There are only three.

          • Chew H Bird

            The ACA failed to address the core issue. If a building is to last a long time it needs a string foundation. Had our elected politicians actually made a decision about single payer or private payer, and designed the proper infrastructure prior to implementing the ACA we would not be debating this now. The ACA is the worst of both worlds and failed to reign in costs in order to provide benefits.

            The repeal and replace mantra matters not but failure to properly design and implement a health process that affects every taxpayer to a huge degree, while implementing penalties for non-compliance is one of the worst policies ever conceived by our career politicians.

          • EdBeem

            If the penalties under the ACA had been stiff enough to force everyone in to the system, it might have worked better. I am for single-payer universal health care, Medicare for All, but in the meantime I believe we should be working to fix what’s wrong with the ACA. The Republicans can’t and won’t help because most of them do not believe the government has a role to play in health care.

          • Chew H Bird

            Our government began it’s role in healthcare the first time a medic was dispatched to assist wounded soldiers so any argument that government should not be involved with healthcare is simply ignoring the truth.

            That said, I believe the problems at the VA indicate our government is incapable of managing a complex health system in a modern and cost effective manner while delivering reasonable care to our population.

            Medicare involves private entities and public reimbursement and that is the most likely long term outcome of single payer (single payer and multiple providers).

          • poppypapa

            Good motives……I think not. But that’s enough? The motives were clearly political, and if you can’t see or accept that, you want to live under the thumb of government.

            Roads, paving, etc. Time to recall an old saw.

            A one size fits all dictate driven by individual political demands (Nebraska kickbacks, etc) is intrinsically not in the public’s best interest. Anymore than having newspapers owned and published by the feds.

      • EdBeem

        I have pasted in a couple of pieces below just to establish what the Fairness Doctrine was. It is often said that the end of the Fairness Doctrine gave rise to partisan broadcasting which, in turn, has resulted in the political paralysis, silo thinking and ideological echo chambers that are destroying this country from within (now aided and abetted by the Russians). We were better off when companies using the public airways were required to air opposing views. Not sure Anthony Weiner would agree with you about the media favoring GOP scandals. When it comes to the 2016 election which has thrown this country into an existential crisis, there were not legitimate opposing views. There is no way that Donald Trump was a legitimate candidate. He just pandered to ignorance, prejudice and fear. Now we have a dangerous, delusional fool for a president who is hated by the majority of Americans, has made the USA an international laughingstock and is closer to a murderous dictator like Putin than he is to the American people. Trump’s presidency is undermining the very foundations of American democracy.

        • Chew H Bird

          But he won the election because the other candidate was as bad (or possibly worse). The popular vote differential was created by only two states, New York and California so the argument that Hillary won the popular vote is skewed. My question is why neither of our two major political were capable of nominating intelligent, honest, ethical people with reasonable knowledge of how to improve conditions for regular folks? Once we answer that question, and do the work to fix the riff raff that allowed this situation to occur, we can actually improve our country.

          • Ted Markow

            Man, I can’t argue with that!

          • EdBeem

            Hillary Clinton was well qualified, but the alt-right had spent decades and millions demonizing her. And then there is sexism. Trump won by appealing to racists, sexists, Islamophobes, gun nuts, “Christians,” and the huddles masses yearning for a dictator. I’m not sure why it matter what state a voter lives in. Under our currents system, a voter in Wyoming has more say in the election than a voter in California. That’s not right. The majority of American voters did not want Donald Trump and, if he is fool enough to dismiss Mueller, I’m afraid we will see a major uprising of outraged Americans.

          • poppypapa

            The majority of American voters did not want Bill Clinton, and that started Hillary’s descent to greatness. When are you going to give us your analysis of that series of events?

          • EdBeem

            Clinton won the popular vote in 1992 and 1996. We need to get rid of the electoral college and let the people elect the president, one person, one vote, no corporate, union or PAC money.

          • poppypapa

            Well; funny how you parse your words to suit your purpose. He may have “won the popular vote,” with a plurality of 43%, but the “majority of American voters did not want” him. He won with a plurality and the Electoral College win.

            I’m not going to research the subject, but it wouldn’t surprise me if his winning plurality is the smallest ever for President.

            So you should be fine with both of LePage’s wins. Right?

            BTW, what do you think the outcome would have been if Perot was not in the race?

          • EdBeem

            Abraham Lincoln, 1860, 39.8%

          • poppypapa

            Glad I could give you something to make you feel a sense of purpose.

            The numerics, however do not change the point.

            Just for fun, are you suggesting Trump is the next Lincoln historically?

          • EdBeem

            Nope. Just providing you with the information. Trump won’t make it through one term.

          • Chew H Bird

            As long as we nominate and elect candidates who are polarizing we will continue to have major issues with all aspects of our government. George McGovern’s acceptance speech in 1972 is far more conservative than any major candidates of the last three election cycles and McGovern was seen by many (my Dad included), as a “gateway to communism”).

          • EdBeem

            Yep, and George W looks pretty reasonable compared to the pack of GOP loony-tunes we have now.

          • Just Sayin’

            Why does it matter what state people are in when we’re talking about the Popular Vote? They’re still people, they still voted. To mention they’re from New York and California has no bearing on ANYTHING AT ALL relative to the popular vote. Those people are still as entitled to their vote as any other citizen is, with no exceptions.

            The argument that she won the popular vote isn’t skewed at all. There is no way to skew the popular vote, it is the most direct representation of the will of the people. Anyone trying to say otherwise is the one trying to skew things.

          • Chew H Bird

            It matters because the door is open for candidates with high appeal in limited areas to win. Let’s just say for example “johnny B” were to win California (his home state) by 5 million votes and “Sally Sue” squeaks by in most other states which would result in an electoral landslide. If the popular vote is the determining factor you have a President who has limited appeal outside of their home state that the rest of the country doesn’t want. How would that be fair and, just as important, how would that change the campaign strategies of the major parties?

          • Just Sayin’

            Oh please. First off, if this is your justification, why are you whining about California in the first place? California doesn’t have any special attachment to Clinton, but you still accuse that state of skewing the vote. Your explanation fails to fit your argument here.

            Secondly, I highly doubt that you’d find a situation that has a candidate wildly unpopular in one large state and unpopular everywhere else. Before we open that can of worms however, I will point out that the original focus of this discussion was on the popular vote, and if your idea of ‘skewing’ the vote is simply having home turf advantage, how can Hillary be said to skew the vote more than Trump does? They’re both widely known figures who came to the race with followers already lining up behind them.

            How is singling out California and New York anything more than a convenient way to try to marginalize a large bloc of votes that didn’t go your way?

          • Chew H Bird

            We nominated two polarizing candidates with enough baggage to ground all airlines for decades. Certain geographic areas demonstrated strong preferences for the certain candidates. I was not a fan of either candidate and dearly wished we had a person of integrity and an understanding of ethics as an option. The point is there needs to be a balance between populations and geography the popular vote, (by itself), is not capable of delivering.

          • Just Sayin’

            While I agree about the candidates, I still don’t see any evidence that backs up what you’re saying about the popular vote. A one citizen, one vote is still as direct an expression of the will of the people as you can get.

            I don’t even see why you’re arguing about the popular vote of California. With the electoral college, California went for Hillary. There were Trump voters in that state who’s votes would have added to Trump’s total in a popular vote, but didn’t because of the electoral colleges.

            You say it would be unfair to use the popular vote because certain dense geographic regions would end up with a stronger voting influence than they do now. Let’s take a look at that, and first remember that regions only vote as a bloc under the Electoral College. In a popular vote, people would be free to vote and know it would count regardless of what their neighbors choose to do.

            Moreover, lets look at the weighting of the current system. In California, since you want to use that is an example. According to the most recent census data, there are 39,250,017 people in California. They get 55 electoral votes. This means that the state has 713,627 voters per electoral vote.

            A low density state in comparison, like Montana, has 1,042,520 people and 3 electoral votes. This means they have 347,507 voters per electoral vote. This means that the rural voter’s vote counts just over TWICE as much as the urban voter’s vote within the electoral college. Is this fair? Is it truly representative of the will of the people?

            Let’s not forget the massive issues we have with Gerrymandering as well, all of which go away if we rely on a straight up popular vote.

            So to sum up, we have unequal voting rights and corruption setting the lines of voting districts to achieve specific results, and you think the popular vote is the one that’s failing when it’s not even in use?

            I remain unconvinced.

          • Chew H Bird

            So, since the job of the candidates is to sell themselves to the American people, and they usually rely on their party affiliation to assist with the process, what if we had a system where both the popular vote and electoral college were weighted in some manner to provide integrity to the process?

            I don’t have the knowledge to propose the details, but since getting votes is essentially a sales job, perhaps some sort of variation on standard sales practices might improve the process. Many, (if not most) sales oriented organizations have in place systems that reward based upon volume and margin. If we think of volume as the popular vote and margin as electoral, is there an easy to understand matrix that improves the process? I’m not talking about the crap that is happening in Maine, but a checks and balances process that reduces the impact of high population density areas so candidates care about states other than New York, California, Florida, Ohio, and PA.

            Heck, if popular vote was all that counted only a handful of states would be on the campaign trail list and Maine would probably never see another presidential candidate…

          • EdBeem

            Hillary Clinton won in Maine by 22,000 votes. She won in the US by 3,000,000 and we still have this mean, stupid moron as president. We need to fix the system. I don’t think it should matter where the votes come from. Maybe we just require candidates to appear at least once in all 50 states. Lots of states were not visited by Clinton or Trump and they were probably better off for it.http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/campaign-events-2016

          • Chew H Bird

            While I am appalled at much of what our current President says, I believe we would have an equivalent ration of discomfort and stress had Ms. Clinton won the election. Of course there is no way to know that for certain, but each major candidate had enough flaws, perceived or actual, to have kept opposing views and dirty tricks sustained for many years.

            In my opinion, it is the Republican and Democratic parties that have perverted the system to the point where we ended up with these two candidates. I firmly believe the Democratic Party would have nominated Bernie Sanders if not for dirty back room deals. I also believe, if the Republicans had gotten off their moral superiority high horse and stopped worrying about what happens in bedrooms and in doctor offices, they could have found a worthy candidate as they certainly did as little as possible to assist their eventual nominee.

            The bottom line is no matter the opinion of our current President, the Democrats nominated the only candidate he could defeat. Stupidity on both side has put us in this situation and it was exasperated by the Democrats dislike of Bush and the Republicans dislike of Obama to the point where the worst of both parties rose to the top of the outhouse.

          • Just Sayin’

            I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Getting votes has become a sales job, and that’s one of the fundamental problems plaguing our democracy right now. I think one of the best moves we could make would be to initiate some strict public campaign finance reform, and stop our candidates having to compromise themselves to earn the insane amounts of money a campaign requires.

            The additional benefit of public campaign financing is that it could include controls that make sure that the candidates visit every state for either town halls or open debats, making sure they address the needs and concerns of both rural and urban states along the way.

            With that kind of framework in place I don’t really see the need for the electoral college. Rural states would still be getting an equal share of the election runup focus by law, and continue to have equal representation in congress for legislative matters. (I include congress in public campaign finance reform. We need representatives that are beholden to their constituency rather than their corporate sponsors.)

          • Chew H Bird

            If we do that, maybe “everyone” will run for office for the “free” money?

          • Just Sayin’

            This is what initial primaries are, to winnow out the chaff. Make it so that anyone running has to get a certain number of signatures or some other easily recorded method of support.

            I think having significantly more candidates and something along the lines of ranked choice or runoff voting makes a lot more sense. How many people do you know personally who held their nose and voted for a candidate they didn’t like because they liked the other guy less? I know a lot of people like that, and I know I’m far from alone.

            That’s the trap of a two party system and the first-past-the post system. Given more choices and a system that doesn’t force people to vote against their conscience, and I think we’d see a new, and far brighter political future for this country.

            Plus, it’s not like you wouldn’t be strictly accountable for public finance money. If you take it and start buying cars or luxury goods, you’d go to jail. The only reason to take it would be for a legitimate run for office.

          • Little crow

            As you know, you just made the point for the electoral college, which was a brilliant compromise to balance the needs of the large population states and the low population states. Imagine how elections would go if there were direct popular vote: candidates would only campaign, or make promises to the urban dwellers of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Most federal money and attention would go to those cities, and the rest of country would be ignored, except when it was time to pay taxes. The result would be a serious secessionist movement in the rural and suburban areas, which make up about 98% of the land area.

      • Ted Markow

        “Who gets to decide what’s fair? The Fairness Doctrine had noble aims but is unworkable. The best counterpoint to speech you don’t like is more speech.”

        Since the dissolution of the Fairness Doctrine and deregulation brought about by Reagan (and signed into law by Clinton as the Telecommunications Act of 1996), the media has been consolidated to a huge degree, essentially creating a media oligopoly. And this consolidation hasn’t been at the behest or ability by the American people, but by deep-pocketed investors whose interest is keeping the wealth-machine going at the cost of broad viewpoints. As to more speech, this is getting near impossible with said consolidation. S/he who controls the media, controls the message, and thus, the people. Check out Edward Bernays.

        “Often what is perceived as news bias or propaganda isn’t unfactual, but a selection of true facts that only support one point of view. The mainstream media is widely perceived as leftist not because it lies (which it sometimes does), but because it only features scandals about Republicans or conservatives, while tending to overlook or downplay those of Democrats or liberals.”

        Media bias is inherent in the media…as long as people write the columns or air their opinions. Please tell me how many AM radio talk shows (at least in the Portland market) are owned and hosted by liberals? Any? Even Maine Public has taken to airing more middle and right shows. Maine Public will never go near Democracy Now, but has added a plethora of business/capital programs and chats with conservatives. Fairness? You be the judge.

        “There is a tendency among liberals to depict those who disagree with them as uneducated morons, and this is not helpful, nor is it true.”

        Agree that it’s not helpful, disagree with the tendency – that door swings both ways. Who in this discussion has even mentioned liberals or uneducated morons? I believe Americans as a whole have been dumbed down. See above media consolidation and lack of the Fairness Doctrine as the reason.

        • Little crow

          I would agree that there is consolidation of media companies (including the Forecaster), almost all with a liberal bias, and while that may not be “fair”, I don’t think it’s their job to provide us with fairness.

          AM talk radio is dominated by conservatives because there is a market for it. Some attempts have been made at liberal talk shows, but apparently not enough to people want to listen to them and they went off the air. That’s not the fault of the conservatives, nor is it their duty to provide opposing points of view. I for one would welcome a liberal talk show.

          The tendency for liberals to speak of conservatives in disrespectful and derisive terms has appeared frequently in the columns of this newspaper, including the word “moron”.

          My main point is that the Fairness Doctrine is anything but fair, but actually government censorship in violation of the First Amendment; and it is being used by liberals to try to shut down talk radio because they can’t compete with it.

          • EdBeem

            Well, which is it? You can’t have it both ways. First you say there is a huge liberal bias to the media and then you say they can’t compete with conservative talk radio. I say again, we were better off as a country when broadcasters had to air a diversity of opinions, as The Forecaster does.

          • Little crow

            There is no contradiction in what I wrote. The mainstream media, that is programs that pretend to be reporting unbiased news, does have a carefully documented liberal bias. Most talk radio, which is not news nor does it pretend to be, has a conservative bias. When I wrote that liberal talk radio can’t compete with conservative talk radio, I meant that it tried but failed to get enough listeners to justify the advertising. There’s nothing unfair about the fact that nobody wants to listen to it. I hope they try again. I used to like to listen to Jim Hightower’s show, even though I rarely agreed with him. But I still say forcing media to provide opposing viewpoints is a violation of their rights. Have you considered that the reimplementing the Fairness Doctrine might require NBC news and CNN to give equal time to Rush Limbaugh? I don’t think they should have to. And yes, the Forecaster does provide a variety of viewpoints, and I appreciate that.

          • EdBeem

            Corporations should not have rights, despite what the Roberts court thinks. For the privilege of using the public airways, stations should be required to broadcast opposing views. Things were better when that was the law of the land.

          • Little crow

            Newspapers are usually corporations. Shouldn’t they have a right to free speech? If you belong to an incorporated wine-tasting club, and their existence is being threatened by a government official, shouldn’t they have the right to buy advertising to defend themselves? Corporations are just groups of people with a common interest, such as labor unions, and they have every right to express themselves in a way their members choose. I agree that the government claims power over the airwaves, but I think that should only extend to regulating frequencies.

          • EdBeem

            You said forcing media to opposing views would violate their rights. Not as long as they were free to air their own ideas as well. The Constitutions says not one word about corporations. They are legal entities, human constructs, not human beings. Constitutional rights applied only to individuals until this activist court decided corporations had the same rights as people and that money was speech, both as wrongheaded as decisions can be, and two of the decisions destroying this country.

          • Little crow

            We disagree about this, but let’s suppose we do it your way and reimplement the Fairness Doctrine. That should mean that TV news networks should have to pay for an extra half hour of time to allow a conservative broadcaster to do their version of the news; and the Democrat party can say goodbye to all the money and support they get from labor unions and the teacher’s union, because they are corporations, and their money should not be in politics. Newspapers and TV will be prohibited from endorsing or giving favorable coverage to a particular candidate, as that amounts to free advertising for Democrats that is worth billions in campaign contributions. Do you see how sticky it gets? Who will decide whether a news report is just news or free advertising that is prohibited?

          • Ted Markow

            The notion of the “public airwaves” has been lost in the grab for more airspace. Actually, the notion of much that is public seems to be dying. This is not by accident.

          • Ted Markow

            Agreed.

  • Moishe the Beadle

    “To report on Trump, his family and his flunkies dissembling about their Russian connections, however, is a legitimate story, the meaning of which will not be understood until all the facts are known.” It’s been over a year with all of the loony Left’s news outlets trying to uncover what just isn’t there. You can’t get over the fact that Hillary lost (thank, God) and Trump one.

    • Just Sayin’

      It took more than two years for Watergate to come fully to light. We’re still uncovering new ‘undisclosed’ meetings with Russian officials and ‘undisclosed’ assets from within the Trump administration. If you’re honestly trying to say that this issue is played out, then you’re deliberately burying your head in the sand and trying to get others to do the same.

      If you really think the left has nothing, you should be encouraging the freedom of the investigation so there’s no possibility of tampering and obstruction being later concerns.

      If you think the left might have something, you should be encouraging the freedom of the investigation so that the truth comes out for the American people.

      I can’t think of any reason to object to the investigation unless you think the administration has something to hide and you want them to succeed, or you put the President’s pride before the well being of the American people.

      • EdBeem

        Either the truth will destroy Trump’s presidency or his presidency will destroy the country. The first casualty of war is truth and the Trump administration has declared war on America.

      • Moishe the Beadle

        I wouldn’t rest my case on Watergate. Having met and talked with G. Gordon Liddy you should ask why Maxine Wells lost her suit against him. Why aren’t you asking why Hillary allowed 20% of U.S.uranium supplies to be sold to the Russians?

        As far as I see it, the Russian collusion is a distraction to prevent Trump from achieving his agenda and to prevent us from becoming a socialst country much like the EU. Fulfilling campaign promises, of course, would be every liberal’s nightmare. See the Beemer’s comment below. He is so full of venom that he has TDS.

        • Just Sayin’

          Deflect and gaslight, but do not engage. I see your game, and I’m not going to play it. The only distraction here is you, and it seems quite intentional.

          Just wait for the facts to keep coming to light and we’ll see what side of history Trump ends up on.

          • Moishe the Beadle

            Agreed.

  • Chew H Bird

    News is big business and makes money by selling products, subscriptions, services, and advertising. It is rated based upon readership, listenership, viewership, and clicks. Anyone who believes that a major media outlet is unbiased needs to do some homework.

    While some of the reporting is performed by earnest people who work hard and with diligence to provide accurate information and supporting details, those honorable people typically have little to no say in what is actually published, especially after senior and copy editors have “cleaned” up the stories and an even higher level of management has decided which stories will produce the most revenue.

    I spent many years being published in specific vertical weekly and monthly periodicals, both from a subject standpoint and as a writer and there is absolutely nothing sacred about the publication process when revenue is at stake.

    The newer (within the past 30 years or so) trend of promoting opinion based information as actual news is one of the primary drivers of this confusion regarding real vs. fake news. This disregard for integrity is a core level mistake in the growing mistrust of all things reported and the public needs a simple and accurate measure of trustworthiness of information so we may begin to have some semblance of confidence in the accuracy of all media sources purporting to provide actual news.

    Edgar, you provide a good opinion column and willingly participate with your readership. What you provide is clearly identified through your words as “opinion” as opposed to actual news. If more opinion authors followed your lead in this regard, and if major media publishers followed your example, we would have far less fake news and we would be a better informed populace.

    • EdBeem

      My experience has been that legitimate journalists will follow a story wherever it goes. Yes, there is nothing sacred about the publishing or broadcast business, and the simple decision about what constitutes a news story betrays a bias, but the best news organizations at least attempt to keep economics and editorial separate. In 40 years of writing for newspapers and magazines, I have never been asked to change a story or column because it might upset readers or advertisers. I belong to an informal group of veteran journalists (we get together two or three times a year for lunch) and this column was prompted by a discussion of the subject of fakes news by that group. Thank you for acknowledging that I am willing to engage with readers. I think some folks fail to appreciate that. I do it because I believe what I write and am willing to defend it, I learn things in exchanges with readers, and I enjoy a good argument. There are a handful of commenters, we call them the ‘Frequent Fliers,’ who I rarely respond to anymore because they are predictable and get personal.

  • justanotherfakename

    The Republican turn from conservative views and agenda, agree or disagree, to Trumpian nationalism was certainly accomplished with the night and day propaganda of so called talk radio, with hosts like Hannity, who shout down and cut off opposing views. And deny all Trump wants, Putin helped elect Trump, all our intelligence agencies say so.

    The left side of the equation has it’s issues, which I have brought to the attention of various writers over the years, such as Edgar Beem. I have always had my views printed, presented without editing out the meaning. I have written to Bill Nemitz of the Press Herald to complain about his ‘advocacy journalism,’ which is opinion presented as journalism, and my views on same have been printed, and now his opinion pieces are in fact presented as… ‘opinion.’ Maybe someone was listening? More than I can say about those on the right, who never listen unless they hear their own voice in the telling. I’m an independent who used to be right of center myself. But the likes of Paul LePage, Donald Trump, and other hot heads have turned me to the left of center. I’m not alone in that. Unless Trump blows us all up, he will likely be the undoing of right wing populism, extremism. He is such an obvious liar and self server.

    I have to agree about WGME, they have turned to the right, but like Fox News, careful what you wish for, access to a poisonous snake will kill off a lot of viewership. From the WGME so called ‘Terrorism Alerts’ ( thinly disguised anti immigrant propaganda) to Mark Hyman’s right wing hateful rants, and the marriage to Fox News on their 10P.M. local news, they will win some over, but likely alienate more of us. Another good column Edgar.

  • Queenie42

    I am more concerned with what we are NOT being told by the so-called news outlets on TV or on the air. I would like to share something here that is not being discussed or even mentioned by most headline news.
    On July 27th the Senate Judiciary Committee met and had as its guest, William Browder. It dealt with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and the Magnitsky Act. I watched it on my PC as I do not have a TV. It was broadcast on C-span 3.
    Here is the link.
    http://www.c-span.org/video/?431852-1william-browder-overturning-magnitsky-act-putins-top-priority
    Hopefully this link works. My sincere apologies if it does not. However, you might be able to access this hearing on U Tube.
    Make some popcorn and hang on to your socks, kids. It’s a stunner.

    • Queenie42

      Sorry, that link did not work. The minute I saw the entire link had been shortened I knew it would lead nowhere. Lets try this:
      First there is that http:// thingy with a www dot c-span dot org/video/?431852-1william-browder-overturning-magnitsky-act-putins-top-priority
      Good luck.

  • Ted Markow

    Ed, you are indeed correct about Sinclair Broadcasting and WGME: http://www.pressherald.com/2017/07/30/sinclair-and-wgme-under-fire-for-pro-trump-segments/.

    I occasionally watch the local news on WGME as channel 13 is the only channel I receive over the air (no cable or satellite for me, thank you). While I agree that the local newscasters are not to blame, I will no longer watch WGME (or their commercials) as long as Sinclair owns them and dictates what airs.

    My challenge now is to hold Maine Public’s feet to the fire to try to prevent its continued move to the right…and to support community radio like WMPG: https://www.wmpg.org.

  • Jack

    The declaration that, “legitimate news organizations will follow the facts wherever they lead,” is inaccurate. There’s no in-depth news accounting for the DNC/Ukrainian collision link or the vast Uranium One pay to play scandal.

    • justanotherfakename

      Because it doesn’t exist, false premise.

      • Jack

        You’ve just proven my point. Thank you.