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American horror story?

“What is it like to be a journalist in the middle of a Donald Trump rally?” asked Linda Steele. “We are about to find out.”

The segment was posted June 16 and we are still waiting. It’s no pound sterling pre-Brexit cliffhanger, but it was a lead up that led nowhere. We never found out. 

And this is because the “journalist” and political correspondent CKNW had on wasn’t really a journalist in the way that it counts: objective, impartial, unbiased. Jared Sexton Yates penned an article titled ‘American Horror Story‘ – that’s the first clue. Pair it with his equally dramatic stream of live tweeting from the front, and you have a descriptive opinion piece by a writer who witnessed a series of unfortunate events knew he wouldn’t like even before he showed up.

To his credit, the piece was published in The New Republic, an opinion journal. But that’s not Yates Sexton’s regular stomping ground for anti-Trump tantrums. He writes prolifically for the Atticus Review, an online publication that is “decidedly left on social issues,” fictional in nature and boasts the tagline “six degrees left of literature.” Steele did sort of get the political correspondent piece right: Yates Sexton has written 47 posts and counting, many of which focus on the U.S. election in a style that’s heavy on the politics and light on the correspondence. (In one, he calls Ted Cruz a “rat fink asshole” and celebrates the fact that his bid for the republican nomination ultimately saw him “sent to crawl back under whatever piece of shit rock he emerged from in the first place.” Ouch.) 

If that’s not enough, Yates Sexton is also an assistant professor of creative writing. Not that journalists can’t publish novels, or have their own political leanings. But if a journalist isn’t going to leave their political pets at the door, the elephant in the room – or the donkey – should be fully acknowledged. Rhetoric and politics should be labeled as such. Yates Sexton is of course freely entitled to his views, and to voice them, but Linda Steele’s interview and the accompanying CKNW web piece failed to warn listeners and readers that the show’s next guest was decidedly biased, and that’s a big issue.

This isn’t a post in defense of Trump. It’s an offensive against the real (North) American “horror story”: the extensive sloppy, sensationalized and unashamedly biased media coverage of the U.S. election. 

The truth is that Trump does a fine job telling the world his thoughts on Islam, homosexuality, immigration and women. At the start, media had a choice to challenge those ideas and cover him seriously, or to not cover him at all. Some outlets chose the latter, most chose the former, and now the time to reassess those choices has passed. Trump’s candidacy turned global media into insatiable distributors of the greatest reality show the world has ever seen. Those who oppose it come across as biased. Those who subtly or explicitly voice their bias end up reaffirming Trump as a leading voice on any and every issue – including Brexit.

This is what’s wrong with CKNW’s segment with Yates Sexton. It’s clearly anti-Trump, but covers Trump in a way that won’t sway his supporters, will increasingly agitate his opponents and will keep Trump in the headlines. Any new information that was introduced was tainted by the bias of the person introducing it – I mean really, how do you expect a “progressive” writer to react to a Trump rally? – and to an electorate that can’t actually vote in this election anyway. Here’s the kicker: even if everything Yates Sexton reported was 100 per cent, objectively true (minus the qualifiers), the perception that it might not be speaks louder.

If you’re going to be biased, the boldest most biased act is to simply not cover Trump. But I guess cutting out the propaganda is bad for ratings.

To listen to Linda Steele’s interview, which includes hard-hitting questions such as what Trump supporters “were saying about gay people,” visit CKNW.

 

 

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