In his Sept. 5 letter (“How to Identify Fake News”), Don Muelrath confidently offers his formula for comparing news sources, but his bizarre example shows that he has himself been tricked into confusing opinion with news.
Rather than comparing two actual news sources, he compares a Trump media event and a television opinion panel show. Neither one is a good source of unbiased news, as should be obvious.
Most Americans know by now that a photo-op press announcement is presented so as to manipulate public opinion, no matter which party or politician engineers it. There is nothing neutral about a Republican or Democratic event for the media, just as there is nothing neutral about a television commercial.
Staged political announcements and opinion panels often include an occasional fact, but they are not primarily about presenting facts.
We learned no fact when, after Trump returned from Singapore, he said that the North Korean nuclear threat was over, other than the fact that Trump made the statement. The threat is not over, as even Trump's appointees admit. What facts did Mr. Muelrath learn from Trump’s post-Helsinki remarks?
Anderson Cooper’s program does not claim to be news, just opinion. CNN is open about this: “Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news.” Mr. Muelrath’s own example of one episode spending 45 minutes debating Trump’s response to the death of Sen. McCain should have made it obvious that this is not a news program.
From what little I have seen, Cooper’s program is dominated by a liberal point of view, but he always has Trump spokespeople and Trump defenders on his panels. I have been told that Fox is not as open to opposing opinions, but I might be wrong. Still, Cooper’s guests offer opinions and analyses, not reportage. No one goes there for news, I hope
Presenting actual facts is what newspapers do. I mean real newspapers, not broadcast or internet media outlets that align with one political party. If Mr. Muelrath no longer trusts the country’s best newspapers or non-Fox television, I fear that he has succumbed to the campaign to get Americans to ignore facts.
May I recommend to Mr. Muelrath The Wall Street Journal. While their opinion pages solidly support Republicans and reluctantly tolerate Trump, their news pages often offer deep and nuanced reportage that far better supports the arguments of a Bernie Sanders than of a Charles or David Koch.
Fox TV, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal are owned by the same company, but the first two are pitched at audiences who want their support for Trump to be affirmed. The Journal is, instead, published for business people who need to know actual facts. There are other good newspapers, of course, but this one is a fine first step for anyone who wants to wean himself or herself from the official channel of one political party.
I humbly recommend that Mr. Muelrath spend a quiet afternoon in the Napa Main Library reading the first sections of various national newspapers to remind himself of where factual reporting happens. No one ever got dumb by turning off the television and picking up a good newspaper.