Captain America wants to make a new journalism platform that will strive to present information in an unbiased way and include both sides. I’ll listen to anyone, real or fictitious, who has ever punched Adolf Hitler, but Cap might be oversimplifying a very complex issue here.
Journalists run into this a lot. So do teachers. And elected officials. And lawyers. Anytime a job is presented in popular culture in some way, or the public has some sort of tangential contact with it, everyone assumes they know how to do it, too. Chris Evans, the actor who plays Captain America in the Marvel movies, and before that, did a bang-up job in “Not Another Teen Movie,” said in a video that he wants to find an unbiased source of information and to make sure both sides of each issue can be heard.
If only each issue only had two sides. In America, it’s easy to pare down discussion into black and white issues. There are only two political parties on the national stage and if you don’t belong to either, it’s tough to get your voice heard. But even an issue as fraught with rhetorical – and maybe literal – landmines as gun control has many facets.
There is no such thing as “both sides,” and Evans will be hard-pressed to find a way to present “all sides.”
But a news source, and journalism in general, isn’t about just pointing out that there are multiple sides to an issue. It’s about presenting facts. There’s the old saying, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” People can be wrong. And people lie. All the time.
I don’t know Chris Evans’ journalism background. In his announcement, he said he was frustrated with trying to find an unbiased source.
Aren’t we all?
We learned in middle school, though, that everyone will have biases. A good journalist will present information without them. But readers have biases, too. Most reporters have had the experience of writing a story, then have one reader call them and accuse them of being a shill for the Republican Party, then another caller accuse them of being a communist. All from the same story.
I’ll never forget the day I was accused of being a Red, both in the 1950s communist sense and in the modern Red State sense, from the same story. Ahh, good times.
There are times when opinions are presented in the media. That’s most of the programming on MSNBC or Fox News or CNN. But that’s not news or reporting, and except for the presenters with the lowest ethics, it’s not presented as such.
This column is another example – this is my opinion. It’s obvious, with the amount of jokes and sarcasm I put in my columns, that it is not unbiased news reporting. There will be facts here, of course, but only to support my opinion.
In journalism, some of the critics can be right. Anyone can do the job. There’s no special physical qualifications, and you don’t need any connections to get your foot in the door. But not just anyone off the street can come in and do it because they’re frustrated. There are college programs and, if you skip those or come to it later, there’s years of hustling to get your name out there and to get experience, often without pay.
If Evans launches his own platform, we’d still be governed by his own biases, or those of whomever he puts in charge while Evans runs around punching Thanos and fighting with Iron Man. While it proposes to put out “both sides” of the debate, what does that mean? Will we be listening to the thoughts on a KKK Grand Wizard or the leader of ISIS? Will one of the modern Nazis sit down in the same room as whichever group he oppresses?
Just because someone interacts with the final product doesn’t mean they know how to make it. Having more voices is good, but it needs to be handled responsibly.