When I first arrived in China, one of the things that struck me as odd was the newspaper content that seemed a bit dry, maybe restricted in some way. At first I had trouble defining the differences I was seeing, and understanding my feelings toward them.
I finally realised I was simply seeing news being reported without commentary - just the facts of an event. Anything containing opinions or judgments, the op-ed pieces, were contained in other sections and labelled as such. That may not seem like a startling difference, but it was a revelation of major proportion for me because it made me rethink the approach of the media to which I'd been long accustomed.
In Canada and the US, we once had that same kind of news reporting - just the facts. But then with the competition for readers or viewers, the media began adding what they called 'color' to the news. At first this consisted of bits of additional information intended to make a news story more interesting, so we could report for e.g., that someone in the news had a son who was an olympic athlete. Not related directly to the story, but to add some human interest to the item.
The trouble with color is that there isn't very much of it, and it gets used up quite quickly. If a person is in the news a few times, there's nothing new left to say. So then the media began to add commentary to most news, a personal viewpoint or opinions on the news event. And that is the standard today.
When I look carefully at most news reports in the Western media now, it seems almost impossible to separate fact from opinion. There may not be too much scope for this in reporting a simple traffic accident, but in the political realm and in all foreign affairs items, the scope for opinion content is virtually unlimited.
And, unfortunately, the opinions are all politically biased to one side or the other - either left-wing or right-wing, so that we are no longer reading a report of a news event but rather someone's political interpretation of that event. And this leaves the field wide open to abuses of every description. Now, every news item in these categories is an opportunity to grind a political axe. In many cases, the 'news' item is almost buried, nonexistent, with the opinions or political commentary forming almost all of the content.
This change occurred rapidly in the US, at a slower pace in Canada, over some decades, and I don't believe this development any longer forms part of the public consciousness. We have, for two or more generations, become accustomed to this brand of 'news' and it seems normal to us - and which is why the Chinese news seemed so odd to me.
As with most trends that develop in the US, there appears to be no line at which someone will say, "We will go this far, but no farther." And we then have political editorials masquerading as news, and we have news that is fabricated, to provide an excuse for political editorials. And now the NEWS has become a powerful political tool for shaping public opinion, and it does so in many ways both gross and subtle.
The Western, and again especially North American, media have become extensively politicised and now function more as tools of propaganda than of information. This context is far-reaching because the principles here apply to many other recent and current events which follow the same pattern - an organised campaign of political propaganda designed to turn world opinion against a country that is not currently in favor by the US. It’s covert, insidious, and effective.
We have news articles that are fabricated in the sense that there was no newsworthy event that occurred. Instead, a few small facts from a topic of current interest are used to create politically-oriented editorials (in fact, biased op-ed pieces) to fulfill some specific agenda. We have faked photos, faked video and audio, misleading headlines, twisted information and bald outright lies - coming from our own governments and media outlets.
For us Westerners it seems incredible that a news story could possibly be a fabrication. We seem unable to accept that our governments and our media would actually lie, would deliberately and knowingly tell us things that are in fact untrue.
I'm not referring to biased viewpoints or twisted interpretations, but actual fabrications - invented 'news' - things that never happened, or that didn't occur at all in the way they are presented. And we aren't talking about 'color' or 'bias' here; we're speaking of actually fabricating an event and making firm statements that are knowingly false.
Even Hillary Clinton held the same opinion about the vast Right-Wing conspiracy, although in fairness, Mrs. Clinton did so at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But later, Bill Clinton allowed that this conspiracy was still alive and well. "Oh, you bet. Sure it is," Clinton said. "It's not as strong as it was, because America's changed demographically, but it's as virulent as it was."
And this is why I rail agaist the right-wing Western media. They fabricate information, they spin it, twist it, and present it as fact to the uneducated and uniformed right-wing majority who already share the ideology and will believe anything they read. And act on it, which is where shooting wars come from.
The US media bias is actually much worse than most people understand. At one time, North American news broadcasters were highly respected and trusted, and media took pride in factual reporting. However, journalistic integrity seems to have all but disappeared from the right-wing countries. They distort events to fit a bias, or fabricate events and circumstances outright, actions that are at least morally, if not legally, wrong.
The world is well aware of the US Right Wing's obsession with the 'Freedom of the Press', but in my experience few Americans and even fewer foreigners see it clearly for what it is.
American press freedom today is mostly the freedom to to use all media as a propaganda tool for the Far Right agenda, the freedom to mix opinion so thoroughly into news that almost everything is biased, from Fox News to Rush Limbaugh to the NYT. It is the freedom to present outright falsehoods as fact, to publish fake setup photos for their propaganda value. It is the freedom for the US government to completely fabricate stories in an attempt to turn the civil population against a country (Iraq, Iran, Korea) possibly in preparation for another war.
The US government and its agencies create many false news events like those described in other sections here, and the media dutifully report the event as described. If later it becomes evident that fabrication or distortion has occurred, the media ignore it. It's no longer news, and besides, "We don't like the Iraninans (or the Chinese) anyway."
I have lived in several countries and I daily read papers from several continents. From everything I see, the North American news media present by far the most biased and even corrupted news of all countries I know about. Of all the countries in the world that I follow, the US (and Canada, to quite an extent) contain the citizens who are the most brainwashed. I know how bizarre that must sound to many readers, but I swear it's true.
It isn't by government fiat but from the fact that the Right Wing owns most of the media there and just follows their agenda. If you don't already know, you would be astonished at the major news items that never appear in the US press, or at the consistent twists put on international events by the US media.
I don't believe a badly-biased news medium normally falls into the category of 'freedom of the press'. That label is meant to suggest freedom from fear of sanction for reporting truth, not to protect those who misuse that freedom. The fact that I have a choice of reading it, does not excuse it.
Some people will try to tell you that "all countries" do this, that "everyone" presents biased news and fabricates facts. But that isn't so. It happens in the US, in Canada, in the UK, and seldom anywhere else - from everything I have seen. I regularly read European and Asian papers from many countries and I never see anything like the items described above.
There is some of this in the UK, but 85% or more seems to emanate from the US: Fox News, the NYT, CNN, the WSJ. Since the US media is largely owned by the Far Right, it's not easy to obtain unbiased news from US sources.
We never hear France or Italy, Japan or Germany, Brazil or Sweden, demanding punishment of developing countries for pollution or low wages or an exchange rate imbalance. We never hear Europe or Asia demanding 'sanctions' against a country; all of this comes exclusively from the Far Right Wing of the US, to further the Right-Wing agenda.
If I wanted to know the truth of what was actually happening in the world, especially in terms of foreign affairs, China would be quite a good place because there the media just report the facts.
One of the many pleasant things about China is that the Chinese are not racially or culturally bigoted as the right-wing West is. In China, opinions are clearly separated and moderate, never shrill. China doesn't have a CNN or a Rush Limbaugh who twist and make a grotesque mockery of what is supposed to be factual news. Chinese media have nothing like the US Right-Wing nonsense.
In China, news is reported as news and (except for self-congratulatory articles on some accomplishment) it is never embellished. Opinion is stated as opinion. If the Chinese want to present opinions and op-eds, they do it elsewhere; they don't mix fact and fiction.
It's true that not everything is reported in the Chinese media, but on the other hand whatever is reported is factual. Even when China is very upset, as they were when the US sent in their military 'research' vessels off the Hainan coast, the news reporting was purely a chronical to the point of being bland. China didn't badmouth the US, but just reported the sequence of events.