Since the inauguration of Joe Biden, countless news media outlets have declared news to be “boring” again. The constant negative coverage of the Trump administration has given way to fluff pieces about a return to normalcy. But when was the news supposed to be boring? When was the hot topic of the day supposed to be about how normal a president is, and not a critique of his policies? The reason news media outlets exist is to shine a spotlight on the policies and rhetoric of the current administration. Honest investigative journalism is never boring.
One of the ancestors of the modern newspaper and journalism appeared in ancient Rome with the Acta Diurna (“daily acts”). Featuring announcements of social and political events, this type of distributed news continued well into the medieval ages. It wasn’t until the 16th century that London produced the first official newspaper, reporting on Parliament and other political happenings. However, early newspapers were often suppressed, like the first newspaper in the United States, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, which was quickly put to an end by the Colonial government after just one issue. These early newspapers quickly evolved from relaying information about events to brazen political critiques. Once freedom of the press was written into the US Constitution in 1791, newspapers immediately jumped into the fierce partisan struggles between the Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans. During the World Wars, newspapers also played a large role in spreading propaganda and promoting the war effort. Journalists quickly learned how to entice readers by using tactics like yellow journalism, which could be compared to the fake news often seen today. Politicians and prominent figures like celebrities often provided journalists with ample amounts of controversial stories to boost subscriptions and also support their own biases. As the news moved online in the early 2000’s, it gained broader demographics, but never lost its roots in political commentary and critique. Over the past five years, however, a dramatic shift has occurred in journalism and news media outlets. Factual reporting has been replaced by political bents that are clearly observable in the disparate coverage of the Trump and Biden administrations.
I’ll be honest, Trump made journalists’ jobs easy. Armed daily with the latest tweet from the President, news media outlets could write a full slot decrypting hidden messages and end each segment with the conclusion that Trump and his policies were an unprecedented threat. Far from having to put in the effort to flush out in-depth and original stories, journalists focused on speculations and the delegitimization of his presidency. I’m far from saying that all of the negative coverage of Trump’s presidency was unwarranted, but I take issue when journalists fail to show the same aggressive and relentless critique of the new administration.
If journalists looked a little harder, they’d find that Biden has provided them with plenty of stories other than what his favorite ice-cream flavor is. Since taking office, Biden has signed 42 executive orders, right on the heels of telling George Stephanopoulos before the election took place that legislating primarily by executive order was akin to being a dictator. Another largely unreported action taken by the Biden administration was the executive order halting drilling permits for oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands. This order has been met with disapproval from many Native American tribes in South Dakota and the Ute Indian tribe. In a letter sent to the acting secretary of the Department of Energy, the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee called the order “a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination.” Should journalists be doing their jobs of finding the inconsistencies in the current administration, they would have publicly declared this to be in direct opposition to the claims made on the Joe Biden campaign website saying “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are committed to upholding the U.S.’s trust responsibility to tribal nations, strengthening the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and Indian tribes, and working to empower tribal nations to govern their own communities and make their own decisions.” It’s obvious that signing executive orders that impact Native American lands is a breach of tribal sovereignty and Biden’s campaign promises.
For nearly three years of Trump’s presidency the news media placed a heavy emphasis on claims of Russian collusion which later proved to be unsupported. However, during the Biden campaign they suppressed a breaking story alleging connections between Biden and his son’s suspicious foriegn business affairs, waiting to report on it until after he had secured the election. Journalist’s unwillingness to report on a serious matter in order to keep Biden from scandal is hypocritical given their frequent “whistleblowing” on Trump. Similarly, the media’s coverage of Biden’s travel ban from South Africa, where a new COVID variant has been discovered, has barely been covered, and lacks last year’s rhetoric of ‘xenophobia’ and ineffectiveness despite his claim that “Banning all travel from Europe — or any other part of the world — will not stop [COVID-19]”.
The news isn’t boring because nothing is happening, it’s boring because journalists are more interested in creating an image of normalcy rather than reporting the facts. News media outlets are papering over Biden’s inconsistencies with a dime a dozen stories, disregarding real issues and policies within the new administration. Journalists cannot sacrifice the truth in order to support a political agenda. News should not be boring. The suppression of information which might harm the carefully curated image of Biden’s administration is harmful for our country and our politics. According to the famous tagline of The Washington Post, when political bias dictates what news is reported and what is hidden in darkness, democracy is dead.