Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Ever since Gov. Phil Bryant gave his "State of the State" address, and "Mississippi Today" chose to factcheck it but not the Democratic respondent, the media circuit around the capitol as well as some state lawmakers have been busy debating whether it is possible to be both nonpartisan and unbiased.
Gov. Phil Bryant retweeted Alan Lange's article from "Y'all Politics" that called the nonprofit website biased for only factchecking the governor and not Rep. Jay Hughes. One major takeaway from the defensiveness is this: Regardless of party, a truly free press can neither care about nor devote its energy to partisanship in any form, including making stories only about two partisan "sides." Truth, justice and solutions must be at the core of journalism.
No one is unbiased, but people can strive for fairness-—politicians and reporters too. Sure, outlets endorse candidates, but we also must watchdog them if elected and encourage factchecking of anyone of any party who collects taxpayer dollars. We have to report on both sides of the aisle and interact with people we may not fundamentally agree with. We can walk and chew gum at the same time—find the truth and get over what you don't like about it.
It is also hard to ignore that women's voices were missing from this conversation about media decisions, bias and partisanship—a reflection of what a lot of discussions in this nation and state around media and politics look like. Parties and even media organizations who seem to be stuck on their differences also seem to unite behind keeping men in power and their voices the loudest.
In the meantime, even in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the Time's Up defense fund, this week feels more like we've been launched into a rip tide as people around the nation, and even big newsrooms, have been unable to grapple with the nuances of consent. Consent and its retraction is not always black-and-white. However, that is not an excuse for people, and especially reporters, to avoid leaning into the nuances so that people can live without trauma. Put women in positions of leadership where they can spearhead conversations from the top down to model the types of behaviors that often stem from boys' networks and habits.
Mississippi is not typically a model for progressive behavior, but with growing awareness and national efforts now to give women voices, positions of power and also support when they speak out, we cannot afford to be last. We risk losing too many women and girls who could be our next governors, editors and factcheckers—all of whom we desperately need to retain. It's time to listen to them.