Has the Term ‘Media Ethics’ Become a Political Oxymoron?
19 Aug

Has the Term ‘Media Ethics’ Become a Political Oxymoron?

August 19, 2016 – I am currently vying for the Democratic nomination to compete in the General Election for United States Senate in Florida, but you may not know it. It isn’t for lack of effort on my part but rather because of a preordained decision on the part of certain members of the media about whom you should consider.

You see, there are members of the media who apparently think you are too stupid to make the decision of for whom you will vote. They believe they should make the decision for you. The concept of journalistic integrity seems to be long forgotten. These individuals want to influence the news rather than report it.

The only candidates who are being routinely included in the polls and given any press are the career politicians who are running for the Senate seat.

In March, the Republican candidate and current U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, stated that he absolutely would not run for re-election and that he would “be a private citizen in January.” Obviously, he lied. Apparently, lying no longer disqualifies one from public office but rather has become somewhat of a prerequisite.

If you think that statement is too strong, consider the two leading candidates on the Democratic ticket: current members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. Murphy has been exposed for having repeatedly misrepresented his academic and professional credentials as well as his business record. Grayson is currently entangled in an investigation concerning alleged incidents of domestic violence.

Of Florida’s approximately 12 million registered voters, roughly 4,320,000 are Republicans and 4,560,000 are Democrats, yet these are the top three candidates the parties could find. Or are they?

The reality is that Rubio, Murphy and Grayson are simply the most convenient candidates the media could find; known politicians whom the media doesn’t have to research. Surely, it is easier to promote candidates you don’t have to research than it is to actually do your job to report the relative strengths and weaknesses of everyone in the race.

For example, the media only mention’s one of Rubio’s opponents on the Republican side because it has to pretend that it is unbiased. Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County home-builder, is the media’s chosen “opponent” for Rubio. He isn’t even given a “punchers chance” of beating Rubio, but the media can’t afford to be any more blatantly biased than they already are. As result, Beruff is included in the polls and given limited “ink” because Rubio has to beat someone in the Republican primary.

Luckily for the media, it doesn’t even have to pretend to be fair in the Democratic race because it has two career politicians to pit against each other. The fact that both candidates have demonstrated severe personal flaws and that other qualified candidates are running (Pam Keith, Reginald Luster and me) doesn’t even enter into the media’s equation. The most blatantly unprofessional members of the media will include our names as a footnote or occasionally elevate one of us into a sentence of coverage, but why present the voters with a choice when you have the power to disregard it?

The worst are the members of the media who are trying to make a name for themselves. They’ll actually do whatever they can to disparage the chances of grassroots candidates like Ms. Keith, Mr. Luster and me in order to attract attention to themselves.

I have a personal favorite. While there have only been three negative articles written about me this election, she has authored all three. I will not share her name to demonstrate the type of respect she may wish to consider demonstrating for others at some point in her career. However, she is the poster child of yellow journalism, which is defined by the dictionary as “a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers; techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism.”

On the first day after I entered the U.S. Senate race in Florida, she wrote an article with a sensational headline that suggested I wasn’t a registered Democrat. This would have come to the surprise of anyone who had done even a modicum of research given that I had competed in the Democratic primaries of 40 states, 5 territories and the District of Columbia.

Since then, she has written two other articles that were designed to undermine my U.S. Senate race; each without substance. One article effectively questioned whether I was seriously running for U.S. Senate. I offered to speak with her directly to explain how serious I was, but she never responded to the invitation.

The last article relegated me to the political equivalent of Hell: a reference to my candidacy highlighted by the words “also on the primary ballot” without a link to my website or any acknowledgement equivalent to what she had offered on behalf of other candidates.

I had the opportunity to speak with the “journalist” after a recent event hosted by the Miami Times, a competing media outlet which, by the way, provided equal access to every candidate as a professional media outlet is supposed to do. When I asked her why I wasn’t being treated equally, she effectively told me that she had decided that I deserve equal treatment. Here is a synopsis of our conversation.

She told me that I wasn’t polling high enough. It didn’t matter to her that she was referencing polls in which I either hadn’t been included or that were produced by media outlets that had not featured my campaign in any way. It didn’t matter to her that the polls were impersonal (i.e., that they were taken online or over the phone). It didn’t matter to her that I have been within 7 percent of the leading candidates in the first straw poll in which I was featured and 3.8 percent in the most recent one. It didn’t matter that those straw polls both included approximately 300 Florida residents who had a high probability of actually casting a vote in the primaries as opposed to the random chance of someone responding to a phone call or email actually going to the polls on August 30th.

Apparently, people aren’t her “thing.” When I mentioned the social media performance my campaign has demonstrated (which dwarfs the interest in almost anyone else’s campaign), she implied that she didn’t care (specifically, “That’s not what I look at”). It didn’t matter that it reflects the interests of real people rather than disassociated polls. It wasn’t going to change her mind about what choices she was going to dictate to her readers. Yet, every time she has written a negative article about me, she has posted it on social media in an obvious attempt to drive up her relatively feeble following.

The bottom line is that you have probably heard the term “White Privilege” in recent years, but there is a far more insidious form of bigotry in our society: “Political Privilege.” It doesn’t matter what your personal record of accomplishment is or what fresh ideas and solutions you might offer. If you aren’t part of the establishment, having “paid your dues,” it is unlikely that you will be promoted by your party.

Correspondingly, if you aren’t a career politician or a celebrity, far too many members of the media won’t take the time to do their job. It’s just easier to default to the status quo.

The media likes to complain about what a poor job Congress is doing, but it refuses to provide fair coverage to “outsiders” like me who might actually make a difference. As Eldridge Cleaver once said, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” The media has become a part of the problem.

One good thing may have come out of this. As a Democrat of Latino ancestry, I’m not exactly a big fan of Donald Trump. However, I may have finally found one issue upon which we share some common ground: the media. While I think Trump is an extraordinary embarrassment to our political system, he may be right when he suggests that many of the members of our media are an embarrassment as well.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

(Please feel free to express you opinion below. My only request is that you do so rationally rather than emotionally and in a civil manner that respects the rights of others to disagree.)

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