July 4th further clouded the public image of how media distinguishes – or rather does not distinguish – news and commentary.
Networks such as CNN, Fox and MSNBC day and night offer programming that is called news – complete with breaking news alerts. Yet many of the shows have anchors that offer their opinions as well as the opinions of regular and guest commentators. People are left to wonder when what is been said is news and when it is opinion.
As “news channels,” however, the three should not reflect bias in what they cover. Such was not the case with the July 4th celebration in Washington. Yes, it was fine for commentators to speculate ahead of the event whether it would be a political show for President Donald Trump. Yet doubt about such was not a reason to ignore the event entirely.
Such was the case with MSNBC, which offered no live coverage, instead showing a replay of the Democratic presidential debate. CNN told viewers in advance that it would cover the event and did so -- with commentary. Fox, as it does with many events involving the president, covered the celebration wall to wall.
The end result was pretty much reinforcement of how people see the networks as biased, particularly in regard to Trump.
The celebration was a news event and should have been covered by any major news organization as such, without undo focus on whether the president would use his speech as a political tool complete with rally-style rhetoric. Even had he done so, what the commander in chief has to say on July 4th is relevant.
In fact, Trump did not use the July 4th speech – a rarity for presidents -- at the Lincoln Memorial to talk about electoral politics. He went in the opposite direction, focusing on American history. Not surprisingly, the Trump critics then focused their commentary on the president doing no more than offering an “eighth-grade history lesson” that could be found easily on websites such as Wikipedia. With some, Trump is to be criticized no matter what.
A history lesson about America on the Fourth, coming from the president, has value. Perhaps such a speech by presidents should become an annual July 4th fixture since surveys show Americans, particularly young people, no very little about U.S. history. A study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that only 18% of eighth-graders were proficient in U.S. history.
Trump is the president, the commander in chief. He enlisted military involvement in the July 4th event but appropriately did not politicize it. The celebration was worthy of news coverage and his speech was a history lesson worth hearing. That is our duly noted “opinion.”