Disclaimer: There is some Inescapable (Minor) Bias
While incredibly fair, I think it is also important to understand that the media, of course, has some biases. Personally, I think it is best to categorize media bias around two forms: explicit bias and implicit bias.
Explicit bias is the obvious bias contained in certain media. Some news organizations do have a very clear political slant and if they try to hide it they hide it poorly. On the left you have news sources like Mother Jones or Rolling Stone Politics. On the right you have news sources like Fox News or Breitbart. The coverage of these kinds of news sources is by most accounts, biased. Yet, while there is a fair amount of left leaning and right leaning news sources, there are a lot of news sources in the middle. These middle sources, while pretty close to fair, are not perfect, and this is where implicit bias comes in.
Implicit bias is the less obvious bias in the media and is likely an inescapable occurrence we just have to deal with it and keep in mind when reading the news. One kind of implicit bias is essentially human bias. A journalist can try their best to force themselves to be non-partisan but internally they do have their personal views, which may affect their coverage, if only slightly. News anchors that you see on big network news stations tend to have a higher salary and a higher education level than most Americans. What this means is that, naturally, these news anchors may have an innate slant to the left on social issues and innate slant to the right on fiscal issues given their economic and educational backgrounds.
A more concerning cause of implicit bias among news organizations is their hesitance to report negative coverage of their parent companies. Six conglomerate companies (GE, Newscorp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS) currently control all the major news networks. This means that any scandals or wrongdoings committed by these companies will often go unreported by the media organizations that they control. (I know this sounds a little conspiracy theory-esque, but trust me this is not the rambling of a mad man). Are these media conglomerates taking over the world and killing people? Obviously not. But, it is only logical to conclude that the media would certainly underreport things that may hurt the bottom line of their parent companies.
Why the Lying Press are not Liars
Despite its flaws, mainstream media, as a whole, is incredibly balanced and fair. For one, everything that major news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, or CNN report is never maliciously incorrect. Yes, these news outlets occasionally make mistakes, but these mistakes are accidental and not related to some internal scheme to take down a political opponent. Furthermore, articles and reports put forward by said outlets are combed through to ensure no adjectives that may show favoritism are used. Newspapers for example do not add their opinions into headlines. You won’t see “Trump is an idiot,” as a headline. You may see “Economists call Trump an idiot,” though. This headline is ok given the fact that some economists may have very well called Trump an idiot.
One, claiming media bias, may point to the editorial section of a newspaper like the Wall Street Journal, which often contains right leaning opinion pieces. This “argument” would be of a false premise, though, as no one is claiming that the opinion section or segment of any publication is nonbiased or fair. It does have the key word opinion in its title after all. Yet, while the Wall Street Journal may publish conservative leaning editorials the news they report on is objectively fair and true.
In regards to Trump, his conclusion that the media are liars and out to get him is absurd. For one, the media reported on Trump truthfully. Trump did say global warming was a Chinese conspiracy; the media is not lying about that. Trump was also accused of sexual harassment; the media is not lying about that. Assuming Trump really believes that the media is lying and is not just trying to dismiss the truth, then Trump has engaged himself in an Orwellian form of “double-think” where he may genuinely think the truth that the media reports is false. The other alternative is that Trump simply knew that what he said was indefensible. So, instead of apologizing or clarifying, Trump just went on a campaign to discredit the media as liars. Honestly, both possibilities seem equally bad.
Furthermore, if the media really wanted to sink Trump’s candidacy they would just not cover him. With no press, Trump would not be able to connect with his base, and his campaign would fade. Instead, the media covered Trump constantly, sometimes even filming Trump’s empty podium as they waited for him to speak.
Another point that I think is important to bring up is that the media may have actually been too fair in their covering of the 2016 presidential election. The media, put into an awkward position by Trump’s accusations of bias, was forced to cover Hillary Clinton in an extra negative light to balance the “negativity scale.” While Clinton had her flaws, her issues were realistically nothing when compared to the very large amount of issues Trump had. Trump would talk about potentially starting WWIII and Clinton would get the cold, yet both were treated in a similar negative light by the media who desperately wanted to maintain a “fairness” of coverage.