Much could be criticized about bias in the reporting of the mainstream U.S. media–its sensationalism, traditional political bias (either pro-Administration or anti-Administration, as the case may be), its superficiality, its shortsightedness, and its constant effort to whitewash American sins. Nonetheless, the efforts of politicians to avoid transparency constitute a far greater threat to the freedom of Americans. In arguments over bias in the behavior of the media, the broader context of the efforts of politicians to classify information to avoid personal embarrassment rather than to prevent the country’s enemies from gaining access should always be the primary consideration. The American public has little leverage over corrupt officials without the constant probing of a free media.
Now, consider the theoretical situation of the appearance of fraud linked to a powerful foreign government by a presidential appointee. Add the failure of the appointee to respond to a written request by multiple U.S. senators to provide information concerning said case, giving the appearance that the appointee is trying to cover it up until after Senate confirmation of his appointment. A troubling media report is followed by a formal request by Congressmen for an explanation, leading to…silence.
At this point, the issue of media behavior becomes simply irrelevant: when the very behavior of the official or appointee criticized by the media appears to confirm the media’s accusations of impropriety, then the only issue of concern is the appearance of an effort to cover up improper behavior by the appointee. The crucial requirement for the healthy functioning of the democratic system and for the integrity of the administration is to achieve full transparency before any other related actions, e.g., the Senate confirmation vote, take place. Anything less creates an appearance, a presumption of guilt. A government body responsible for determining the suitability of an appointee that does not investigate such an appearance is flouting its responsibility to the American people. The media cannot fairly be accused of bias when the absence of transparency by officials obstructs the media’s duty to investigate the government.