The media is facing a difficult reckoning heading into election day

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CNN is ending Jake Tapper’s prime time experiment, relegating him back to afternoons as of next week. CNBC is canceling Shepard Smith’s show, MSNBC recently canceled Chuck Todd’s daily show. These moves are all due to low ratings. This comes even as the upstart NewsNation, which is based on the premise that both sides are the same, is flopping.

The media keeps shoving “both sides are the same” stuff down everyone’s throat, but clearly no one is interested in watching it. The ratings prove it. We simply want truthful political reporting and analysis instead.

With something as asymmetrical as U.S. politics, you can either aim for the honest and unbiased truth – which usually favors the left as a basic matter of fact – or you can aim for the appearance of honest and unbiased truth, which requires being dishonestly biased in favor of the right.

Most of the media is so afraid of offending the right by accurately covering it negatively, and so afraid of alienating anyone in the middle who wants to be told both sides are the same, we’ve ended up with a mainstream media landscape that’s little more than a PR outfit for the Republican Party.

Even MSNBC often covers the Democrats in a dishonestly negative manner, for fear of alienating the mythical audience member who wants to be told both sides are bad. The New York Times now routinely dishonestly attacks the left and dishonestly normalizes the right, in the pursuit of that same mythical audience member.

But as the media has spent the past two years finding out the hard way, that mythical audience member largely does not exist. People who want to pretend both sides are the same, generally aren’t going to consume political news on a regular basis. They just want to occasionally tune in and quickly be told both sides are bad, so they can turn it right back off and spend their week having an excuse to feel justified in not caring about politics. These are not potential daily audience members for any kind of news outlet.

So this “both sides are the same” approach is not only dishonest, it’s become distinctly bad for business. With the possible exception of Sunday morning network TV shows (when politically lazy people in the middle do in fact tune in specifically to be told both sides are the same), the political media would score better ratings and revenue by simply being honest about politics.

It’s rare to find an industry where you get to make the most money just by being honest. Political journalism and analysis is, at least at present, that rare opportunity. Yet the media is so inherently full of it, it’s spent the past two years losing money by being dishonest.

After the midterms there is going to be a reckoning. The media has been operating the past two years under the belief that if it kept beating up on the Democrats, it could set up 2024 as a change election, and an inevitable Trump 2024 campaign (win or lose) would bail them out in the ratings department. However, after all those deep financial losses the media racked up these past two years by pushing a “both sides are bad and uh oh here comes Trump” narrative that no one has been tuning in for, now Trump is being indicted for espionage – and any “Trump 2024 campaign” will be a joke.

So now the media has nowhere to go for ratings but the honest truth. Of course the media is so wired to pursue dishonest narratives in the name of ratings, it’ll take some convincing to get the media to try honesty as a ratings strategy.

But after the midterms, we’re going to focus on ways that we can all collectively lean on the media in the name of convincing it to be more honest. We can’t afford another election cycle in 2024 like the one we’ve had in 2022, where so much of the mainstream media has been flat out dishonest the entire time.

In the meantime, with just five days to go in the 2022 election cycle, with the media being dishonest and the polls being unreliable, we must spend these final 120 hours doing everything we can to drive voter turnout. It’s not enough for you to just vote. You need to also get all the Democratic leaning people around you – in your family, in your circle of friends, in your neighborhood – to go out and vote. So let’s go win this! We’ll deal with the media reckoning after that.

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