July 24th, 2024


Chris Licht and the decline of journalism

Cal Thomas

By Cal Thomas

Published June 15, 2023


Before the recently fired CNN President Chris Licht fades into a Google search, it is important to reflect on what he tried to do and why it was equivalent to offering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a corpse.

In the lengthy Atlantic magazine interview that was used as the basis for his dismissal, Licht told writer Tim Alberta he sees newsrooms obsessing over various kinds of diversity, but not the kind he thinks would help restore public confidence in news reporting: ”A Black person, a brown person, and an Asian woman that all graduated from Harvard is not diversity.”

Worldview affects how a story is covered and even whether it is covered. Ignoring a story is just as biased as shaping it to fit one's opinion.

David Remnick of The New Yorker interviewed New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger about the state of modern journalism. Sulzberger replied: ”Should the role of journalists be to push for a certain cause or party or group or ideology or even a specific outcome on a specific issue? Or should the role of journalists be to independently follow the truth and try to arm the public with the facts and the context and the understanding it needs for this giant, diverse democracy to come together and self-govern?”

Monday's New York Times serves as one of many examples of the opposite of what Sulzberger is talking about when it comes to presenting facts and allowing the public to make up their own minds. On the front page of the digital edition nearly every opinion column, including the lead editorial, is anti-Trump, anti-DeSantis and one headlined ”If the Supreme Court abolished Affirmative Action Here's What Women Need to Do.” There's an anti-John Roberts column to boot and another one in Tuesday's edition. In news stories the Times seems to favor only the ones that promote what they believe editorially.

Yes, opinion columns are just that, but where is the diversity of opinion? There hasn't been a consistent conservative at the Times since the late William Safire.

Many journalists attach labels to conservatives (even in their obituaries), such as ”extreme,” ”right-wing,” or ”hard line,” while rarely applying labels to liberals. When they do, ”liberal” is intended as a compliment.

The Times, and much of broadcast and cable reporting on culture — from abortion, to climate, to gender — assumes there is only one view and opposing views are to be ignored or ridiculed. It is the same with the economy. Any politician who wants to cut spending and reduce the size and reach of government is branded as uncaring about children and the poor. Contrary arguments are to be ignored or stereotyped so that readers and viewers reach conclusions desired by those feeding them information and often misinformation.

Sulzberger and his colleagues appear to read and watch only those things that reinforce their views (many conservatives do the same). Why won't this influential publication include conservative columnists in the paper, other than the rare guest columnist? Does Sulzberger read the NY Post, or Washington Times? Does he ever watch Fox News or consult The Heritage Foundation to gauge the thinking of some conservatives? Has he spoken with pro-life people, including women who have had abortions and regret them? Has he met poor people who want to get their children out of failed public schools, but are kept from doing so by Democratic politicians in New York? Will someone show him this column? Would it matter?

Journalism is in trouble, largely of its own making. Trust is key to the success of any industry and when trust is lost it is difficult to get it back.

The late NBC News anchor David Brinkley once said, ”It is impossible to be objective, so we must try to be fair.”

The days of fairness seem to have gone with the wind to the detriment of journalism and harm to the country. I think that is the point Chris Licht was attempting to make at CNN, a once credible news organization. That it cost him his job makes my point.


Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.