Although it is clearly naïve to believe that any source of information can be truly unbiased, it is necessary for certain people and organizations to attempt to maintain as much objectivity as possible. Given that nothing exists in a cultural vacuum, the media has also been subjective, throughout history and across cultures. If nothing else, the media has always been biased towards the culture within which it resides. But, when it comes to news, the media has at least attempted to maintain the appearance of objectivity in its reporting, whether or not the appearance reflected the reality.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the trend has steadily moved towards the mixing of editorial content and news. This has been especially evident during the U.S. Presidential Campaign of 2004. From the 60 Minutes faked documents scandal to the recent advertiser protests against the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the media seemingly has discarded the barrier between fact and opinion. Assuming that this trend will not be reversed any time soon, advertisers are placed in a difficult position. Almost all companies have customers across the political spectrum, and many would be offended enough to boycott a product or service if they see it advertised somewhere that is strongly associated with a specific political view. In their minds, advertising in these places is tantamount to supporting a certain political stance, and therefore purchasing from the advertiser is also supporting that political position by extension.

Where does this leave advertisers, one may wonder? Frankly, it does not ultimately matter. People have become accustomed to hearing advertisements for day-to-day, politically neutral products in all kinds of contexts that are biased. How many people have abandoned a company because it runs ads during NBC’s liberal drama on the Presidency, “The West Wing?” Most content, across all forms of media – television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, etc. – has some kind of bias. Consumers have simply come to expect and accept this. In fact, once consumers recognize a source as biased, they generally only visit if they are predisposed to the same bias. The increasingly obvious bias of most news sources, be it left or right leaning, will simply encourage people to migrate their media consumption to like-minded sources. Eventually, it simply will not matter to people who advertises where.

These shifting cultural expectations provide advertisers with the opportunity to take advantage of the fractured audience by advertising in places where they know their customers have a certain predisposition. They can also modify their messaging to better fit each audience segment in each place. None of this is new; it is simply a matter of advertisers and consumers getting used to it in a new context. Over time, this will become just as natural for news as it is everywhere else.

Fundamentally, the bigger concern is that the American public is becoming evermore disenchanted with the way their news is being presented. Network television news shows are continuing to lose ground while the Internet is blossoming as a news source. Unfortunately, the lack of creditability of most of our sources of news also tends to lead us to discredit facts that may very well be the truth. Without trust in its source, information looses most of the characteristics that make it the cornerstone of modern society, and without that, where are we? Can democracy function in a land where all facts are suspect?