Groups Representing 1.4 Million+ Americans Issue Open Letter to the Media

Express concerns with widespread patterns of biased reporting of the current administration

8 mins read

December 9, 2021 – Today, 70 advocacy, civic, and labor groups representing nearly over 1.4 million Americans from 16 states and the District of Columbia released an open letter addressed to members of the media. The letter expresses the groups’ extreme concern with what they describe as a “pervasive pattern of under-reporting and negative bias toward the actions and agenda of this Administration.” According to the groups, “The widespread frustration that we, our members, and our supporters feel about the current trend in media coverage is palpable. People are turning off and tuning out.” (Full text of letter and signatories below.)

The letter cites statistics gathered by the information company FiscalNote at the request of Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. Analysts found that Biden’s press for the past four months has been as bad as — and for a time worse than — the coverage Trump received for the same four months of 2020.

“Equalized coverage does not match reality,” the letter states. “During the 11 months analyzed, President Biden and his Administration have a very lengthy list of accomplishments. In contrast, the former president mishandled a pandemic response that caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, attempted to discredit our electoral process, and refused to accept his defeat in a free and fair election, leading eventually to an insurrection at our nation’s Capitol.”

The letters urge all members of the media to promptly adjust their reporting in the following ways:

  • Cite specific details about the substance of all legislation, rather than catch phrases using sweeping generalizations.
  • Avoid focusing on negative “spin” over positive facts for the sake of ratings and profit.
  • Increase the use of direct quotes from the White House and Congress to properly convey the intended messages of those who lead our country.
  • Stop using stigmatizing tropes, such as “social safety net” and “social spending,” when referring to the Build Back Better legislation. This fully funded bill includes a broad range of investments to improve the quality of life of all Americans. (See related letter from the National Women’s Law Center.)

“Please consider and swiftly address your role in promoting this widespread, destructive pattern of reporting,” the groups state in their letter.  “Not only is it doing harm to our democracy, but it is also harming your reputation as journalists and that of the news outlets you represent.”

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Full text of letter:

To Reporters, Editors, Producers, and Anchors:

We, the 70 undersigned organizations with a collective reach of 1.4 million Americans, are writing to express our extreme concern with your pervasive pattern of under-reporting and negative bias toward the actions and agenda of this Administration. The widespread frustration that we, our members, and our supporters feel about the current trend in media coverage is palpable. People are turning off and tuning out. 

We strongly  urge all members of the media to promptly adjust their reporting in the following ways:

  • Cite specific details about the substance of all legislation, rather than catch phrases using sweeping generalizations.
  • Avoid focusing on negative “spin” over positive facts for the sake of ratings and profit.
  • Increase the use of direct quotes from the White House and Congress to properly convey the intended messages of those who lead our country.
  • Stop using stigmatizing tropes, such as “social safety net” and “social spending”, when referring to the Build Back Better legislation. This fully funded bill includes a broad range of investments to improve the quality of life of all Americans. (See related letter from the National Women’s Law Center.)

The impact of the current trend toward incomplete and biased reporting was recently quantified by a data analytics unit of the information company FiscalNote, at the request of Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. Analysts there reviewed over 200,000 articles and 65 news websites to rate the coverage President Biden received in the first 11 months of 2021 as compared to that of the former President Donald Trump in the first 11 months of 2020.

Using algorithms that give weight to certain adjectives based on their placement in the story, they found that Biden’s press for the past four months has been as bad as — and for a time worse than — the coverage Trump received for the same four months of 2020.

This equalized coverage does not match reality. During the 11 months analyzed, President Biden and his Administration have a very lengthy list of accomplishments. In contrast, the former president mishandled a pandemic response that caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, attempted to discredit our electoral process, and refused to accept his defeat in a free and fair election, leading eventually to an insurrection at our nation’s Capitol.

Milbank states in his related 12/3 opinion piece, “The findings, painstakingly assembled by FiscalNote vice president Bill Frischling, confirmed my fear: My colleagues in the media are serving as accessories to the murder of democracy.”

We wholeheartedly agree. Please consider and swiftly address your role in promoting this widespread, destructive pattern of reporting.  Not only is it doing harm to our democracy, but it is also harming your reputation as journalists and that of the news outlets you represent.

Sincerely,

13 PAGES IndivisibleCalifornia
3-M IndivisibleTennessee
Act for DemocracyOregon
Action Together FloridaFlorida
Activate AmericaNational
Avondale ACTionGeorgia
Ban SUPCalifornia
Bend the Arc Jewish ActionIllinois
Bold ReThinkWashingtonDC
Broward for ProgressFlorida
Campaign for America’s FutureWashingtonDC
CBFD IndivisibleCalifornia
Commit To DemocracyCalifornia
Crooked River ActionOhio
Democracy Action MarinCalifornia
Democratic Women of KnoxvilleTennessee
Highland Lakes DEMSCalifornia
Indivisible – MN Senate Districts 56 & 58Minnesota
Indivisible Acton AreaMassachusetts
Indivisible Beach CitiesCalifornia
Indivisible CA-39California
Indivisible California Green TeamCalifornia
Indivisible ClackamasOregon
Indivisible DuPageIllinois
Indivisible EuclidCalifornia
Indivisible EvanstonIllinois
Indivisible Georgia 04Georgia
Indivisible Georgia CoalitionGeorgia
Indivisible HawaiiHawaii
Indivisible Huron ValleyMichigan
Indivisible IllinoisIllinois
Indivisible Jax RiversideCalifornia
Indivisible Marching Buddies of AtlantaGeorgia
Indivisible MarinCalifornia
Indivisible Normal HeightsCalifornia
Indivisible Northern NevadaNevada
Indivisible ReSisters Walnut CreekCalifornia
INDIVISIBLE SacramentoCalifornia
Indivisible San FranciscoCalifornia
Indivisible San JoseCalifornia
Indivisible SausalitoCalifornia
Indivisible SEMOMissouri
Indivisible Sonoma CountyCalifornia
Indivisible Sonoma CountyCalifornia
Indivisible South Bay LACalifornia
Indivisible St LouisMIssouri
Indivisible TacomaWashington
Indivisible Take Action NowMissouri
Indivisible VenturaCalifornia
Indivisible We Will PersistMissouri
Indivisible We Will PersistMissouri
Indivisible West MarinCalifornia
IndivisibleNWIL Crystal LakeIllinois
Knoxville-Oak Ridge Central Labor CouncilTennessee
Larchmont/Mamaroneck IndivisibleNew York
Lights for LibertyNational
Monroe Indivisible ResistsMichigan
Ocean Futures SocietyInternational
People’s ActionNational
Putnam ProgressivesIllinois
RATT PACK Resistance ActionCalifornia
Rooted in ResistanceCalifornia
SFV Indivisible (San Fernando Valley)California
Sister District MarinCalifornia
SWIM (Statewide Indivisible Michigan)Michigan
Swing Left MarinCalifornia
Venice ResistanceCalifornia
VOICEVirginia
Westchester Citizen TherapistsNew York
Women’s March Santa BarbaraCalifornia


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