January 14, 2008

Media Bias?


Let's say I'm an A.P. writer over in Baghdad. I come across a town where violence has gone down and become "relatively" stable over the last six months. But, I don't want to write about it, because I don't want to encourage what I believe is a terrible situation due to everything else that I see poorly going around the country. So, I write about a car-bomb instead.

The car bomb actually happened. I am reporting the truth. It will sell more papers. Is this bias?

I am a reporter working for Obama's campaign asked to follow Hilary around. I witness her having heart-to-heart talks with a lot of the local people in the town. But I don't want to write about that, since I am confident that Obama would be a better President. So, instead I write about how Hilary tripped down the stairs.

The tripping actually happened. I am reporting the truth. It will sell more papers. Is this bias?

4 comments:

Arcane Rest said...

yes...telling only one side regardless is a bias...although it is truth, it is part of the whole truth that supports your beliefs, which is a bias view, not to be confused with a false view.

Sabai said...

so, by that logic, if i were doing a paper on the holocaust, i would have to use at least some part of it to defend hitler?

Arcane Rest said...

i am just saying that everything typically has a bias from the person writing...it is subjective, to be purely objective in writing is nearly impossible...think about a typical experiment sure they try to be objective but when coming to conclusions it is subjective. frankly, a person can come to multiple conclusions when analyzing the data. This same idea leads us to have many positional bias...so my point is that bias is not necessary bad, you just have to realize that it is bias.

with all that being said, i also believe in an objective truth, that being the Holy Bible.

Steve said...

Yes it is, but usually both stories actually get written, at least by somebody. As someone who occasionally works wire shifts at the paper, you get both types of stories from Iraq.

The thing is, you will see more of the bombing stories than larger-scale violence up or down stories for two reasons. First, each bombing gets its own story, as hard, breaking news gets priority, while overall stories are written less frequently because the bigger picture changes more slowly. Second, the wire stories you see in the paper are often more a result of space than ideology. Usually when I have a wire shift I have to sort through hundreds of stories and photos to fill a page and a half. Many days, there is only room for a brief on Iraq, and a bombing is always going to be easier to make into a brief on deadline.

But you're right, how a person views the world often colors the writing, it just often is in more subtle ways. Like when a new store comes to town, some reporters lead off with a consumer-oriented section on what the business sells, quotes on the products, etc. Others place the number of jobs created and the sales tax it is estimated it will generate for the city more toward the top. The info will usually all be in the story, it's just where it is placed that can show how the reporter or the person revising the story views the world.