Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Media's Election Bias

~Well, d'oh. From ABC News by Michael Malone...an epiphany
The traditional media are playing a very, very dangerous game -- with their readers, with the Constitution and with their own fates.

The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling. And over the last few months I've found myself slowly moving from shaking my head at the obvious one-sided reporting, to actually shouting at the screen of my television and my laptop computer.

But worst of all, for the last couple weeks, I've begun -- for the first time in my adult life -- to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living. A few days ago, when asked by a new acquaintance what I did for a living, I replied that I was "a writer," because I couldn't bring myself to admit to a stranger that I'm a journalist....

...Now, of course, there's always been bias in the media. Human beings are biased, so the work they do, including reporting, is inevitably colored. Hell, I can show you 10 different ways to color variations of the word "said" -- muttered, shouted, announced, reluctantly replied, responded, etc. -- to influence the way a reader will comprehend exactly the same quote. We all learn that in Reporting 101, or at least in the first few weeks working in a newsroom.

But what we are also supposed to learn during that same apprenticeship is to recognize the dangerous power of that technique, and many others, and develop built-in alarms against them.

But even more important, we are also supposed to be taught that even though there is no such thing as pure, Platonic objectivity in reporting, we are to spend our careers struggling to approach that ideal as closely as possible.

That means constantly challenging our own prejudices, systematically presenting opposing views and never, ever burying stories that contradict our own world views or challenge people or institutions we admire. If we can't achieve Olympian detachment, than at least we can recognize human frailty -- especially in ourselves.
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