June 25th 2008
used to be a reporter, and I was biased.
At the time, I thought my writing was professional and objective and I would have argued my case vociferously, but looking back I see I exhibited bias in three primary ways:
- My story selection – If the story was about something I didn’t agree with, the chances that I’d ever get around to writing it was about nil, unless my editor’s will was stronger than mine. But usually if I didn’t like a story, my editors didn’t like it much either.
- My story organization – I always told both sides, but if the story was about something I cared about personally, I often ended up telling one side a bit better.
- My quote selection – If I had a really powerful quote from someone I didn’t really agree with, I might decide to paraphrase it rather than use it verbatim. Powerful quotes from folks I agreed with usually found their way to the top of the story.
Journalism is not a profession that attracts impassionate, uninvolved people, so most journalists are a lot like I was: biased, but not willing to admit as much.
Over time, I’ve come to believe that objectivity – telling both sides of the story – is a lousy standard for a journalist. I tell my staff that clients of Laer Pearce & Associates deserve better, so we work to hold the media to fairness. Fairness means both sides in a story get a fair shake, equal footing, common respect. Reporters understand the difference between objectivity and fairness, and the good ones work to adapt the new standards.
Media bias is a common subject at Cheat-Seeking Missiles – just look up “Media Bias” in the categories section of the home page.
Comments? You can always reach me at email2laer[@]yahoo[dot]com.
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