Media Bias?

For those of us following the election, it's been very interesting to see media bias for a certain politician. Whether it's been the overzealous praise by Keith Olberman and Chris Matthews, or the rise in positive stories of one candidate over the mostly negative stories reported of another, what is the real reason? I was rather surprised at the take given by veteran technology reporter Michael Malone. Writing on ABC online, his report "Media's Presidential Bias and Decline" is an interesting take. He writes

[W]e 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.

Simply put, reporting has changed. It used to be about the facts. Today that has all changed. He goes on

The absolute nadir (though I hate to commit to that, as we still have two weeks before the election) came with Joe the Plumber.

Middle America, even when they didn't agree with Joe, looked on in horror as the press took apart the private life of an average person who had the temerity to ask a tough question of a presidential candidate. So much for the standing up for the little man. So much for speaking truth to power. So much for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, and all of those other catchphrases we journalists used to believe we lived by.

His own experience is telling.

[W]hat really shattered my faith -- and I know the day and place where it happened -- was the war in Lebanon three summers ago. The hotel I was staying at in Windhoek, Namibia, only carried CNN, a network I'd already learned to approach with skepticism. But this was CNN International, which is even worse.

I sat there, first with my jaw hanging down, then actually shouting at the TV, as one field reporter after another reported the carnage of the Israeli attacks on Beirut, with almost no corresponding coverage of the Hezbollah missiles raining down on northern Israel. The reporting was so utterly and shamelessly biased that I sat there for hours watching, assuming that eventually CNNi would get around to telling the rest of the story … but it never happened.

In our own country it's even worse. Regarding this election he writes

If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as president of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography.

That isn't Sen. Obama's fault: His job is to put his best face forward. No, it is the traditional media's fault, for it alone (unlike the alternative media) has had the resources to cover this story properly, and has systematically refused to do so.

Why, for example to quote the lawyer for Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., haven't we seen an interview with Sen. Obama's grad school drug dealer -- when we know all about Mrs. McCain's addiction? Are Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko that hard to interview? All those phony voter registrations that hard to scrutinize? And why are Sen. Biden's endless gaffes almost always covered up, or rationalized, by the traditional media?

Sad to say, he's right. Current media has lost its way. In my own life I have seen serious debate of topics (anyone remember Politically Incorrect?) to entertainment stories being given every 10 minutes on a normal newscast. Sound bites have replaced full quotes, and we've stopped thinking and asking tough questions from those we are voting for, and from those who report the news? It's a sad state of affairs when bloggers were the first to report John Edwards affair (and it was largely ignored by the major media-possibly because at the time he was still in the running for Democratic VP?) and as soon as Sarah Palin was announced as VP candidate, swarms of reporters were sent to Alaska to get dirt on her. Malone finishes

Furthermore, I also happen to believe that most reporters, whatever their political bias, are human torpedoes … and, had they been unleashed, would have raced in and roughed up the Obama campaign as much as they did McCain's. That's what reporters do. I was proud to have been one, and I'm still drawn to a good story, any good story, like a shark to blood in the water.

So why weren't those legions of hungry reporters set loose on the Obama campaign? Who are the real villains in this story of mainstream media betrayal?

The editors. The men and women you don't see; the people who not only decide what goes in the paper, but what doesn't; the managers who give the reporters their assignments and lay out the editorial pages. They are the real culprits......

And then the opportunity presents itself -- an attractive young candidate whose politics likely matches yours, but more important, he offers the prospect of a transformed Washington with the power to fix everything that has gone wrong in your career.

With luck, this monolithic, single-party government will crush the alternative media via a revived fairness doctrine, re-invigorate unions by getting rid of secret votes, and just maybe be beholden to people like you in the traditional media for getting it there.

And besides, you tell yourself, it's all for the good of the country …

No matter what your political persuasion, we must learn to think again. We must learn to actually talk through the issues. If we don't we will be led by labels, libel, and looks instead of a careful assessment of the issues. THINK DAMNIT!!!!

1 comment:

  1. The temptation is then to balance out that bias with another bias that'll fill out the stories to fit to reality. Then you have polarizing opinions that are hopelessly biased. It's really hard to react to such strong bias with a true commitment to being as objective as possible.