Bias in the Media? Yes, No & Maybe
Next to religion, politics and the BCS standings, the best way to provoke a hyperventilated rant is to bring up the topic of bias in the media. Eric Deggans (St. Pete Times) did just that in an Oct. 30th piece headlined Media Bias In the Eye of the Beholder on his Media in the Mirror blog.
TBM shares what it feels are Deggans’ pivotal paragraphs:
“I think people are confusing the (Main Stream Media’s) focus on pursuing social justice, which is an important part of our journalism DNA, with rampant liberalism.
“We focus on social justice issues in our work, which means reporting on civil rights issues, worker's rights issues, government waste issues, government effectiveness issues, poverty, crime, police brutality and much more. John Roberts, CBS correspondent and weekend anchor, described it to me simply: standing up for the little guy.
“But to an anti-affirmative action, pro-business, anti-welfare, law and order conservative, that kind of reporting might feel an awful lot like liberal bias.”
That may be part of it, but TBM suspects there is more.
For one thing, other than news junkies, few people understand the complexity or subtlety of the pecking order and division of labor within a modern media outlet.
A simplistic example: Reporters don’t write headlines.
A reporter may do a fine job telling a story and then fall prey to a distracted, sloppy or lazy editor who slaps on a headline that does not accurately reflect the story, but it’s the reporter – not the nameless editor – who gets the grief.
See “Sober & Similar: Journalists a Political Monolith,” TBM, Oct. 2.
Another example: Reporters, columnists, editorial writers and editors are not all the same thing.
Some people at newspapers are paid to have an opinion; some are not: Eric Deggans is, as is Walt Belcher of The Tampa Tribune. Both are media critics. Both have a wide latitude as to what they can say. They are not, however, the “voice” of the paper. That task falls to the editorial department. When each paper endorses political candidates, each editorial board makes that assessment, independent of its respective newsroom. (They might agree; they might not.)
Do such assessments constitute a “bias” per se? No, they represent a viewpoint; though, human nature being what it is, a bias or two can certainly enter the mix.
Finally, individuals and groups within a free society can feel slighted, get upset, and generally be agitated, outraged or aggravated for any and all reasons.
The media can be a target. So can the government. As can political parties, celebrities, talk show hosts and even bloggers.
Free speech is for everybody – and, sometimes, it's a free-for-all.
Here's what the First Amendment says:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
Note that the phrase “the press” falls about in the middle of the amendment, almost as an aside.
So, is there “Bias in the Media”? There is if you say there is. It’s your opinion. Now, about those BCS standings . . .