Thursday, April 14, 2005

 

Professional journalism

Yes, journalism is actually a profession. Most newspapers expect their reporters to have earned college degrees from institutions that teach them how to be objective. You learn quickly in this field that the biggest no-no is interjecting your own opinions into hard-news stories.
So what does it prove when you see a survey like the one that Mark has pointed out where 34 percent of media folks surveyed identified themselves as liberal versus only 7 percent who identified themselves as conservative?
Nothing, really. It is a far leap from knowing someone’s political persuasion to claiming that they would compromise their integrity and professionalism by writing slanted and biased news stories. Can you think of any other profession where a person’s ability to do competent work is called into question based on their political or social views? Would you demand to know who your plumber voted for before letting them into your house to fix a clogged drain?
Over the years I’ve known many reporters some of who were very liberal and some who were very conservative. But you could not tell who was who by reading their stories. They were all very capable of writing news stories without interjecting their personal beliefs and views into them.
Some will say that pure objectivity is not possible. That some hint of a person’s bias is going to come out no matter what they do. In fact, they would prefer to see newspapers abandon objectivity altogether and just pick one side or the other.
But I say that is splitting hairs. You don’t expect the plumber to restore all the pipes in your house like they were brand new. Why would you expect the newspaper to exactly mirror your definition of objectivity everyday?
Charges of bias are serious matters in journalism. It’s like charging a banker with embezzlement or accusing an architect of designing a building that is structurally unsound. Most reporters will bend over backward to avoid the charge of bias in a news story.
Comments:
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Unfortunately, I do not have access to the comments tools at this site or else I would delete the previous comment.
I apologize to the other readers for this foul-mouthed lout's juvenile behavior.
 
You're a class act, Mike. I took care of that pointless comment.

I did not (yet) block the person from further comments, in the hope that he will have something more constructive to say later on. But another such comment by the same person will result in his being permanently "persona non grata" here.
 
Your plumber isn't informing you and possibly millions of others on an event, though. Your plumber isn't giving you information that influences how you will vote. He fixes your pipes and bills you and that's all. But a journalist has a lot more responsibility because they reach more people and they know it. They are elitists and believe that since they are telling you something, you will believe that it is the truth. Also, I worked for a magazine online that went under after 9-11. If reporters get degrees and learn how to be objective, then the editors of this magazine either went to very bad schools or threw objectivity out the window. A couple of examples from articles they published: when talking about abortion and Al Gore, the writer said that Al Gore used to be pro life "but changed for the better." Another article on gun control had the obligatory "opposing view" (the pro second amendment side of course) with the header, "Some Women Like Guns". You can see there is definite bias and there is a concerted effort among journalists to not just inform people, but to influence.
 
I'm sorry, but an anecdotal tale of purported bias at a now defunct online magazine just isn't very persuasive to me.

The contention that there is a "concerted effort among journalists" is not supported by such stories. That is like saying because one banker was caught embezzling funds that all bankers are part of a conspiracy to steal money.

Journalists are people too. They are not all out to get you. Trust me.
 
I'm sorry, but an anecdotal tale of purported bias at a now defunct online magazine just isn't very persuasive to me.

Anecdotal yes, but is it not interesting that every single anecdote relates an instance of liberal bias, and not the other way around? We never hear of a mainstream media source exhibiting bias in a rightwing direction.

After awhile, the unanimous anecdotes add up to the Truth.
 
We never hear of a mainstream media source exhibiting bias in a rightwing direction.

Umm. Fox News. Washington Times. New York Post. And any other paper owned by Rupert Murdoch. They don't even pretend to be objective.
 
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