Are the media biased?
Sure they are – they always have been.
Does that mean they do a poor job reporting the news? No, not at all. Here is why.
Those of us who study communications know that bias is part of the human psyche. It works this way - we all think that our opinion and viewpoint is reasonable and mainstream. Even people with radical options see themselves in the mainstream. The fact is that very few people think they are out of the mainstream – and that includes journalists. But journalists, traditionally, are not in the mainstream– they tend to be better educated, capable of asking the right questions, and having an extra helping of skepticism. Bias slips in on the perceptive end – what is story, what makes news? As well as on the level of what to ask, and who to interview.
Many think that bias in media is something new – and it is not. Newspapers began as police propaganda in the 19th century when an editor would tell the news from the perspective of their political outlook – and people read papers based on their beliefs. By the turn of the century, tycoons had stitched together major metro papers, like the Hearst Chain, to push an agenda - like war with Spain. This was the age of “yellow journalism.” But the reaction was journalism that spoke out for the common person – the famous “muckrakers” of the same era who took on the bosses of big business and the political machine.
Newspapers sold like hotcakes, the newspaper business boomed, the art of news flourished and ethics became more and more part of the game. Americans had no other sources of news.
Fast-forward to today, when cable broadcast media tends to have a specific point of view. You could watch Fox News and MSNBC and think that you are looking at two separate worlds. But the audience for these outlets tend to self select too. Conservatives look for validation in the Fox coverage, while Progressives turn to MSNBC for insight as well.
With the decline of traditional printed media, the rise of intentionally biased media on the Internet has become the rule of the day.
So, what of traditional bias? It has become less relevant, as journalism is human, they have the same fears and hopes as everyone else, and they just do a better job to suppress it. And they’re thought to ask questions, and find inflation in route and not their own beliefs.
But when propagandists rise up and claim the title of media, putting out opinion pieces in the guise of news – things get dangerous. This is not news or reporting, but opinion and propaganda- a throwback to the police rags of the 19th century.
The fault, my dear reader, is in us. We need to look for real perspective, and move beyond out own bias. We need to read the truth, be less sidetrack by side shows and look for real news and perspective – and we need to finds ways to talk to other and see where we have common ground, and talk to and not at each other.
We are the ones with the bias – and we need to move beyond them, not deeper into them.