1 of 2
1
Is “double bias” really no bias?
Posted: 14 May 2009 06:42 AM   [ Ignore ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  324
Joined  2009-04-23

Ok, so the question is admittedly lame in its construction, but it is the best I could come up with to try to encapsulate my beef.  I’m getting irritated by the MSM’s claim of unbiased reporting bolstered by their continual “republican” and “democrat” sound-bite debates over every single political topic.  Every single piece of news regarding anything political or social results in two “experts” getting semi-equal air time (depending on who yells the loudest) to discuss their side’s spin on that particular news.  Is this really unbiased news?  If there are two power houses jockeying for power and you let them both monopolize the media, then how is the news really free from bias?  Why must news be “spun” by each side in order for it to be unbiased?  The truth is we get the news and then we get what the two “powers” want us to believe that news means.  When did I become unable to understand news by myself without the talking head gallery?  I know that yellow journalism is alive and well, but what of the integrity of those reporting the news?  Just yesterday we were presented with a FBI agent with first hand knowledge of what happened in a specific case regarding a terrorist, torture and the information obtained.  I watched as the two “experts” gave their opinions of this information, and the republican spokesperson actually questioned whether or not this information was true.  Really?  Is it really necessary for an unbiased news station to temper a statement from a senate hearing with a dem saying: “see torture doesn’t work” and a repub saying:  “who knows if that is true.”  Come on, how is that no bias, or even helpful?  Shouldn’t an unbiased news source just give us the statement and leave the rest up to us?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 May 2009 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15755
Joined  2006-02-14

I agree, [Chicken ... don’t know why I wrote Chris ...]. One of the reasons I began tuning out of those news chat shows many years ago is that the discussions were all so predictable. One really doesn’t learn anything whatever by learning the talking points of the left and right. There’s no serious debate going on; it’s all political theater done with tightly scripted talking points. I suppose in some definition of the term it does amount to an ‘unbiased’ treatment, but its unbiased only in being maximally uninformative. And plenty of us have also decried the false balance provided when, for example, the media puts up a real medical expert against a quack, and treats the whole matter as though there was nothing to choose between them but their opinions. (And, more often than not, their ability to spin a charismatic and emotional tale).

I imagine that part of the issue has to do with the low esteem, and perhaps low self-esteem, held by the media in general. They know that their own opinions will be hashed as biased by whatever side they disagree with, so it’s simpler for them to refuse to take a stance on an issue, and let the talking heads duel it out. That way they stay nominally ‘above the fray’, and can retain some semblance of integrity with percentages on both sides.

A separate but related issue is that extremist talking heads tend to make better political theater than moderates, so there’s also the financial incentive to draw the extremes.

Of course, Fox News, and to a lesser extent more recently MSNBC has really learned the failure of these fake “double bias” chat formats; they’re going simply to one extreme or the other. That’s frankly more the way it’s been done in european print media, where each paper has a pretty firm political leaning, not simply in editorial but in the entire slant of the paper. I am not convinced that that is politically healthy in the longer term, but with the dispersion of media, it is an entirely predictable and unstoppable result.

The problem is to devise a strategy that involves getting well informed and/or moderate opinions that are engaging and compelling enough for people to actually want to watch or read. I’m encouraged by the relative success of the Economist magazine, and of course there are good journalists in places like the Times and WSJ, but TV is significantly harder ... the programming directors still want to gun for the huge audiences, and so long as they follow that sort of economic model, I fear that truly reasoned debate and discussion simply is not possible.

Perhaps an internet or podcasting model could work. Then there’s the question of finding someone who could do the show. The additional problem is that politics really is complicated. There is no one expert on everything; one of the main issues is that whoever you choose as “host” will at most be expert in one or two things, and likely will have oddball ideas in seven or eight more. So really one will have to have a stable of experts or a range of different shows, and then it gets even more complex and who has time for all that ...

A separate but related issue of pulling to the extremes is political jerrymandering, which actually strikes me as more insidious still, but that’s a separate topic.

[ Edited: 14 May 2009 08:27 AM by dougsmith ]
 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 May 2009 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1995
Joined  2008-09-18

I would prefer a news regime with a variety of points of view. That is, after all, the whole point and purpose of the First Amendment. I am willing to accept the inevitability of travesties like Fox News if they were part of a broad spectrum of news sources. The European model strikes me as superior to the American model. For example, the Economist is quite open about its biases, and one must read its news with those biases in mind—but the end result is still excellent news reporting, which I find superior to any American news source.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 May 2009 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15755
Joined  2006-02-14
Chris Crawford - 14 May 2009 08:21 AM

The European model strikes me as superior to the American model.

I don’t see the advantage of blurring reporting with op/ed. Granted that it is impossible ever to entirely remove political bias from reporting, it is nonetheless still a goal one should pursue, and there is a difference between reporters who look simply to reconfirm the biases of the editorial slant and those who look to report stories, go where they might.

I find in some european newspapers also a heavy bias towards opinion articles rather than reporting. So, e.g., the paper will run half a dozen opinion pieces written by left wing fiction writers instead of running half a dozen pieces of actual international reporting. That I think is a waste of print, as is the quaint notion that writing fiction somehow gives you any sort of special insight into international politics. (Here I’m picking on the lefties, although obviously the right wing does their own sort of nonsense as well).

So I would not support the european model generally. In a sense they are being more honest and up front about the biases they hold, however once those biases are made explicit it appears to me there is a subsequent pull throughout the paper just to have done with any pretense of objectivity. And that is a problem.

Information is really only valuable insofar as it is objective.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 May 2009 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1995
Joined  2008-09-18

I agree that when strong bias permeates the news, it destroys its value. Perhaps the distinction we should make is between “bias” and “point of view”. That is, a biased observer is unaware of their own bias, while an observer with a point of view is aware of their own biases. For example, I think that most of the commentators here have a clear point of view, but only a few are biased. The key factor, I think, is the acknowledgement of the existence of other points of view combined with a preference for one point of view.

I think we can use Fox News and the Economist to clearly differentiate the two concepts. Fox News is biased because they present highly subjective news while claiming it to be objective. The Economist, on the other hand, presents its point of view but acknowledges its political preferences.

Although the distinction is correlated with political extremism, I don’t think that political extremism is a direct causal factor. There’s a connection in there somewhere, but I don’t think that it’s close enough to articulate clearly.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 May 2009 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15755
Joined  2006-02-14
Chris Crawford - 14 May 2009 09:25 AM

I think we can use Fox News and the Economist to clearly differentiate the two concepts. Fox News is biased because they present highly subjective news while claiming it to be objective. The Economist, on the other hand, presents its point of view but acknowledges its political preferences.

Perhaps so; I like the comparison between Fox and the Economist. Of course, the other critical distinctions between the two of them are that the Economist is more centrist and Fox is more radical, and that Fox is more populist and the Economist is more elite.

Another comparison might be between the Economist and National Review. They are both magazines with points of view, but one is at least attempting to do real, objective journalism, and has the integrity to publish articles that run contrary to that point of view, while the other is more an organ of op/ed. (Once again, the Economist is more centrist, however).

The problem with Fox News’s claim to objectivity is not the claim itself. Any responsible news organization should aspire to objectivity, even though human nature being the way it is, everyone is liable to think that their own perspective is more objective than that of their neighbors. The problem with their claim to objectivity is that it is so transparently bogus. The whole network was set up as a right wing counterweight to what Murdoch and the Republican Party saw as liberal bias in the media. Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, is a Republican political consultant who worked on campaigns of Nixon, Reagan and GHW Bush, and he has hardly been shy at directing programming there.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 May 2009 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  324
Joined  2009-04-23
dougsmith - 14 May 2009 09:50 AM

The whole network was set up as a right wing counterweight to what Murdoch and the Republican Party saw as liberal bias in the media.

So why is that the same thing as news?  I know I’m naive, but I don’t know why we can’t keep our philosophical, political and social conversations out of news.  Why can’t the news be just what happened, i.e. the FBI agent testified that Abu Zubaydah provided information only when enhanced interrogation techniques were not used?  I understand why we want and need to have discussions about the particular views one has regarding the news stories, but they aren’t necessary when reporting the news.  I do not think it is wise to infuse news with opinions, points of view, or any bias.  Is it really too hard to separate the two, or are we just to entrenched in how it is?  All of the papers already have an opinion section, our 24 news channels need to put on something for programming, and news itself is not as profitable as sensationalism.  Wouldn’t it be better if we had more symposia?  Public gatherings where we could discuss cultural and social differences, and even views on news?  Like this and other message boards, we just love discussing and arguing our points to one another.  So why is it in the news?  Shouldn’t news be more pure just as a point of preserving history?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 May 2009 12:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1995
Joined  2008-09-18

OK, so let me try a new generalization: there’s a scale of “news merit”. At one end of the scale are news sources on the Web, which can be correct or useful but can also be completely bogus.

Next come what I’ll call “knee-jerk news sources”—primarily television and much radio. These attempt to provide cute news bites that grab attention. There are some more serious shows on TV and radio, but they have problems with ratings.

Next come newspapers, many of which make a real effort to provide solid news. However, even those are still subjected to a lot of market pressures making it difficult for them to give in-depth, reasonably sound coverage.

Next come weekly news sources, such as Time, Newsweek, and the Economist. These are much better but even these have their flaws. Time and Newsweek often succumb to sensationalism, headlining photos of the latest blood-soaked but politically insignificant disaster.

Lastly come the long-term periodicals such as Foreign Affairs. These are way too elitist to have much effect on the general public, but they do have a lot of sway among the cognoscenti.

The wild card is the serious news sources on the Web. Some of web sources I go to for more substantial information are Juan Cole, Real Climate, the Becker-Posner blog, and so forth. There’s some really great stuff out there. But there’s so much more dreck. The Web as a source of information is like a cesspool with a few pearls floating in it.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 May 2009 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15755
Joined  2006-02-14

Sturgeon’s Law, Chris: 90% of everything is crap.

:lol:

Chicken, I agree with you that reporting should be kept separate from op/ed, but as you know, what should happen isn’t always what does happen, or what happens naturally. We’ve seen a long, slow decline of the nightly news broadcast, partly due to 24 hour news channels like CNN and Fox, but partly because there are other things on TV as well at that hour now, and frankly, the average Joe or Jane just isn’t that interested in bloodless, objective news reporting, even less when that reporting is about what is politically significant. Yes, there are a small percentage who are interested, but my guess is that you’re talking about nightly averages of somewhat less than the total subscribership of Foreign Affairs.

So what does sell? Drama, emotion; Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity. The worst, unfortunately, sell very well. But it’s always been so: the great titans of print journalists more often than not were yellow journalists like Hearst and Murdoch. That’s what the people want, and there’s no hope in forcing them to watch or read what bores them to tears.

I’m all ears for ideas about how to get bias out of journalism, though, in a way that retains audiences ...

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 May 2009 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  7716
Joined  2008-04-11

People would be infuriated if there were an equally weighted discussion on one of these talk shows debating the inferiority of blacks/ women etc vs the superiority of whites/men etc as if both points were true. Or if there were a debate on whether or not the Holocaust REALLY happened as if it has a 50% chance of being true (or that Bush orchestrated the 2001 terrorist attack on the WTC).

I would not have a problem with it being debated with the points that it cannot be true for X,Y,and Z reasons, but to treat everything as if it has an equal chance of being the truth, is a very new agey ‘truth is relative’ idiocy.

When we send our children to school to learn ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ we don’t tell them that ‘5+5=10’ but some people think it is 54 and that has equal weight—make up your own mind as to the truth’. We want them to LEARN.

 Signature 

Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 May 2009 07:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  262
Joined  2008-06-13

Really, the only news that’s unbiased is the straightforward factual stuff like “Plane crash in Dallas”.  But, they don’t draw viewership based on simple factual reporting.
I’d actually prefer if the outlets were more upfront with their leanings.  The position that they attempt to take is quite ridiculous.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 May 2009 05:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5506
Joined  2008-08-14
Hawkfan - 14 May 2009 07:41 PM

Really, the only news that’s unbiased is the straightforward factual stuff like “Plane crash in Dallas”.  But, they don’t draw viewership based on simple factual reporting.
I’d actually prefer if the outlets were more upfront with their leanings.  The position that they attempt to take is quite ridiculous.

Good stuff in there Hawk. Let’s look at that for a minute. “They don’t draw viewership.” Commercial Sponsors. Commercial Sponsors have a direct interest in how citizen/consumers view the news, and what we consider news.
What if the news was only appealing to people who could stand “upfront” unbiased reporting? Lot’s less people would view the News? Maybe, maybe not! We don’t know this. People have so much to choose from they choose what they want-usually the sensational stuff. But if there was only one or two sources, I’m sure the same amount and type of people would tune in, or subscribe, or log-on. Then more of the interpretation would be on the citizen, and not spoon fed, like ready made meals to them.
All of us sit here in this forum and debate the news endlessly. So do millions of other folks all over the place. So if we were given plain, unbiased news, we would still tune in, and we would leave the interpretation to our own “forums” all over the place, like we do now anyways.
Not only should we look at outright biasing, we should also look at another form of biasing, the monsoon of useless information, and totally irrelevant “news” that is swamping all the other useful bits of information.
Buried deep in your newspaper, there maybe an article about your local politician, and some initiative he/she is supporting. But many people can’t notice the article because they are bogged down by human interest stories, new grooming techniques for poodles, 20 recipes for zucchini, and some flood that happened halfway around the world. Oh and celebrity birthdays!

 Signature 

Now with 20% more surfactants!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 May 2009 03:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2423
Joined  2007-09-03
dougsmith - 14 May 2009 09:50 AM
Chris Crawford - 14 May 2009 09:25 AM

I think we can use Fox News and the Economist to clearly differentiate the two concepts. Fox News is biased because they present highly subjective news while claiming it to be objective. The Economist, on the other hand, presents its point of view but acknowledges its political preferences.

Perhaps so; I like the comparison between Fox and the Economist. Of course, the other critical distinctions between the two of them are that the Economist is more centrist and Fox is more radical, and that Fox is more populist and the Economist is more elite.

Another comparison might be between the Economist and National Review. They are both magazines with points of view, but one is at least attempting to do real, objective journalism, and has the integrity to publish articles that run contrary to that point of view, while the other is more an organ of op/ed. (Once again, the Economist is more centrist, however).

The problem with Fox News’s claim to objectivity is not the claim itself. Any responsible news organization should aspire to objectivity, even though human nature being the way it is, everyone is liable to think that their own perspective is more objective than that of their neighbors. The problem with their claim to objectivity is that it is so transparently bogus. The whole network was set up as a right wing counterweight to what Murdoch and the Republican Party saw as liberal bias in the media. Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, is a Republican political consultant who worked on campaigns of Nixon, Reagan and GHW Bush, and he has hardly been shy at directing programming there.

Why not compare Fox News and Sixty Minutes and   NY Times and the Economist (or National Review—good example)—easier to compare examples within the same media.  And what about Dan Rather resigning?  plenty of examples on the left as well as the right.

I don’t understand what “double bias” means… can you edit the first post with another example….

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 May 2009 03:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  324
Joined  2009-04-23
Jackson - 15 May 2009 03:24 PM


I don’t understand what “double bias” means… can you edit the first post with another example….

As opposed to editing my first post, I’ll attempt to answer you here.  My use (maybe even creation, i don’t know) of the term “double bias” refers to the dem and repub expert that is represented after every political or social news story in an attempt for the MSM to claim that they are unbiased.  How is that explanation, better or worse?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 May 2009 03:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  324
Joined  2009-04-23
asanta - 14 May 2009 02:11 PM

People would be infuriated if there were an equally weighted discussion on one of these talk shows debating the inferiority of blacks/ women etc vs the superiority of whites/men etc as if both points were true. Or if there were a debate on whether or not the Holocaust REALLY happened as if it has a 50% chance of being true (or that Bush orchestrated the 2001 terrorist attack on the WTC).

I would not have a problem with it being debated with the points that it cannot be true for X,Y,and Z reasons, but to treat everything as if it has an equal chance of being the truth, is a very new agey ‘truth is relative’ idiocy.

When we send our children to school to learn ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ we don’t tell them that ‘5+5=10’ but some people think it is 54 and that has equal weight—make up your own mind as to the truth’. We want them to LEARN.

I don’t really get what you are aiming at here.  The statement “one of these talk shows” is that referring to news or like Ricki Lake.  Because I think the white supremacist vs blacks discussion has happened on that show (or one like it) before.  I’m sure Jerry Springer got some holocaust deniers on at one point.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 May 2009 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15755
Joined  2006-02-14
Jackson - 15 May 2009 03:24 PM

Why not compare Fox News and Sixty Minutes and   NY Times and the Economist (or National Review—good example)—easier to compare examples within the same media.  And what about Dan Rather resigning?  plenty of examples on the left as well as the right.

Well, I was giving left and right comparisons, as you note. But Sixty Minutes is not comparable to Fox News; to begin with, obviously it’s just a once a week show and not an entire network. Further, it is not an organ of the Democratic Party and has done an enormous amount of good investigative journalism—historically some of the best on TV. Really, what we need is more Sixty Minutes and less O’Reilly. That is, more journalism and less op/ed, as we were saying.

Sure, one can point to several very bad reports from Sixty Minutes, but compared with the sheer number that they have done over the years, it’s a relatively small percentage. Similarly, Dan Rather is a journalist of the old school with a long, illustrious career. Politically, I don’t see him as significantly different from Walter Cronkite, to take another example, and comparing him to Fox’s talking heads is a nonstarter. (Perhaps the now retired Brit Hume but certainly not O’Reilly or Hannity or that clown Glen Beck).

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 2
1