BiasWritten by Jim Blue | | email@example.com
There’s nothing like an election year to stir old memories. I was surfing the Web when I ran into a video of someone I recognized — a television news anchor named Barbara West.
Back in the mid 1980′s, West and I worked at competing stations in Amarillo, Texas. It was her first anchor job. Prior to that, her biggest claim to fame was representing Vermont in the Miss America Pageant.
From that small market on the arid Texas plains, West landed a spot anchoring in Orlando. She worked for years at the ABC affiliate, attracting little notice outside Central Florida. But now she’s really in the national spotlight.
During a satellite interview last week with Democratic VP nominee Joe Biden, West asked if Barack Obama is a Marxist.
West has now replaced Joe the Plumber as the lefty blogosphere’s “Public Enemy No. 1” and become the hero of right-wing radio talk show hosts.
She has also sparked a debate over media bias.
Way “back in the day” when I first got into journalism, most reporters considered objectivity to be a primary goal. We were trained to seek out opposing views and to restrain our personal biases. When journalists offered opinions, they were supposed to be clearly labeled as “commentary” or “analysis.”
But a funny thing happened on the way to the World Wide Web. Objectivity became passé.
From MSNBC on the left to FOX News Channel on the right, few pretend to achieve balance — they just wink cynically at how antique that concept appears to be. And too many editors and producers, the gatekeepers, are now cheerleaders for aggressive partisanship in news coverage.
Scientific American Magazine reported some scholarly research on the subject of bias in its November issue. The magazine cited UCLA political scientist Tim Groeling, who studied the way four networks reported polling numbers. Groeling discovered that ABC, CBS and NBC had a pro-Democratic bias. FOX had a pro-Republican bias.
Another study quoted by Scientific American discovered that, based on their citations of liberal and conservative think tanks, most of the major media, including the Wall Street Journal, were left of the average Democratic legislator. Yes, I said Democratic legislator.
Despite West’s interview, the mainstream media have focused far too little on Barack Obama’s background and far too much on Joe the Plumber’s. We know that Joe doesn’t have a union card. But do we really know the candidates’ deep political and economic philosophies?
As a news consumer, you can demand more. You can support those journalists who deliver fair and balanced reporting and don’t just use it as a slogan. You can avoid the outlets that pander to your own biases and give your loyalty to those that challenge your preconceptions with facts, not blather.
Too many reporters and editors figure the freewheeling marketplace of ideas on the Web and on cable TV will somehow balance things out. Maybe it will. Or maybe professional journalists should reclaim their standards and offer news consumers a better reason to watch and read their work.
To read West’s interview with Joe Biden, click here.
E-mail columnist Jim Blue at firstname.lastname@example.org.