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How do you identify media bias?

By elenchos in Media
Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 08:15:56 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

It seems like we can't discuss anything these days without bringing up media bias. Usually it's "liberal bias," but "conservative bias" is often charged, and then there is the increasingly popular "pro-corporate bias" or "money bias." There is plenty of heat generated over this topic, but little light. So here is the challenge: can you explain how we should measure bias in the media? Spare us your opinion about which of the above you think is the real bias; we get enough of that in the other postings, and you can put your opinion in the poll if you want. This is a question solely about methodology: What criteria should we use to discover convincing evidence of bias one way or another in the media?


Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting(FAIR) claims that they can show clear proof of pro-corporate, conservative bias in the media. But is that because they are just a bunch of liberals? Accuracy In Media (AIM) sees things a little differently. Critique their methods. lee_malatesta says we should look at Project Censored's list of top stories ignored by the media for convincing proof. The whole thread will give you a heap of arguments on both sides. Of course, many in the alternative media, like WorldNetDaily would insist that the bias is entirely liberal, as evidenced by by the media persecution of traditional values. Personally, I think the media is bent mostly towards human folly and laziness. So what tools do you use to decide what to think? Is it all just opinion? Nothing but a mirror of our own biases? Or can you show us the way to the truth?

Now, go to your respective corners and come back with a convincing case. And try to keep calm.

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Poll
The media are biased in favor of:
o conservatives/ Republicans 1%
o corporations/ the rich 26%
o liberals/ Democrats 23%
o Republicrats 5%
o whatever is popular/ stupidity 39%
o nothing (it is not biased) 0%
o none of the above 4%

Votes: 164
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o FAIR
o AIM
o says
o Project Censored's
o top stories ignored by the media
o whole thread
o WorldNetDa ily
o persecutio n
o human folly
o laziness
o Also by elenchos


Display: Sort:
How do you identify media bias? | 145 comments (143 topical, 2 editorial, 2 hidden)
'Media Bias' is toward getting eyeballs (3.27 / 18) (#1)
by RocketJeff on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 04:59:43 PM EST

I'm sure individual reports have their own politial/cultural/whatever bias, but in general the 'Media' is biased toward getting the most viewers.

Look at your local newspapers/news shows. Very little 'real' news, most of it is fluff designed to attract readers/viewers and not to alienate them. That's what brings in the money. If they reported 'real' news, a portion of the population would be irritated enough by their report that they's lose that postion of their advertising stream.

$$$ - that's what the Media's interested in

Here's an example: (4.29 / 27) (#3)
by iGrrrl on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 05:30:52 PM EST

Fox news killed a story by a husband and wife investigating team due to pressure from Monsanto. The report documented that supermarkets which had promised not to sell milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) were quietly stocking diary shelves with such products.

Monsanto makes rBGH, and contacted the chair of Fox News with warning letters. Fox killed the story. The reporters sued, and won, but Fox has appealed. This case has received little press, but you can read more about it here.

I read about this in the winter issue of Yes! magazine, and I quote from their article concerning the suit:

"Perhaps most ironic was the battle over the meaning of the Federal Communications Act. Fox's attorney tried to get the case dismissed, saying that there is no law against the station's slanting, distorting, or lying about the news."

Forget any kind of fiduciary responsibility...

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.

Just to clarify (5.00 / 2) (#101)
by bknotts on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:41:25 PM EST

I went to that site, and noted in the complaint that it was not "Fox News" (as in Fox News Channel) that is involved in this dispute. Rather, it is a local Fox affiliate in Tampa, Florida.


[ Parent ]
It's simple .... (3.29 / 17) (#4)
by Bad Mojo on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 05:30:55 PM EST

Don't trust it unless you witnessed it. Otherwise, attribute it the proper level of doubt that any second hand report would warrant. If you live a life where you MUST make life or death decissions on second hand information, I'm glad I'm not you.



-Bad Mojo
"The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!"
B. Watterson's Calvin - "Calvin & Hobbes"

Data Source etc. (4.65 / 20) (#5)
by h2odragon on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 05:40:28 PM EST

Vanderbilt TV News archive. They do summaries of the networks' evening news shows, like this one for Dec 20th, 2000.

Time spent covering a story is one measure of use to the argument about bias. It's not a whole measure; I love to observe the subtle universal loaded phrases that pop up in the news. For the last few years, "extremist" has almost always been preceded by the words "right wing", even when that was totally incorrect ("right wing extremist" Russian old-skool communists, forex). "Pro life protester" vs. "Pro-choice activist"; used to describe two groups of folks yelling at each other from opposite sides of the street. There's a science to generating the news that I'm almost totally ignorant of; there's a consistiency to the "major media" that argues for the existance of a formulaic unerpinning.

There colud be a good subjective way to figure the "emotional index" of words and phrases in context, and perhaps judge coverage by some semblance of a standard means. Even the best such measure won't have any useful way to account for the effect of individual variations in interpretation to be useful for large numbers of people in any large way. Psychohistory isn't going to be taught in schools for a while.

Pro-anti (4.00 / 11) (#10)
by Brandybuck on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 10:10:11 PM EST

"Pro life protester" vs. "Pro-choice activist"

Consider

  • Pro-life versus pro-choice. Both are positive terms. Everyone feels that they are for life and choice, thus anyone using the terms "anti-life" and "anti-choice" are clearly biased.
  • Pro-choice versus pro-abortion. Both mean the same thing when applied to abortion, but one is much more positive than the other. Choice is a high and noble thing, but abortion is a messy and dangerous procedure.
  • Anti-abortion versus anti-choice. As above, one is a less negative term than the other. No one is against choice but some are against abortion.

So what should be the unbiased terms? The issue is not choice or life (everyone is for those), but abortion. The best neutral terms to use are pro-abortion and anti-abortion. But even that is erroneous, since there are many people who feel abortion is morally wrong but don't think it should be illegal. And still others are against abortion as a birth control method while favoring it when the mother's health/life is at stake.

Since the abortion debate is controlled by the radical extremes, it is very easy for the media to paint someone as an extremist by a mere choice of adjectives. When the media uses the term "anti-abortion", the reader/listener hears instead "pro-life" or "anti-choice" depending on their own bias (and vice versa).

[ Parent ]

pro-choice is *not* pro-abortion. (4.20 / 5) (#30)
by marrq on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 05:44:18 PM EST

Pro-life versus pro-choice. Both are positive terms. Everyone feels that they are for life and choice, thus anyone using the terms "anti-life" and "anti-choice" are clearly biased.

while anti-choice might be used to describe those who are pro-life, those who are pro-choice cann't be described as anti-life. Those of us who are anti-life are also pro-abortion. I.E. "The test results are back, and is seems you're pregnant. Don't worry, we'll you're scheduled for a routine abortion in 15 minutes, remember, it's mandatory by law." ... whether this is a "balance of population" scheme commonly seen in Vonneguts' short stories, or just a wet dream of a misanthrope like myself, it is quite far from the pro-choice stance, and I'd thank people not to imply those namby pamby pro-choicers are anti-life or pro-abortion.

Remember, life is not a coin, and there are often more than two alternatives for any situation. I think the biggest bias in the media is that almost everything is boiled down to a two-sided perspective.

Since the abortion debate is controlled by the radical extremes,

If we just consider a left/right system, abortion is not controlled by the radical extremes. I think that my pro-abortion stance would be a radical extreme. The pro-choicers on a two-sided system would be seen as the fence sitters.

On a multi-faceted system, I don't think that pro-choice would be considered extreme, as it usually goes down to individual choice, and most probably aren't even for abortions for minors without needing parent's consent or even awareness (point being that it's not even extreme in the subject of "personal freedom"). Of the most extreme solutions, abortions for no one, and abortions for all, only one has strong support.

I guess it just makes for a better news story to pit everything as a battle between two sides.


/dev/md0: ***** FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED *****
[ Parent ]

Life and Choice (3.33 / 6) (#32)
by Brandybuck on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 08:32:42 PM EST

while anti-choice might be used to describe those who are pro-life...

Hardly! I know of no pro-lifer who is against choice, and I know quite a few. In fact, I know several libertarians who are pro-life and calling them anti-choice is patently ridiculous. The pro-lifer might not want a women to have a choice in a certain specific medical situation, but that does not mean that they are against choice per say. On the other hand, I can think of a lot of choices that a pro-choicer does not want me to make either...

If we just consider a left/right system, abortion is not controlled by the radical extremes.

How so? The leadership of the forces arrayed against abortion do not want abortion to be available in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the mother. The leadership of the forces avocating reproductive rights are in favor of partial birth abortion, abortion on demand, and no parental notification for minors. The rank and file may be more moderate, but the controllers of the debate are quite extreme.

[ Parent ]

You missed my point entirely. (3.00 / 4) (#52)
by marrq on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 03:47:06 PM EST

The pro-lifer might not want a women to have a choice in a certain specific medical situation, but that does not mean that they are against choice per say. On the other hand, I can think of a lot of choices that a pro-choicer does not want me to make either...

Ok, let me specify. By the terms "pro-choice" and "anti-choice" in regards to abortion, it only regards choice with respect to abortion. Thus, a pro-lifer is, to be a tad more verbose, anti-abortion-choice.

The leadership of the forces avocating reproductive rights are in favor of partial birth abortion, abortion on demand, and no parental notification for minors.

Granted, one of the radical extremes, anti-abortion-choice is one of the controllers of the debate. But look at pro-abortion-choice as the middle ground, where it is up to the would-be mother's whim what happens to the baby. Further away from the pro-choicers are the anti-life-choice in regards to abortion. This side says that anyone with a kid must have it aborted. This side, unless I've been missing a lot, is not a controlling factor in the debate.

Try making a mental image like this: on the right is the anti-abortion-choice, in the middle are the fence sitters (it depends on circumstance, wah wah whine), and on the far left are the anti-life-choice in ragards to abortion.

pro-abortion <---> pro-choice <---> pro-life

(again, the term "pro-choice" is only meant in regards to abortion) ... or one can look at the number of abortions related to each of the 3 pigeon-holes.

(all abortions) <---> (some abortions) <---> (no abortions)

pro-choice only seems like the extreme "left" to you because you aren't looking beyond that to those of us content to let the human race die out.

But thank you for helping to prove my point that the media has biased people so much that as you look to the left on the issue of abortion, you couldn't see anything more extreme and opposed to anti-abortion-choice than pro-choice.

Closing thought: pro-choice is *not* pro-abortion, and I'd thank you to not slander us pro-abortion people as namby-pamby fence sitters.


/dev/md0: ***** FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED *****
[ Parent ]

And you, I... (4.00 / 3) (#54)
by Brandybuck on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 10:23:40 PM EST

Further away from the pro-choicers are the anti-life-choice in regards to abortion. This side says that anyone with a kid must have it aborted.

The debate is not between 0% abortions and 100% abortions. Rather, it is centered on the legality of abortion. One extreme says that abortion must be illegal in all instances, while the other side says that it must be legal in all instances. Enforced abortions is an entirely different issue. It's like saying libertarians are moderates on the issue of drug legalization because they don't advocate mandatory ingestion of narcotics.

[ Parent ]

Different shades of meaning: (3.50 / 6) (#31)
by roystgnr on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 06:36:30 PM EST

Pro-choice versus pro-abortion. Both mean the same thing when applied to abortion, but one is much more positive than the other.

Granting that there aren't authoritative dictionary definitions of either term, I would argue that they do not mean the same thing, even in the same context. The definitions which make the most sense to me are:

Pro-abortion: Someone who supports abortion rights, and would have/assist with/support their SO in having an abortion if they thought it necessary. Such a person is (almost certainly) also "pro-choice".

Pro-choice: Someone who supports abortion rights. Such a person might never have an abortion or encourage a friend or relative to do so, and thus would not be "pro-abortion"; but they would still not want it criminalized.

Failing to distinguish between those two groups of people (and no, it's not a black and white division, but I know people at each end of the spectrum) is akin to the "everybody against censorware must be pro-pornography" type arguments which are even more annoying.



[ Parent ]
media is very biased on abortion (4.40 / 5) (#55)
by G Neric on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 11:32:42 PM EST

Well, to add to your list, and to get back on the topic of media bias, I consider myself pro-choice but you didn't nearly cover me, nor does the media.

I feel, as do a number of others, that Roe v. Wade was an irregular political power grab. The US Constitution is silent on the subjects of abortion and privacy. The Constitution doesn't even make murder illegal, that's mostly a matter for state law, but I've never read that point of view in the media. All medical procedures from aspirin to breast implants are highly regulated, and sometimes banned when the FDA decrees it, yet no media ever talks about "privacy" or "let a woman control her own body". Human cloning is regulated but no media uses a phrase like "men's reproductive freedom." Nine old men, no women, with the stroke of a pen overturned any democratically certified bans on abortion, but no op-ed piece raises this issue of "the patriarchy." Instead, it's routinely hinted that men aren't reliably in favor of abortion because they don't have to carry any child. But what about the argument that it the availability of abortion leads to more nookie and men just plain like that?

Some states charge an errant driver with two murders if they kill a pregnant woman, but chop up and scrape out the unborn of two women and you're considered a healer. In one curious case, a doctor who botched an abortion and simply removed the arm of a fetus who was later born lost his license and had to pay damages to the child. Did any media wonder what his punishment should have been had he successfully killed that same child? To try to get women to think rationally about the subject, I routinely point out to the pregnant ones who are dreamily trying to think of names that what they are naming is "just tissue" and they can still abort it if they want, but I guess it's a male thing because--how does that go--they just don't get it.

Now, I've purposely painted a biased picture here, something almost Orwellian, but I did it using phrases and words that the media routinely uses on the other side of this issue, and that is what is truly Orwellian.

To get back to something rational and regular, Roe v. Wade must be overturned and the choice returned to the voter, regardless of whether abortion is ultimately legal or not. I'm happy to accept the voters' judgements in a democracy, and I suspect most other people are too. That's what makes me pro-choice, and anybody who doesn't want to hear the voters, anti-choice. I've never heard this completely reasonable point of view expressed in any media.

Of course, I'm sure to get mojo-pounded into the earth for even raising this side of the issue, but what the heck, that's my choice :)

[ Parent ]

Missing constitutional history (3.00 / 4) (#63)
by Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 02:07:23 PM EST

| Roe v. Wade was an irregular political power
| grab. The US Constitution is silent on the
| subjects of abortion and privacy.

This is nonsense. Or more specifically, it shows an absence of historical perspective on the US Supreme Court. The US Constitution is not explicit on abortion and privacy... but the "political power grab" of interpretations on privacy rights goes back a lot farther than Roe v. Wade. At very least, look to Griswald v. Connecticut, a few years earlier. By the time Roe v. Wade is decided, it is a rather unremarkable and logical extension of prior jurisprudence.

The point here is that to claim that the Roe v. Wade decision was incorrect, you would need to show one of two things: (1) Roe breaks the stari decisis of previous cases (such as Griswald) -- which you probably cannot do; (2) Previous cases that Roe relies on were themselves poorly founded -- which you also probably cannot do, but even if you did, you would be required to give up a lot of rights beyond abortion.

Judicial decisions (with a few exceptions, such as Dred Scott and Bush v. Gore, are not invented whole cloth out of pure political motivations by the Supreme Court). Normally (as in Roe) Constitutional interpretation evolves in a slow and continuous way with reference to previously decided cases (again, with the exception of our recent judicial coup-d'etat and a few other monstrosities of judicial activism). Roe was certainly not a case of judicial activism, despite what so fairly ignorant people want to believe thirty years later.


[ Parent ]
you ignored my point (4.20 / 5) (#72)
by G Neric on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 12:17:03 AM EST

This is nonsense. Or more specifically, it shows an absence of historical perspective on the US Supreme Court.
My point was about the language used by the media to talk about about abortion. The "privacy" word is used only in favor of abortion, and as you point out, for birth control. Remember when certain types of breast implants were banned a few years ago? Well, aren't breast implants a "private" matter, an example of a woman "controlling her own body"? Shouldn't that judgement lie between a woman and her doctor? But they were banned for safety, you say. But how come abortion is never called "unsafe" for the fetus? I'm not trying to take sides on the abortion issue, I'm taking sides on the media because they've taken sides on the abortion issue. It's the dishonesty I object to, the self-proclamation of moral and intellectual superiorty that the media (and you) employ as you attempt to paper over the side of the issue that you don't like.

As to your clarification about the history of the issue before the Supreme Court, my point does not hinge on when they began to overstep their jurisdiction, but that they don't do it consistently after overstepping as I pointed out in the many, many examples of regulated and liitigated medical procedures that seem to pass constitutional, media, and "Lulu" muster. The Supreme Court and the media do not in fact recognize rights of medical privacy or individual procreation as they indicate in the examples I cited. And picking a nit about one thing I said would not give license to an intellectually honest person to ignore the obvious thrust of the much longer argument that I crafted, though I do appreciate your help in honing it.

[ Parent ]

oh, and another thing (3.60 / 5) (#80)
by G Neric on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 04:51:55 AM EST

I replied to the on-topic thrust of what you said in my other response. I had a few other points I'd like to add more tangentially. You used pretty strong language to make some pretty weak arguments. Since the thread is about the language of bias, why not comment on it? Actually, speaking more plainly, you were insulting. Dangerous ground for one who is as wrong as you are about to find out you were. Read on, my humble scholar: Your conclusions are clearly not shared by many people smarter than you, even those on the same side of your issues.

By the time Roe v. Wade is decided, it is a rather unremarkable and logical extension of prior jurisprudence.
Simply false. Unremarkable? The decision has been "remarked" on by many, many far greater legal minds than yours, minds from both sides of the issue. While logically and ideologically in the same direction as Griswald (probably what you meant to say, poor dear), Roe went further, was not a sure thing a priori, and was a split decision so not even that Supreme Court or those who argued the case agreed with your breezy characterization.
The point here is that to claim that the Roe v. Wade decision was incorrect, you would need to show one of two things: [SNIP]
um... you're wrong to the point of idiocy. Those are not the only grounds for claiming that a decision is wrong. I don't know where you got that list from, perhaps you meant to say grounds for arguing to have a decision overturned? As you later note yourself, those are not the only grounds for having a decision overturned, but in terms of what you said, they certainly are not the only basis for claiming that a decision is wrong.

As noted, Roe v. Wade was not a unanimous decision. According to your logic, every minority opinion to any decision would always have no grounds to claim the decision of the majority was incorrect. But that puts your ideas about our judicial branch at odds with (I'm guessing but I think I'm safe) every single Supreme Court Justice we've ever had.

You said a lot more, but it was all pot: kettle, black boilerplate, opinionated, but not provably wrong.

[ Parent ]

The correct rule (4.20 / 5) (#70)
by cwong on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 11:36:17 PM EST

The correct rule for the media should be: "use the label preferred by the group". The name does not necessarily have to fit: this is common courtesy. That there is a group called People for the American Way does not imply by its name that all their opponents' ways are un-American. That there is an Orthodox Church does not by its name imply that all other churches are unorthodox. This common courtesy, unfortunately, is dropped over the abortion issue. It has been pointed out that in the mass media, the pro-life movement is the only group that is not called by its preferred name. They are "abortion foes" or "anti-abortion movement" or something along those lines. I don't recall seeing them described as "pro-life" in any media context apart from the overtly conservative.

[ Parent ]
subjective (3.85 / 14) (#7)
by gregholmes on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 06:50:03 PM EST

Evaluating media bias is necessarily subjective, because the bias itself is. Which stories get aired? Who do we interview? What adjectives get used? What angles get followed up?

Therefore the bias is easily denied.

Just for an example, I would like to know why and how "chads" ended up on the floor after a day of ballot recounting. Sounds like an ideal topic for 60 Minutes chasing a canvasing board member to a slammed door. Yet it was just mentioned in passing in countless stories, and never followed up on. Is it really a topic of no interest, in such a charged larger story?

That was just an example; the point is the subjectivity of bias :) Flamethrowers down.



Informal Checklist (3.93 / 15) (#8)
by tumeric on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 08:07:14 PM EST

When reading newspapers, I sometimes ask myself:
  • How are adjectives used? Are they there to clarify a description or paint a picture? Examples such as 'greedy' corporations or 'mobs' of demonstrators give the game away to me.
  • How much space is given to rebuttal of points? Many articles will have 3/4 of their space given over to attacking a viewpoint or situation and then give the 'accused' a single sentence quote (probably taken out of context) at the end.
  • Are unrelated facts included in descriptions of people/organisations to show them in a unsympathetic light?
  • Do the 'facts' in a story constitute a viewpoint in their own right? This is hard to spot if you agree with the reporting of the story but incredibly frustrating when you don't.
Surprisingly, I find the 'quality' papers just as bad as the dumb ones with respect to the above. I don't believe that there is a conspiracy though, more internal bias in the journalists concerned.

What does biased mean? (2.87 / 16) (#9)
by SIGFPE on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 09:31:14 PM EST

Surely anyone who disagrees with you is biased?

I'll give an example. Most of us believe that influenza is caused by a virus. There are probably several thousand people across the US, say, who believe that it isn't. Probably quite a few of them have tried to get airtime to say what they believe and they have been denied it. Every news story about influenza probably makes the uncriticised assumption that a virus causes the disease. To those who believe otherwise the media must look terribly biased. How can any methodology to measure bias function here? Most people would say that assuming a virus causes influenza is unbiased reporting because we all know this to be a true presupposition. So any attempt to measure bias must take into account whether or not "a virus causes influenza" is true. But in taking that into account don't we betray our own 'bias'?

It's easy to turn this into a more concrete example by replacing 'influenza' by 'AIDS' and 'virus' by 'HIV virus'. Or an even better one by replacing 'influenza' with 'stomach ulcer' and 'virus' by 'heliobacter pylori' (where drug companies like Glaxo had a vested interest in denying the virus story to sell their drug Zantac (PS I'm not claiming they acted on this interest though...)).
SIGFPE

Disclaimer: Registered Republican (2.61 / 18) (#11)
by vlnc on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 10:50:08 PM EST

As a registered republican, I have rarely found major TV news media to be biased towards conservatives/republicans. They are clearly liberal biased. (Fox News may have its moments, I think it is about equal) Some media doesn't ry to hide its bias, for example, it is silly to complain about rush limbaugh's conservative bias. of course he is conservatine. sometimes i wonder if the "liberal bias" is just a cover for the greater bias towards corporations. kind of a good cop/bad cop thing for peaple who are generally conservative. keep our attention on the soap opera while the real damage is done. it is important for people of all political camps to listen to "the other side", especially independent media (if there is such a thing) sorry for the rant, lack of organization in my thought, ect.

Clearly (4.35 / 20) (#12)
by Mr. Excitement on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 11:01:59 PM EST

This article represents an "anti-bias" bias. Where's the opposing side of the story, touting media bias as a good thing?

It is clear that the "pro-bias" side is being underrepresented on this site... all these namby-pambys and their "commitment" to fair and honest reporting! Bah!

As I pro-bias activist, I condemn your "anti-bias" bias!

1 141900 Mr. Excitement-Bar-Hum-Mal-Cha died in The Gnomish Mines on level 10 [max 12]. Killed by a bolt of lightning - [129]

Exactly! (3.71 / 7) (#27)
by imperium on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 02:44:13 PM EST

Thank God for that. I'd expand a little, though.

C.P. Scott, 1920s editor of the UK newspaper The Guardian declared that

Comment is free, but facts are sacred.

This may seem prissy, or impossible, but what it means is this. TV news covers "events" in (ideally) a straight-forward way. There are such things as facts, like "George Bush was selected by the Electoral College", and they can be reported with as few unnnecessary adjectives as possible, and no "Boo!" or "Hooray!" words. That's the job of the front sections of a good newspaper too, but this role has been somewhat superceded by TV. However, the rest of the paper is then free to tell you that Bush is a dimwit, a phoney, extremely bad news for the environment, or whatever. If you disagree with that, go buy another paper. I like having more good arguments for things I "know" to be "true".

The two sorts of coverage must be kept somewhat separated, though, and that's why the Guardian is still my favourite rag. Frequently a slim factual article is (in the old-skool version of a hyperlink) pointed to an opinion piece later.

I've seen the alternative, and it's rubbish. There is a free paper in Edinburgh (as with many UK cities) called the Metro. It's crap, because they don't have journalists, they just have monkeys who watch the news feeds from Reuters and put it straight in the paper. Hard to believe you could be given anything free in the street and still feel ripped off!

x.
imperium

x.
imperium
[ Parent ]

Exactly! (1.50 / 4) (#28)
by imperium on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 02:44:16 PM EST

Thank God for that. I'd expand a little, though.

C.P. Scott, 1920s editor of the UK newspaper The Guardian declared that

Comment is free, but facts are sacred.

This may seem prissy, or impossible, but what it means is this. TV news covers "events" in (ideally) a straight-forward way. There are such things as facts, like "George Bush was selected by the Electoral College", and they can be reported with as few unnnecessary adjectives as possible, and no "Boo!" or "Hooray!" words. That's the job of the front sections of a good newspaper too, but this role has been somewhat superceded by TV. However, the rest of the paper is then free to tell you that Bush is a dimwit, a phoney, extremely bad news for the environment, or whatever. If you disagree with that, go buy another paper. I like having more good arguments for things I "know" to be "true".

The two sorts of coverage must be kept somewhat separated, though, and that's why the Guardian is still my favourite rag. Frequently a slim factual article is (in the old-skool version of a hyperlink) pointed to an opinion piece later.

I've seen the alternative, and it's rubbish. There is a free paper in Edinburgh (as with many UK cities) called the Metro. It's crap, because they don't have journalists, they just have monkeys who watch the news feeds from Reuters and put it straight in the paper. Hard to believe you could be given anything free in the street and still feel ripped off!

x.
imperium

x.
imperium
[ Parent ]

you were tongue in cheek, but... (4.00 / 6) (#56)
by G Neric on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 12:04:42 AM EST

I am not looking for more bias than I already encounter, but I am looking for more honesty, and I do present it as a pro-bias argument: The freedom of the press guaranteed in the US Constitution was intended to protect biased speech. The founding fathers did not intend to protect unbiased media with a "freedom of the truth" amendment, they meant to protect overtly political speech, absolute, unvarnished opinion.

The American media at some point started taking themselves entirely too seriously and started striving to hide their opinions. It seems to make them feel like the solemn bearers of truth and gravitas to pretend they have no biases. I do appreciate their efforts: I think it is intellectually honest to try to give the other side a fair shake. But it is intellectually dishonest to proclaim yourself that you've succeeded at that task. Tell us honestly what you think the sides are saying, but also tell us honestly what you think, where you're coming from.

the other guy who responded here and quoted the British Guardian did not point out a difference between American and British media. British publications take very open editorial positions even within news articles. Newspapers are well known in their party affiliations. British broadcasting, though, is a public monopoly and they strive much harder to be unbiased in the way the the American media does, and with about as much success. I do agree with their reasoning, but not their execution. If you receive government funding you certainly should not attempt to mold public opinion. That's why the American PBS and NPR organizations are so execrable. They are run essentially as arms of the Democratic party, yet they are funded by the government. I hold separation of Press and State to be more important than separation of Church and State. If NPR and PBS were truly independent and unbiased, they'd reject government funding instead of jealously lobbying for more.

[ Parent ]

NPR Funding (4.25 / 4) (#60)
by mykej on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 07:11:51 AM EST

That's why the American PBS and NPR organizations are so execrable. They are run essentially as arms of the Democratic party, yet they are funded by the government.
NPR recieves about 2% of its revenue from the government. None of that is general operating revenue. It comes from competitive grants from the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, etc.

Some local stations recieve operating funds from CPB. Typically about 13%.

http://www.npr.org/inside/1999annualreport/npr1999annualreport.pdf

[ Parent ]

following the money. following the politics. (4.20 / 5) (#62)
by G Neric on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 11:19:39 AM EST

Thanks for the corrections, I should not have given the impression that government funding was the whole budget.

Some local stations recieve operating funds from CPB. Typically about 13%.

...and the local stations turn around and fork money over to NPR and PBS to purchase programming. Whether the money is in your left pocket or your right, it gets comingled. It's a shell game, and it used to be impossible to follow the public money because what CPB did with it was essentially kept secret. I haven't looked at it lately, so that may have changed through action by the Congress, but I don't know that to be true.

As to it being a small amount of money, when Congress threatened the funding a few years back, local stations went into high gear lobbying viewers to lobby for them to keep the funding, despite the fact that it is illegal for recipients of government funding to use it to engage in politics.

BTW, there is another funding fib that the local PBS stations engage in when they ask viewers to contribute, surprising only if you expect them to honestly follow the "public's right to know" mantra: the most popular programming, inspired shows like Nova and Masterpiece Theater, those are completely funded already by grants from large foundations and corporations. They don't need viewer money. The bulk of the money raised from viewers is spent on stuff like those amateurish local programming shows that most people simply don't watch, some of which contain an astounding amount of bias, those ethnically focused news and interview shows. I actually do watch them and let me tell you, they can curl your hair.

Back to the topic of this K5 discussion, one of the most egregious media slipups, exposing the "unbiased media" myth to be a myth was actually a PBS slipup. When Clinton was declared the winner of the presidential election a few years ago, the PBS broadcast staff couldn't contain their glee and they broke out into spontaneous applause, so boisterous off-mike that it spilled onto the broadcast, as loud as any studio audience.

So, in parital answer to the original question "is there a metric?", well there may be some for evaluating news stories themselves, but you also have to keep alert for obvious examples like this when they occur. If one side of the political process claims persistently to feel wounded by the media, and then that media applauds when the other side wins, who needs a metric? And, if they're dishonest about this stuff, what else are they being dishonest about?

[ Parent ]

Of course they're biased (3.83 / 12) (#13)
by DaveP37 on Fri Dec 29, 2000 at 11:29:15 PM EST

On the 'net, you can get any flavor of ''media bias'' you'd like, from WorldNet Daily to The MoJo Wire, from Free B92 to the Beeb to Pravda. There are a ton more news sites, and thankfully, most of them have a clear bias.

The biggest shame is the small number of mainstream (print, radio, television) media outlets. When there's only one newspaper in town, that paper's editors will try to hide their bias, lest someone take offense and drop their subscription. Similarly with TV news and the continual quest for ratings - the management is afraid to offend anyone, lest the viewer flip to a channel that's presenting something more palatable.

In the early 20th Century, a medium-sized city had two to five newspapers (some daily, some weekly), with different biases. Many newspapers were openly partisan, going so far as to name themselves The Democrat or other party identification. Granted, with more (of us) people getting news from the 'net today, the lack of local media outlets isn't a complete tragedy, but it would be nice to be able to get local news from more than one point of view, and to have the outlets be more honest in what their point of view actually is.



Is this more evidence of a two class... (4.00 / 3) (#25)
by elenchos on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 01:42:02 PM EST

...division favoring those who can easily check an article about England in the Guardian or the Economist, or read a local paper in Florida, or use the Internet to just ask a question directly to someone in Russia or anywrere else? Computer access was once limited to `professionals;' now in the US is has filtered all the way down to the middle classes. The ones left are really at the bottome of our soceity and so are typically a captive audiance for the one local paper and a handful of broadcast TV stations. So for us, our only excuse for not looking at a broad range of sources is laziness and stubborness. For about half of the US, and the overwhelming majority of the world population, it is a choice between what a near-mopopoly wants to feed them and nothing. I am optimistic about this in the US, since the costs are getting so low here, but for the poorer countries it seems unlikely to change, especially since being able to surf the net is a low priority compared to the problems that many people on Earth have to deal with.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

Is the media really biased? (3.42 / 7) (#14)
by moosh on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 12:34:17 AM EST

The word 'bias' implies that a report has been delibirately constructed to favour one side of a story as opposed to another. But really.. How can a news report show ALL sides to a story? A television report has a limited time slot, a newspaper article has limited space, and so forth.. People must cut and prepare stories to fit into the available space. Also, there are many people that may influence what is included and excluded in a story and how it is presented - camera operators, journalists, sub-editors, editors, directors, newsreaders and others (obviously some of these are not included in different types of media). How about the audience? Surely the way the media portrays a story is determined by what it thinks the audience wants to see.

In light of all this, I do believe the media is perhaps biased a little, but I strongly believe the media just privelages particular information by people who sub-consciously construct it in a certain way. Maybe the media has been constructing the stories the way it does for so long that it has become naturalised and a standard has been set, although, not deliberately.

The Media 'bias' only becomes 'bias' when it does not agree with your own opinions, IMHO.

Source is one thing. (3.77 / 9) (#15)
by NicGCotton on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 12:56:52 AM EST

The best example I can think of is from a study done on Canadian newspapers. The study compared the Globe and Mail (left wing paper) to the National Post (right wing paper).

[Note, the bias of the study (I think) and my bias (I know) is against the National Post.]

Aparently, the Post did not cite sources for 6/10 front page articles. For the Globe it was 1/10. Also, the Post was shown to be using Canadian Alliance Party (formally the Reform Party) sources six times as often as the Globe and Mail. (There were no numbers given for how often the Globe used the Liberals as a source.)

I never minded the bit about the politics. Everyone knows the Globe is pro-Liberal and the Post is pro-Alliance.

The bit about not citing sources does scare me though. I think people should know where news is coming from.
<i don't like sigs>
Define Sources (none / 0) (#121)
by Robert Uhl on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:56:23 PM EST

How did the study define sources? If it meant other media, then it is natural that the National Post would not use many sources, as most other media would not agree with it. OTOH, if it actually meant all sources, then there is more cause for concern.

I look at most alternative news, liberal, conservative, libertarian or insane, as basically well-needed editorials, and can thus forgive a certain sloppiness in their reporting...

[ Parent ]

NBC? (4.20 / 10) (#16)
by sasha on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 01:10:05 AM EST

Well, seeing NBC's coverage during the Gulf War and the Kosovo conflict
was interesting. NBC is owned by GE (General Electric), which manufactures a good deal of American arms (parts for fighter jets, cruise
missiles, etc).

NBC shows Kosovo coverage:

"Airstrikes are cool!"

"Our missiles ALWAYS hit!"

"We NEVER hit a wrong target!"

"Our planes are the most advanced in the world!"

Blah.
--- Signal SIGSIG received. Signature too long.
Yes, the media is biased (4.87 / 16) (#17)
by winthrop on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 01:25:51 AM EST

And so are all of us. What does it mean to "not be biased"? There can be no way to understand any story without a massive amount of context. Bias is the difference in the particular context the reporter places the story in. "Trying to eliminate bias" (an impossible task) usually means trying to, in addition to giving the situation from the point of view of someone with a certain context, also give the information from the point of view of someone coming from another context. (Ex: "The Al Gore campaign called it a youthful indiscretion, but the George Bush camp said it raised questions about Gore's ability to lead.")

That effort is doomed because there are an infinite amount of contexts you could give a story in, and even deciding the story is important enough to tell places you in a very minor subset of those contexts. For example, I think my canine-seperatist dog thinks all the stories in the Boston Globe have a blatant pro-human bias, and they don't run enough canine seperatist stories. That sounds really silly, of course, but it's not so silly to say that me and my small band of New England seperatists find the Boston Globe blatantly anti-seperatist and it would really really not be silly to say the Bloc Quebecois think stories in the Montreal newspaper have an anti-seperatist bias. The only difference in the perceived validity of the three statements is how similar they are to the particular context that the person interprets the statements in.

So, to me, the important question isn't "How can you tell if something is biased?" Everything is. The important question is "How can you tell in what way something is biased?"

I use a few methods. This is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • Who is saying it?

    Who pays for the distribution of the speech? One of my local newspapers, the Boston Phoenix has editorialized vehemently against a plan to build a new Fenway Park. The Phoenix (as they acknowledge) own land that would be taken by eminent domain under the plan, and that has definitely influenced their opinion.

  • Who are they trying to say it to?

    Many media entities target a particular group of people. They often try to shape their stories in a way that will be appealing to that targeted group. No better example of this than the submissions to The Other Site.

  • What is the aim of the story?

    I remember reading a story in the Boston Globe about a dying kid with leukemia who couldn't pay for an experimental treatment. The question of how likely the treatment would be to help the kid was biased by the author's desire to get people to donate to the child's cause.

This is by no means complete, but those are three of the first questions I ask when evaluating the validity of any information I get second-hand, and even in trying to evaluate my own bias for first-hand information.

Multiple sources help (4.00 / 1) (#110)
by sera on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 01:25:37 PM EST

I agree that any news story is going to be biased. This is one of the reasons I appreciate blatantly opinionated news, whether from an alternative weekly newspaper, or magazines like Harper's. Those writers tend to wear their biases on their sleeves, so you can take them into account as you read.

But those sources know that they often aren't the only news source people read. I'm kind of a media junkie -- I have so many magazine subscriptions that I receive a new magazine in the mail about every four days -- so I can read about the same issue a few times from different sources, and form my own opinion.

Most people, of course, aren't so into news. So notice the advertising pitches of big mainstream newspapers, or even worse, local TV news -- not only do they avoid the issue of bias/subjectivity, they also promote themselves as being the singular, authoritative news source. They make the promise that you'll only have to read one newspaper, or watch one news broadcast, to be informed. So once they've told that lie, it's pretty easy to tell the next lie about objectivity.

firmament.to: Every text is an index.
[ Parent ]

Is there such thing as objective reporting? (4.20 / 10) (#18)
by flieghund on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 01:42:57 AM EST

Reporting is, by nature, a subjective art. The reporter (or more likely, a direct witness or some other third or fourth party) experiences something, and then passes along their observations of the event. Other than a bulleted list of verifiable facts, it seems that reporting is necessarily subjective; that is, the observed phenomena are synthesized by a human mind to be put into words/pictures/etc. and passed on to others*.

It gets even murkier when the "facts" of an event are the opinions of those involved in the event. Then the list of verifiable facts isn't even that; there are no verifiable facts, because each side of the conflict at hand has their own version of what happened. (And even if these versions closely match, it isn't verifiable because there is no objective source of information!)

The line between an objective list of facts and a subjective report must be carefully drawn. Ultimately, however, remember that the media calls their reports stories. That inherently requires a story-teller who will necessarily inject his or her own subtle (or not-so-subtle) bias into the story.

*This is largely how it works with scientific reporting, too, though such reporting is usually backed up with long "bulleted lists" of facts and assumptions that can be independently verified (or not) by others.


Using a Macintosh is like picking your nose: everyone likes to do it, but no one will admit to it.
Do your self a favor . . . (4.40 / 10) (#19)
by strawser on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 03:10:45 AM EST

Take a debate class at $UNIVERSITY.

They teach you how to decieve people. That's the job of any debator. You can then spot other people using your own tricks.

The least common denominator, though, is knowing the difference between a fact and an oppinion. It's harder for most people than it sounds. Believe that.

But if you study debate you'll see the tricks.

Just MHO.
E


"Traveler, there is no path. You make the path as you walk." -- Antonio Machado
Socrates' hemlock (3.33 / 3) (#85)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 07:36:42 AM EST

The best debate teaching emphasizes debate as an exercise of thinking ability. The ability to deceive is also taught, but that is always the danger when people think about what they say. Socrates ostensibly died because he taught debate. If only every school offered debate... people would trust information sources less.

[ Parent ]
Start with the sources (3.72 / 11) (#20)
by Ipsin Trippix on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 03:33:57 AM EST

If you want to figure out how news is manipulated, first find out who your news is coming from. For example, just about any local news station will pile on a big helping of VNRs (Video News Releases) produced by Public Relations (PR) firms. Sometimes, when you look at a story, it screams PR-piece. Stories about new products, like new drugs, are often just commercials with the trappings of journalism and little else.

As an example, many people know about the faked Senate hearings (actually a human rights conference where Senators were present) where a young Kuwaiti woman told her horrible story about Iraqis tearing babies from incubators. That's the story that made the back-page headline. The real story, in my opinion, is how this outright bullshit was trussed up like a Christmas turkey for the news organizations, and they ate it.

If we hope to have objective reporting, we must first make it crystal clear who's producing it, who wins, and who loses.

Start with the sources (2.50 / 12) (#21)
by Ipsin Trippix on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 03:38:59 AM EST

If you want to figure out how news is manipulated, first find out who your news is coming from. For example, just about any local news station will pile on a big helping of VNRs (Video News Releases) produced by Public Relations (PR) firms. Sometimes, when you look at a story, it screams PR-piece. Stories about new products, like new drugs, are often just commercials with the trappings of journalism and little else.

As an example, many people know about the faked Senate hearings (actually a human rights conference where Senators were present) where a young Kuwaiti woman told her horrible story about Iraqis tearing babies from incubators. That's the story that made the back-page headline. The real story, in my opinion, is how this outright bullshit was trussed up like a Christmas turkey for the news organizations, and they ate it.

If we hope to have objective reporting, we must first make it crystal clear who's producing it, who wins, and who loses.

Did internship at local CBS news affiliate (4.21 / 14) (#22)
by cryon on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 09:47:11 AM EST

...when I was working on my first degree. Very interesting job. It is quite a feeling to watch the news anchor read a story that you wrote and know that perhaps hundreds of thousands of people are hearing the words you wrote.

But I decided not to try to get a producer's job (they do much of the writing in TV news); I could never be a TV reporter--not a journalism major. But over 3 months time there, I wrote about 200 stories, although about half of them could be termed rewrites of longer stories from the AP newswire. So in that respect much of my work there could be termed "editorial."

The journalism profession is quite competitive. There are many, many J school grads who never get a real reporting job, or at least not one that pays a real living.

So therefore those who do succeed are very very careful. They do not buck the trend, or try to break the mold. Editorial control is really not that often exercised AT THE LOCAL LEVEL, at least not in TV news. The very general cast and perspective of almost all reportage is molded from afar, by those at the very top, by the example of the stories they write.

Reporters KNOW what is expected of all stories. That is why I, as an English major, was able to write many stories for a CBS affiliate without having any journalistic training or experience AT ALL. None whatsoever.

There is really a very narrow range of stories that is "allowed" in mainstream media, both TV and newspaper (mags are a different story in some cases); a very much truncateed vocabulary is the norm; only certain themes are allowed.

The expectations are set at the top, and these are VERY conservative, although news media members generally cast themselves as liberals; and of course the vast majority of news reporters ARE liberal (how could they be otherwise? It is expected of them), and they of course take the side of people who vote Democratic (because Democrats are "liberals"); but aside from the token liberal bias when it comes to such things as minority issues, the true bias of the media as a whole, is, I think, quite conservative.

They very much support the status quo. And that is hardly unexpected--rich people and corporations foot the bill with advertising.
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

Liberal vs. Conservative (none / 0) (#120)
by Robert Uhl on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:49:48 PM EST

Perh. I misread you, but I understand your comment as meaning that the media are conservaite in a certain sense of that word. That is, they are not socially, economically or politically conservative, but they are convservative in that they resist change, suddeness, revolution and the like.

In other words, they are comfortable in their positions and see no reason to shift around--it sells, and sells well, so why change? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Those of us who are of different political views (I'm personally extreme-conservative, externally extreme-libertarian and am in addition ever-so-slightly anti-corporate, while at the same time having a profound belief in the free market) realise the problems inherent in this system--the unfortunate thing is that the great herd of sheep don't even notice. Sigh.

[ Parent ]

The mass media is for sale--that's the problem (none / 0) (#122)
by cryon on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 01:01:45 AM EST

Well, I would say that the media is conservative, but not in the sense of GOP vs Dems. It's more like the media is the spokesperson for business. The thing is that it positions itself as the spokesperson for the people. I am not sure that business == the people.

For example, slavery was a business, but I would dare say it was bad for some people.

What REALLY disturbs me is how the media, not just the news, but all aspects of the mass media, TV, movies, etc, seem to be putting forth memes that appeal to fair play and honesty, etc., but are being used as tools to, for lack of a better phrase, to "brainwash" the people.

People think you're paranoid when you say this, but it just goes to MONEY. If I walk down a busy street and start tossing $100 bills onto the ground, I suspect you'll see people grabbing them up left and right. They don't have to get together to confer about this, they just do it. It's not a conspiracy; they are just acting in self-interest.

If you want one example of how the media is for sale, look at the movie industry and the movie ads that pass themsleves off as "news." These ads actually run on the mass media newscasts as news stories.

The same thing is happening with respect to media bias. The self-interest of the media is to put forth memes that help corporate America. Just self-interest, people. That's all. Corporate America foots the bills, End of story. The people at the top of the media are rich. Period. They are multi-millionaires. Their interests are much different than that of the vast majority of us.

If the media influences us this way, could it be bad for certain segments of our poulation?

I say yes. Immigation is a good area to look at when you want to talk abnout media bias. See my other posts on this area.

If you want to see media bias in action, just follow the money; wherever there is an opportunity for the media to make money, it IS happening, if they can pull it off.
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

[ Parent ]

"Corporate" interests (none / 0) (#133)
by Aquarius on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 06:42:23 AM EST

The same thing is happening with respect to media bias. The self-interest of the media is to put forth memes that help corporate America. Just self-interest, people. That's all. Corporate America foots the bills, End of story. The people at the top of the media are rich. Period. They are multi-millionaires. Their interests are much different than that of the vast majority of us.
Is this not an argument for non-corporate funding of media? For instance, in the UK, the BBC are funded by the TV licence fee (you must own a TV licence to use a television). Thus, the BBC is theoretically not beholden to corporate interests.

Of course, in practice, that may not be true, but it's certainly not as cut-and-dried a link as with channels funded by advertising. On the third hand, you are conceivably swapping biased reporting about corporations for biased reporting about politics and the government.

Aq.


"The grand plan that is Aquarius proceeds apace" -- Ronin, Frank Miller
[ Parent ]
Re: Did internship at local CBS news affiliate (none / 0) (#127)
by LocalH on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 07:25:12 AM EST

    They very much support the status quo. And that is hardly unexpected--rich people and corporations foot the bill with advertising.
Although you might be surprised at times! I work at the local ABC affiliate, doing news prepro as well as other production-related things (I'm also the junior director), and I was shocked about a month and a half ago when we ran a story on Harry Browne, someone who you never saw on TV outside of CSPAN and a bit on Fox News.

Although I will agree with you about the 'editorial' nature of many local newscasts, most of our network stories are almost copied from either the AP wire or the network script that is sent. It is for this reason that I have never tried to influence our reporter to write a story from a certain viewpoint - it probably would do no good.

[ Parent ]
The real crime of media bias (4.45 / 11) (#23)
by rm-r* on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 12:02:59 PM EST

Apologies for going slightly off topic (I don't speak at all of a metric for measuring media bias), but ...

Regardless of the types of bias that one can identify, the real crime of media bias is that it defines the bins into which opinions must fall, and the extent to which those opinions can deviate. Consequently we have conservatives subscribing/watching/listening to The Weekly Standard and Rush, accepting it all as plain common sense, and liberals being exposed primarily to sources such as The New Republic and "All things considered," and actually believing that.

There are certainly a plethora of opinions and studies which transcend the individual biases of each mass-media institution, but their only chance for exposure seem to be in small-circulation pubishings of institutes like Brookings and Cato, nothing that the average Joe will ever see.

That it can be any different became abundantly clear to me on a trip early this year (2000) in Australia. TripleJ is a radio station, largely publically funded believe it or not, that plays great music and good interviews which give equal and substantial time to all perspectives on matters of public debate. One of the big issues that I heard was the debate over genetically modifies (GM) foods. All I've seen in the US is that it is either patently evil or that it is a near-perfect solution to food-shortages for a growing population, and never these two hypotheses defended in the same media institution. TripleJ ran a series of interviews with experts from a few sides of the debate. While the slant of each expert was obvious, the interviewer for each half hour segment was the same person, and impressed me as truly fair in his questioning. But the real point is that the same media institution, in this case a radio station, and a publically funded one at that, featured many sides of the debate, giving the public an opportunity to be truly informed. In the US a majority of those people who bother to form an opinion at all pick their opinion from their respective sympathic media sources and defend it to the death, with little or no knowledge of the opposing arguments.

The real crime of media bias is that it leaves an ill-informed yet opinionated public running around answering pollsters' questions and, worst of all, voting.

Bias, Omission, and Factual Incorectness (4.80 / 15) (#24)
by jrh on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 01:40:09 PM EST

I see two kinds of bias. First, and most conventionally, not presenting every reasonable interpretation of the data in the story. I think it is possible to minimize this kind of bias, although deadlines and the stifling force of Conventional Wisdom work against unbiased reporting in this sense. Second, bias is demonstrated in the choice of what to report. This is unavoidable within a single publication, and the only way to fight this bias is to have a more diverse media.

As an example of the latter bias, the American press barely reports about genetically modified food, despite this being a huge issue in Europe. Is this because the American public doesn't care? But how can the public care if they never hear about it from the press? Do ABC News and the NY Times think the science (such as it is)attacking GM food is wrong? Should they run stories about the science of GM products?

Another example: during Clinton's impeachment, some person had information that Henry Hyde, one of the leaders in the drive to impeach the president, had had an affair quite some time ago. The press declined to report this, except Salon, which broke the story. (No coincidence that it was an online publication, either--I think the internet is the only hope for truly diverse reporting.) Was this something the public "needed" to know? Maybe, maybe not. But the media were deciding what we should and should not know, and many people (like myself) felt that we should have known this information earlier. (For that matter, the press hid the far worse indescretions of JFK, which could have had more significant ramifications than Monica.) Why reporters decide for me what I should know?

I'd actually say that many, if not most, stories in the papers are not horribly biased, in the conventional sense. They try to present "both" sides accurately. This is very hard to do in complex issues, but I think the press often try their best. The real problem is that the mainstream media (I'm addressing America, but I think the issue is universal to some extent) seems to view the boundaries of acceptable debate as being between the left wing of the Democratic party and the right wing of the Republican party. This can seriously limit the range of discussion, and the arguments that they present. Since Democrats stopped talking about poverty and started talking about welfare reform, the media haven't written nearly as much about the problem of poverty (which hasn't gone anywhere in the meantime). And when they do, it's couched in different terms, the terms that the politicians use--"welfare to work" rather than "helping the poor," etc.

But let's return to bias #2, the bias seen in discriminating among stories. This is unavoidable--a paper has a finite amount of space and a radio or TV station has a finite amount of time to broadcast. It's this sort of bias that left-wing media critics like Noam Chomsky tend to focus on: the press isn't reporting on the major concerns of their outlook, such as inequality, corporate consolidation, and globalization. These critics also go on to argue that the (corporate-owned) mainstream press chooses stories that accord with the corporate viewpoint, but I won't address this argument here.

And let's distinguish bias--either type--from something worse, factual incorectness, a confusion I've seen in a few posts here. If a paper reports that Wen Ho Lee is selling nuclear secrets to China, and that paper turns out to be wrong, this isn't really bias as I see it. It's plain bad reporting--albeit perhaps influenced by the opinions of the reporters or their desire for a good story (which isn't the same as bias).

As far as the problem of combating bias, what I would like to see is a truly diverse group reporting the news. Certainly television is a lost cause, since it costs so much to run a station. Alt press publications aren't necessarily bad, but they're usually weekly for reasons of cost, and we really need diverse daily news sources. Radio is rapidly becoming infeasible as well, as conglomerates are snapping up as many stations as they can. I think true media diversity is only possible today on the internet, where it is (relatively) easy to reach a mass audience with your perspective, without the huge costs involved in delivering daily news. Unfortunately, everyone still seems to go to the same conventional mainstream sites like cnn.com or nytimes.com, which raises the question of how to get people to actually see these wonderful new perspectives online...

"Media" is a plural noun. I hope this will be reflected in reality.

Pro-corporate bias (4.00 / 4) (#42)
by Paul Johnson on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 04:50:49 AM EST

These critics also go on to argue that the (corporate-owned) mainstream press chooses stories that accord with the corporate viewpoint, but I won't address this argument here.

Then I will.

The assertion that newspapers suffer a systemic pro-corporate bias is generally backed up by the claim that all the media is controlled by large corporations, since its impossible to be part of the media without being a large corporation. These large corporations obviously have an interest in a public which does not object to them, and so will obviously try to mould public opinion in this direction.

Where this falls down is that the media is not a single entity with a single point of control. In fact there are very specific laws to prevent this happening. And any part of the media which tries to put over an unpopular point of view will lose sales because people don't like reading things they disagree with. Thus any attempt to impose a pro-corporate agenda on the media must suffer from the Tragedy of the Commons . If any part of the media "defects" by dropping its pro-corporate bias and instead publishes what the public actually want to read then it will become more popular but still reap the benefits of the pro-corporate bias in the rest of the media. Thus without a strong enforcement mechanism by the rest of the media any such bias is unsustainable.

Overall I think Terry Pratchett had it right in his recent book "The Truth": People think they want news, but what they really want is olds.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

You're missing the point (4.83 / 6) (#45)
by weathervane on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 12:37:12 PM EST

We are not a media company's customers. We are it's product, which is then sold to gigantic consumer goods corporations like Proctor and Gamble. The media is in the business of selling advertising, not getting people to watch its product for free, or at an artifically low price.

Although having viewers is important, having advertisers is much more important. Different media organizations have much different rates per viewer precisely because some media products are more attractive to advertisers than others.

For example, the anti-drug advertising people created a series of standards for any program that they would advertise on. Law and Order, in particular, doctored scripts and gave pre shooting copies to these guys so they could make sure it had a proper anti-drug message.

Now, because this is a federal program, the story came out. But imagine the combined effects of this sort of thing happening in every media outlet in the land. Nobody would dare to make a serious accusation against Procter and Gable, or Ford, or any serious advertiser. There would be no profit whatsoever in 'breaking the cartel' because you would be pissing off your real customers, whether you had more viewers or not. You'd end up airing Ginsu Knife ads at $2 per second.

[ Parent ]

Advertising vs. Paying (none / 0) (#119)
by Robert Uhl on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:02:26 PM EST

This is an excellent point, and one of the reasons I so strongly oppose online ads. The new media should be financed by payment--I believe that Kuro5hin is worth $10/mo. and Slashdot about the same. I would be willing to pay that much, poss. via some form of micropayment system.

What many people do not realise is that it is advertisers, not the audience, who are the customers for televison, radio and even newspapers. What we need, yesterday, is a strong, secure and flexible micropayment system built into the Internet. What I foresee is that every byte transferred would cost some minute amount of money--say 1/1,000 of 1 cent--that money being divied up by the providers along the line. Every end-point would have its own cost: Kuro5hin might be 1/144 of a cent per page, while other sites would differ. This cost would be sent directly to the owners. Network software would have thresholds: allow anything less than 1/1,000 cent from anyone, anything less than 1 cent from CNN, anything less than 1/12 of a cent from Kuro5hin &c.

Micropayments at last give us the chance to break free of the advertiser-supported media and have atruly free market for information.

[ Parent ]

Corporate self-interest (4.75 / 4) (#76)
by Paul Harm on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 01:29:33 AM EST

Let's be more concrete here, regarding "points of control". According to an oldish 1997 article in FAIR (read it here) roughly 50 corporations control the vast majority of media in the world. And of that, nine dominate whole sectors. No, this isn't a single point of control, but it is far from a perfectly competitive marketplace.

I seriously doubt that, for any of these 50 organizations, a general anti-corporate bias would be in the self-interest of the organization. Is Time-Warner going to start having its reporters to imply that corporate taxes are too low? Is the News Organization (Rupert Murdoch's company) going to push for spin that big media companies should be broken up? Even if there is a temporary advantage to such positions, they are ultimately self-destructive.

Anyway, the "point of control" theory isn't necessary. Generally, reporters and editors operate under corporate control, and exercise their discretion in preventing stories that would make their bosses unhappy. That is, seldom is a reporter taken to a room with mysterious men in suits, who tell him, "drop the NAFTA story." Instead, an editor gives assignments that he thinks won't cause problems, and reporters write stories so as not to cause problems, because they want to keep their jobs.

Corporate control is often seen using a top-down hierarchical control model: Chairman A tells Vice President B who commands Manager C who screams at Worker D. But corporate control is more often exercised through the creation of a climate of consent: Everybody knows what is done and what isn't done, without even being told. It's more rule by convention, less rule by explicit law.



[ Parent ]
Temporary advantage is what is important (5.00 / 2) (#105)
by Paul Johnson on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 06:32:34 AM EST

I seriously doubt that, for any of these 50 organizations, a general anti-corporate bias would be in the self-interest of the organization.

The important point is the position of the news industry relative to the position of its consumers. I contend that the news industry tries to match the position of its consumers. If people wanted to read stories about nasty corporations then the corporations would duly supply them. However I suspect that most people are actually rather suspicious of such stories: they have echoes of communism and hidden political agendas.

Is Time-Warner going to start having its reporters to imply that corporate taxes are too low?

A quick check with Google failed to locate any stories by any major news organisations about corporate taxes. I suspect that most people are simply not interested in this topic, so news organistions don't run stories on it.

Even if there is a temporary advantage to such positions, they are ultimately self-destructive.

But my point was that the temporary private advantage will overrule the more general long-term disadvantage to the industry. This is the whole point of the Tragedy of the Commons.

But corporate control is more often exercised through the creation of a climate of consent


You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

Depends on the meaning of "consumers" (5.00 / 1) (#109)
by Paul Harm on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 12:16:28 PM EST

I'm not sure how the tragedy of the commons applies in this case. Commercial news media need two things: viewers/readers and advertisers. At least regarding a corporate tilt, it would seem that any temporal advantage in viewship gained by losing this bias, would be more than offset by the revenues lost from advertising.

The tragedy of the commons says that in a situation where the benefits of an act are received by one actor, and the penalties of the same act are spread out amongst all, then a bad outcome for the entire group is likely. But in this situation, both benefits and penalties are incurred by the same actor.

Also, you assume that a news organization, located within a corporate web, acts independently enough that it will buck the corporatist trend. You also assume that there is no coordination of news media. I'm not suggesting that there are secret meetings of CEO's regarding what tomorrow's news will be, but that, perhaps, a general "corporate spirit" exists, and has real limiting effects.



[ Parent ]
Conspiracy theory (none / 0) (#125)
by Paul Johnson on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 02:35:29 AM EST

At least regarding a corporate tilt, it would seem that any temporal advantage in viewship gained by losing this bias, would be more than offset by the revenues lost from advertising.

Why should advertisers care? The only rational reason for an advertiser to pull adverts would be if the news organisation has specifically rubbished that advertiser's products. Whilst this is a problem, its a very long way from an overall pro-corporate bias.

perhaps, a general "corporate spirit" exists,

As I've already explained, any such general "corporate spirit" requires an enforcement mechanism. Suppose for a moment that running anti-corporate stories would boost the ratings or circulation of one particular media company, to that company's benefit. How do the other CEOs punish the defector?

It seems to me that a combination of the public desire for "olds" and honest market forces is perfectly sufficient to explain what I see in the media. You are proposing a conspiracy theory. Do you have any evidence at all to back it up?

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

Bias (4.40 / 5) (#44)
by winthrop on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 12:36:45 PM EST

First, I generally agree with you, so I'm basically picking nits.

I see two kinds of bias. First, and most conventionally, not presenting every reasonable interpretation of the data in the story.

Who decides what a "reasonable" interpretation of the data in the story is? I had people literally laugh in my face when I was gathering signatures for Ralph Nader for president. If they decided what was reasonable, the coverage of Ralph Nader would've been even more biased toward the Democrats than it already was.

More dramatic case: If there were a European newspaper around 500 years ago reporting on Christopher Columbus landing in the West Indies, would it have been "reasonable" to report it from the perspective of the worse-than-dirt savages who infested the islands?

Or if there were a West-Indian newspaper, do you think it would have been "reasonable" to say that the slavelord invaders who brought misery and disease had just "discovered" the West Indies and this marked the beginning of a wonderful new era of exploration?

I would prefer my media sources to just be up front about their bias and only bother trying to report the story from one side (their own). They only ever bother to mangle the interpretation of the other sides (on purpose?). That's why two of my favorite newspapers are the Wall Street Journal and the Socialist Worker. Are they biased? You bet. But at least I know what their bias is up front.

Of course, the answer to this problem is the same answer you give to the problem of story omission: get your news from a diverse range of sources.

[ Parent ]

why did you care about adultery? (2.80 / 5) (#82)
by G Neric on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:07:37 AM EST

Another example: during Clinton's impeachment, some person had information that Henry Hyde, one of the leaders in the drive to impeach the president, had had an affair quite some time ago.
Clinton's impeachment was for perjury, not for adultery. You might want to wonder if there was bias leading to the Paula Jones lawsuit that led to the perjury, but adultery had nothing to do with it.

In not learning this, I guess I'd say you were the victim of media bias.

[ Parent ]

don't lose the forest for the trees (3.20 / 5) (#83)
by G Neric on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:30:31 AM EST

I see two kinds of bias. First... not presenting every reasonable interpretation of the data ... Second, bias... in the choice of what to report.
You're right about most of what you said, and you analyzed a lot of it pretty insightfully. But I think you let yourself get distracted from a more important and more tractable problem.

There are broad areas of political news where there are two large opposing groups that cover the vast majority of the people, generally the Democrats and the Republicans.

  1. Whether the media is biased in those contests (elections, abortion, labor, more or less defense, more or less welfare, etc) is a simpler problem to determine than if the 5% Green Party is tryly 5%, and is getting 5% of the news and if the 1% of that faction is getting 1% of that news...
  2. If the media is biased in those contests, it says a lot more than if 5% Greens and the 35% of Democrats who are also green got ... blah blah.
It says a lot more because the small percents don't matter. We pretty much all found out that Bush, Gore, Nader, Buchanan, Hagelin and a few others were running. We were exposed to their positions. But was there a large portion of the press pushing the large bulk of the electorate away from one of the large candidates and toward another large candidate? That is much more important than if Chompsky's "untold story" gets told, because the hugely vast majority of Americans would think Chompsky was a nutcase if they actually did ever hear him.

Chompsky wasn't going to win the last election, and Chompsky's party was not going to have a big or small majority of the Congress. The Democrats and/or the Republicans were. Was the Fourth Estate trying to tip the scale?

[ Parent ]

The forest (4.50 / 4) (#94)
by jrh on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 02:03:17 PM EST

There are broad areas of political news where there are two large opposing groups that cover the vast majority of the people, generally the Democrats and the Republicans.

First of all, just because people vote for a party doesn't mean they actually agree with the party, or are satisfied with it. We don't have a system of proportional representation in America, and we're often stuck with the lesser of two evils. Equating people with the party they vote for is misleading.

And are the Dems and GOP really opposing groups? Granted, they oppose each other for power, but there's a great deal of agreement on policy. Take the defense budget. I'd like to see it reduced; so, I'm sure, would many other citizens. But both parties support raising the defense budget. (Supposedly Gore proposed a larger increase than George W.)

Both parties (mostly) support free trade. Both parties support the stock market and large corporations. Both parties support using US diplomatic and economic power to open up markets and influence economic policy of developing nations. Neither party is doing anything about poverty or inequality. Neither party is committed to civil liberties. Neither party will push for broad campaign finance reform. These are a few of my left-wing nits; add your own.

If the media are just going to focus on the current differences of the two major parties, we have a very limited field for debate. Much like we have now.

I'm not sure to what extent the media affect people's opinions. But they definitely have the power to define what issues are addressed by politicians. More than the much-maligned opinion polls, they define what's urgent, what's possible and what's politically infeasible.

The parties are coalitions designed to win elections, nothing more. It's my view that it's not of vital importance to the Republic if the media favor one party over the other. (And I'd have to be convinced they do. And that this favoritism changes the outcome of elections.) Ideas outweigh transient partisan politics.

[ Parent ]

you've missed the question (4.50 / 2) (#103)
by G Neric on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 11:58:23 PM EST

If the media are just going to focus on the current differences of the two major parties, we have a very limited field for debate. Much like we have now.

Yep, you got that right. And, the question in this discussion is not how to have more diversity of candidates and parties as you wish we did. The question is how can bias in the media be measured. To measure bias you start with what the media reports and analyze it. Why is this topic so hard to stick to? In the two paragraphs where you touch on issues, you just spew your opinions on the issues. That is not a measure of media reporting in any way shape or form.

[ Parent ]

actually, you missed my argument (3.50 / 2) (#104)
by jrh on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 12:37:38 AM EST

As I understand it, you think that media bias should be measured relative to the views of different parties. From the message I was responding to, you identify what you believe is the key issue in measuring media bias:

But was there a large portion of the press pushing the large bulk of the electorate away from one of the large candidates and toward another large candidate?

I disagree that we should focus on this "more important and more tractable problem." I argued (at length) that media bias regarding ideas is more relevant than bias towards a political party or candidate. Clear enough?

[ Parent ]

focus on media reporting (5.00 / 2) (#108)
by G Neric on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:46:19 AM EST

As I understand it, you think that media bias should be measured relative to the views of different parties.

actually, no. I think media bias should be measured starting with what the media reports. Any discussion of media bias that does not include details of media reporting is not a discussion of media bias. I mentioned the parties to point out that our political system is organizd around the major parties, and that's where most of the public is, and where most of the reporting is and it is possible to get a significant sample: of media reporting.

I don't want to spend all day going over this so I will take the first of the issues you raised. I could do it with all of them:

You siad: Both parties (mostly) support free trade. Every person in the world supports trade. So, how should it be managed politically? I think the media reports extensively on this issue, covering all sides, from the benefits of trade to consumers, taxes and tariffs, social conditions in other countries, local unemployment ... And I think the reason the Dems and Reps are close is because that's where the dividing line is in a well informed population. We like our neighbors to have jobs, but not if we have to buy their crappy, expensive cars. We want third world people to live happy healthy lives, but we really aren't sure whether closing a sneaker factory there is a good way to achieve that.

Your beef seems to be that everybody doesn't agree with you, or that there is not a party that has your personal platform, or if only the media would keep reinforcing your opinion then everybody would come around to it. Wait, don't object to what I just said: whether or not I've understood you, I'm not even disputing that point of view. It could be the God-given truth. But I haven't heard you say how you think the media reporting is biased and how you might measure that so that you could convince me that you were right.

[ Parent ]

it's a futile task. why bother? (3.50 / 2) (#111)
by jrh on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 02:20:01 PM EST

Any discussion of media bias that does not include details of media reporting is not a discussion of media bias.

Nonsense. How do we analyze reporting for bias before deciding what bias is? If bias is unmeasurable, why try to measure it?

Digression, on trade:

Every person in the world supports trade.

Hold it there. I still have my doubts on barter.

I think the media reports extensively on this issue, covering all sides, from the benefits of trade to consumers, taxes and tariffs, social conditions in other countries, local unemployment ...

I disagree. Editorial opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of free-trade agreements (for what it's worth, the public was actually against NAFTA), and this seeps into reporting. If you oppose a free trade agreement, you've never heard of the law of comparative advantage, you're a racist Buchanan supporter, etc.

But my point was that the major parties agree more than they disagree on many issues, not that the media were biased on these particular points. Therefore, it's not necessarily interesting if the media are more in favor of one candidate or another.

But I haven't heard you say how you think the media reporting is biased and how you might measure that so that you could convince me that you were right.

In my original post, I argued that media bias is a priori inevitable. Our bias-meters are going to keep flashing BIAS in big red letters no matter how hard a publication thinks it's striving for objectivity. Therefore, forget measuring or eliminating bias in a single news source and get your news from a wide variety of sources and perspectives, if they exist.

You think (I think) that it's possible to find a valid metric (I'm doubtful) and that our starting point should be to analyze--what? How close reporting comes to the political center, or the views of most people, or how accurately it presents the positions of the parties? These would measure some bias, surely, but not all--and not, I think, the more important part of media bias, the (inevitable) exclusion of issues and ideas.

[ Parent ]

you agree, you just don't want to talk about it (2.00 / 2) (#114)
by G Neric on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 07:07:48 PM EST

quoting what you just said: Editorial opinion ... seeps into reporting.

yes, I agree that editorial opinion seeps into reporting.

Our bias-meters are going to keep flashing BIAS in big red letters no matter how hard a publication thinks it's striving for objectivity.

So, you do think it's possible to measure bias, you just think it's impossible to write objectively. I don't agree with you about the latter, but if you could just stick to the measuring bias part, we could have a discussion.

[ Parent ]

unfair Kuro5hin-media bias against negativity. (none / 0) (#131)
by G Neric on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 01:20:04 PM EST

yes, I wrote a bitchy comment, the previous one that I'm replying to: what's the big deal?

why are K5 moderators, just like that other forum's, biased against negative statements? "Slashdot is great" and "Slashdot sux" are opposite points of view, but they are equally valid points of view and should be moderated equally: down if they are not proven, up if they contain substance.

If you followed this thread, that comment is the culmination of a number of comments that came before, and it's the one that actually proves my point. It deserves a higher rating than anything else I said. Giving it a low rating is like moderating down the point that wins the tennis match. At least be consistent and moderate down the whole match.

This bias against negativity is common outside of forums like this too. I think it's irrational. Al Gore had a huge image problem. Instead of winning the debates, he lost them largely because people don't like his nyah nyah style so he had to act phony. I bring this up because I think it's a counterargument to a bunch of stuff I've heard people say in this whole discussion about it being impossible to be objective: I hate Al Gore's politics; where I don't disagree with him, I think he's a dishonest chameleon on issues; I did not want him to win the election. But I do think he was judged completely unfairly on his personal style. See? That's an opinion unbiased by the difference between my politics and his. It's hard for a person who knows more than you not to sound like a know-it-all. Get over it, or you miss out on a lot of expertise.

I'd also like to note that this bias against negatives goes way back. When the ancient Arabs adopted "algebra" from the Hindus, they got rid of the negative numbers! "Oh, I liked most of your proof, Brahmagupta, but I hated that part about QED, it was too negative, so I'm going to have to mod you down."

[ Parent ]

Media bias is kind of messed up. (3.00 / 8) (#26)
by Sheepdot on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 02:36:06 PM EST

Traditionally media bias has been liberal. At least, it was usually bent to the left a bit till Fox News hit it big around mid-98. I really think that there was a market for a conservative or at least "more center" media organization and Fox News picked it all up.

Now though, I've been noticing that they cover stories that by nature give an advantage to conservatives, and sometimes in a way, they approach it from an aspect where conservatives will look good.

But I still think they are the most centered media outlet today, and ultimately they do a good job of reporting. You just can't beat Cavuto, O'Reily (spelling?), and Hume.

Brit Hume actually entertained my roommates and I on election night when he was practically falling asleep live. He kept bitching about Gore not giving his concession when FoxNews hadn't yet been made aware that the Florida vote was closing.

Then, the next day, Neil Cavuto's business thing was delayed due to election coverage still going on, and he was asked to interview Pat Buchannan, who he practically blew up on when Pat said, "I don't want any votes that were meant for Gore to be given to me." Apparently Neil thought that Pat was insuinating that those votes were to be given to Gore, which is *not* what he said. He just wanted to make it clear that he didn't want any votes that weren't meant for him.

Anyway, when it comes down to it, the media just tries to get people to watch. The bent is added later on. If the bent gets to be too much, another market will open for new customers, and a whole new slew of people can jump on.

While I don't think the media as a whole is corporate biased, I do think that there have been instances in the past where they have been. This will be something to watch in the future.

Ultimately the media just covers dumb stuff that people really don't care about. Every now and then special stuff happens that make me interested. The rest of the time I just don't care.

And lastly, how the hell did President Clinton end up getting away with perjury? I have nothing against the guy, but for some dumb reason I think the reason he was able to spin it was because the Republicans focused too much on the "dirty deed" rather than the clear violation of the law.

If someone says they didn't put their hand in the cookie jar and is willing to go so far as lie about it in court, that person violated the law. If someone says they didn't kill a man for his cookie jar and is willing to go so far as lie about it in court, that person violated the law.

What was it about sex that the media used to convince the American people that lying in court was okay? I think the obviousness of various things shouldn't be "debated" on Sunday morning talk shows. When you debate stuff like it is controversial, people start thinking that it is.

There is nothing controversial about admitting to a crime. I guess it just confuses me. I thought the judicial system couldn't be touched, but even in this day and age, it can.


Amazing (3.50 / 4) (#86)
by pkej on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 07:46:55 AM EST

When you speak about more center or more conservative, my mind boggles. From my point of view most US media seems conservative, calling someone even more conservative than the general crop as center just blows me away.

Of course my pov is from Norway.

Happy New Year.

Paul

[ Parent ]

Here's a way (4.12 / 8) (#29)
by Vassily Overveight on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 02:53:42 PM EST

So here is the challenge: can you explain how we should measure bias in the media?

How's this: pick some loaded terms like "far right/left" or "ultra conservative/liberal" or "extremist" or "bias" or "racist" and see how often they occur in conjunction with persons/policies on the left versus the right. I can tell you right off the bat that you're going to come up short in the "far left" department. Also, see how often Democrat Senator Robert Byrd is referred to as an "ex-Klansman" as opposed to David Duke.

Another method would be to see how often talking points from each opposing camp are reported verbatim without any analysis or caveats. "Representatives for Al Gore today said that George W. Bush devours his young. Mr. Bush was unavailable for comment."

Ok, so my bias is clear :-). However, I do think that some of what we attribute to press 'bias' is really the self-perpetuation of a viewpoint once it gets set in journalist's minds. Any reinforcing info will be paid attention to, while countervailing info will be ignored. A good example was Gerald Ford, who was probably one of the U.S.'s most athletic Presidents. A couple of small accidents and he got the undeserved rep of being a clumsy oaf.

media is nominally liberal (3.80 / 5) (#33)
by cryon on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 09:55:43 PM EST

The members of the media are nomialy liberal. They support certain issues which are deemed to be liberal. They take certain stances which are deemed to be liberal.

But they are actually conservative. They support issues that rich people and large corporations in general support.

That is the real issue. All else is just bread and circuses for, guess who...
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

[ Parent ]

I was with you until... (3.42 / 7) (#34)
by elenchos on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 10:38:17 PM EST

...you said "Representatives for Al Gore today said that George W. Bush devours his young. Mr. Bush was unavailable for comment."

Granted, it is a somewhat witty remark, but it wasn't that good. What would have been great is if you had found an actual example of this particular species of bias instead of one that you made up. There must be a hundred thousand or more news articles about Gore and Bush out there on the 'net for you to pick from. If your accusation is true, it should only take you a second to find an example. In a few minutes you could come up with 50 examples and I would be convinced.

Here, I'll show you, in support of your claim that Ford got a bum rap.

I was hinting at this in my link in the original article that leads to the This American Life episode in which they illustrate in detail the process whereby a public figure gets tagged with a simplistic assumption about them, and then everything they do after that is interpreted as supporting that belief. The issue in the TAL episode is the accusation that Al Gore took undue credit for discovering the Love Canal pollution disaster. If you don't want to listen to the entire hour of real audio, they have a separate video clip of just Al's original comments. It's obvious he never said what he is accused of.

Then of course there's the Internet thing. Al Gore told CNN's Wolf Blitzer "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet," as reported in the Wired article that started the whole myth. Salon explores how this poor choice of words was turned into the defining fact about Al Gore. If GW got roasted this way every time he misspoke, he'd be lucky to get a job driving cab. I think it was Doonsebury that pointed out why Bush is held to a lower standard: "It's OK for you. You're the dumb one."

I don't like Al Gore and I like to think that by voting for Ralph I helped keep him from becoming president (even though I live in Washington State, so it's really moot). So I won't go on defending him, but leave investigation of the truth behind the "Love Story" tales and the rest of it to the reader, assuming any still care.

Instead, remember the story about (former) President Bush being surprised at seeing a supermarket scanner for the first time in his life? I found so many articles taking this legend apart I didn't know which one to link to. Take your pick.

I promised I'd help poor President Ford's tattered image. This turned out to be kind of difficult. I found one site that says all his accidents were due to his being left handed in a right handed world, which sounded suspicious, especially when I came across another that said he was actually right handed, but wrote with his left hand. Weird. I was hoping to find something somewhere that would just say how many of these accidents he actually had, but all I found were lots of articles saying that him being accident prone was just a myth, but only giving the fact that he was a college athlete as evidence. Even brittanica.com seems to indicate that there is some truth behind the belief about him. So now I just don't know. Maybe someone else can clear this up.

I think that is what, for me, is the key to getting closer to The Truth. Every source may be biased or mistaken in one way or another, but it is hard for a lie to remain long under the extended scrutiny of a mass audience that has the power to talk back and criticize everything. It is messy, but the the loud and rude peer review process we see on slashdot, or the slightly more civilized one here on K5, does actually work. It is much the same as the scientific method, or the way bugs are found in open source code.

So I guess this is my answer to the original question I posed, "What tools do you use to decide what to think?"

To see if something is true, just throw it to 10,000 critics to be ripped apart, and whatever is left when they are done, that is the truth.

Probably.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

Suggested reading (5.00 / 5) (#74)
by Paul Harm on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 12:36:34 AM EST

One way that media theorists talk about phenomena, such as the neverending "Ford is clumsy" or "Al Gore exaggerates things" stories, is to examine the use of frames. Frames are what individual stories are grounded in. They're essentially meta-stories.

Most of what I know about this subject is from The Whole World is Watching by Todd Gitlin, someone both of you should personally dislike (he's a liberal former SDS leader, and one of the Salon.com Nader-bashers), but who's very good with media stuff. It's an excellent read for anyone interested in media or journalism. I'll use an example out of his book.

Let's say that there is going to be a protest against something. It could be against a nuclear power plant, an abortion clinic, a political convention--pretty much anything. A reporter is assigned to cover this event, and he has to write a story. There are any number of ways the story could be covered. The reporter could cover it in terms of "the people want to be heard," or "troublemakers want to mess things up," or "isn't democracy amazing" or "maybe there will be some violence." The reporter has limited time, limited knowledge of the story, and generally doesn't want to rock the boat. So, usually, however others have covered a story, that's how it will be covered again. Which means any story, or set of stories, picks up a single frame.

It turned out that the dominant frame that emerged, for coverage of protests, was "maybe there will be some violence" frame, sometime in the 1970s. And it still pretty much persists. Look at the coverage of, say, the RNC or DNC this past year. The bulk of coverage was about police preparations, previous outbreaks of violence, arrests and police handling. Not much in the way of coverage of what people were protesting, or why.

There are plenty of other examples. Look at how Ralph Nader was covered--it was almost exclusively always, "how is his candidacy going to affect Gore?" and seldom, "What does Ralph Nader believe?" Look at how elections, in general, are covered--"who will win?" is the frame, not "what do candidates believe?".

Since I gave a reading suggestion, here's a few more that dance around the topic of media bias:
Within the Context of No Context by George W.S. Trow
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America by Daniel Boorstin
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman
The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
The last one is a rather heady French philosophy text, and would suggest first reading The Image, to which it owes a good deal.



[ Parent ]
poor example (3.60 / 5) (#81)
by streetlawyer on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:04:25 AM EST

Also, see how often Democrat Senator Robert Byrd is referred to as an "ex-Klansman" as opposed to David Duke

This is a poor example; since Duke is still a white supremacist while Byrd is not, his background is much more relevant.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

However, (none / 0) (#140)
by Bisun on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 06:16:17 PM EST

The repetition of a standard line is an extreme form of bias. It is along the lines of "Stones do not fall from the sky." It may be either convenient, sincerely believed in, or both. It remains bias.

[ Parent ]
On the other hand... (none / 0) (#142)
by magney on Sat Jan 06, 2001 at 12:27:39 AM EST

how often do you hear at all from people who are on the far left? Pat Robertson may be called "ultra-conservative", but at least he's quoted. Noam Chomsky isn't even mentioned.

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

How to measure opinion? (2.80 / 5) (#35)
by brent on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 12:00:00 AM EST

By suggesting there is a way, be it mathmatics, a tool, or some type of method, to measure reporting bias makes me want to question to what end does this go?

The polling, data, surveys, "experts", or quotes from respected people in high positions tend to influence the opinion. The NY Times, CNN, Drudge seem to be the popular sources where many get there news online. Can you find inaccuracy or leanings in many of the headlines, stories, or type of stories those sites post? Certainly. Again how much do you wish to look at what these news sources have to say?

Can you really trust what one location had to say? Well, I for one find journalists frame news content. Rather than reporting the news, they seem to want to create the news. Be it THEY ALL made an error in calling an election, or have ALL been covering (insert topic) to death from every possible angle.

Some say "the media" are rapidly being monopolized by a dwindling number of parent corporations. I would agree to some extent. MSNBC, GE, Disney, and the Time Warner/AOL deal, certainly are some cases that scare me. Do too many of us (readers/viewers) pay attention to what the CONSEQUENCES are as a result of this? No.

What about those who fill the Sunday talk shows, the political pundits or what I call "talking heads". Wait I had better skip ranting since my bias is greater and I haven't found a solution or tool on how to measure the bias.

First, misunderstandings occur no matter what is said or how it is spread (print, TV, radio). Where or to whom you say it to is another case in point in the media. GW calling a reporter an A-hole is just one example. When a very brief quote is presented, often totally out of context, you find the bias. So when times like this occur, think "why are they reporting THIS to me now?"

Second, political campaigns were run more honestly, but now they are dirty and basically uncontrollable. Nowadays you have spin doctors and analysts putting out the same message to focus groups. Look at how Presidential campaigns were run prior to 1970 or so for proof.

Third, "The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors." --Thomas Jefferson. Just give up a week or so of watching/reading the news and see if you miss anything. If/when you do return see if your view of the reporting is any different.

Finally, I suggest reading Thomas Sowell's Vision of the Annointed for some clarity or understanding of how you might change your view on certain topics.

Registered voters? (2.25 / 4) (#36)
by seebs on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 12:18:47 AM EST

You could see which parties media staff members belong to. Or, you could ask media people. My mom is probably right-wing, and reports that there are a couple of good right-wing newspapers in the country, and all the others are left-wing.

I think looking at party registration statistics would be a good starting point.


Media party affiliation (4.28 / 7) (#39)
by jrh on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 01:38:17 AM EST

Slate magazine (MS's attempt to create a web magazine) published a list of who its staffers voted for. Mostly Gore, some Bush, a few for Nader and Browne. The list is long enough, and Slate conventional enough, to be regarded as somewhat representative of the press as a whole. (Probably tilted to the Democrats, since the editor's an old moderate-liberal from the New Republic.)

I think surveys have been done about who reporters voted for in past election years, and it's been overwhelmingly Democratic. Of course, editorialists, talking heads (i.e. TV pundits), and media owners are a completely different matter; the latter two groups probably lean Republican. And there are very conservative papers and networks, like the Washington Times and Fox news, to which there are no left-wing counterparts.

I'm not quite sure why the tendency of reporters to be Democratic is important. Requiring reporters to be 50% Republican would be a massive affirmative action effort. It's more convincing to point out how partisan bias shapes reporting, and surely the relationship between party affiliation and editorial bias is not as clear as you suppose. Perhaps their party preference causes them to overcorrect, not being as critical of conservative figures and ideas as they should. Could a Democratic candidate as dumb as W have made it through the nomination process without getting laughed out? If Whitewater or Travelgate happened to the Reagan administration, would the press have covered it?

As for why reporters are so uniformly Democratic, part of it is probably a self-perpetuating reporter culture, just as professors are overwhelmingly liberal or left-wing. And there may well be a relationship between liberal elite colleges and liberal elite media: top reporters often come from top colleges. There aren't many Republicans at my liberal elite school, that's damn sure. I'd imagine the same applies to the Ivys, if not more so.

All this is interesting, maybe. But it's only more than trivia if you think that all those exciting debates between the Democratic and Republican parties are what the press should cover. I'm not denying there are large policy differences, such as appointments (judicial and bureaucratic), but in terms of rhetoric and public ideological arguments (what the reporters actually write about most of the time), the parties have never been closer together.

Typically, Conventional Wisdom is formed by taking the Republican postition, adding the Democratic position, and dividing by 2. Thus, what reporters report is this Conventional Wisdom: the drivel the pundits parrot on the Sunday talk shows, what the beltway thinks is pure unvarnished truth. Reporters present the Republican ("conservative") viewpoint, contrast the Democratic ("liberal") stance, regurgitate the Conventional Wisdom as trenchant analysis, and sleep soundly at night, confident no one will accuse them of biased reporting.

Put another way: if an article addressing tax relief or welfare reform covers both the Republican and Democratic positions accurately and disinterestedly, would it be unbiased? My view is that if reporters restrict their reporting to what the politicians argue, then yes, they are very much exercising a bias.

Summary: party affilliation is a very poor metric of media bias.

[ Parent ]

I disagree, partially... (3.33 / 3) (#59)
by seebs on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 04:28:51 AM EST

I never said we should require any kind of parity; it would be impossible, even if it were useful.

But it's a very good measure of intrinsic bias. If I vote Democrat, it means I *agree* with them. That's a 100% ironclad guarantee that, given insufficient information, I will tend to like their ideas better than "competing" ones.

If they are overwhelmingly on one side, yes, they are biased. It's not necessarily a problem, but it's something you should be aware of when reading what news they think is "interesting", or which spin they put on it.


[ Parent ]
I can vote for whomever I *agree* with?! (3.66 / 3) (#61)
by elenchos on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 07:54:58 AM EST

Accodring to the Whiny Liberal Punditbots it was my duty to vote for their guy even though Ralph Nader was the candidate I actually agreed with on campaign finace, election reform, taxes, trade, immigration, education, etc., not Al Gore.

If they think this is the way to get me back they are seriously mistaken. Offtopic, but I just though I'd share. Have a nice day.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

opinion != bias (4.00 / 3) (#65)
by jrh on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 02:45:56 PM EST

As a companion piece to their list of staffers' preferences, the Slate editor argued that their Gore votes don't mean they're biased. It's a decent article.

Media bias refers to the final product, not the opinions of the reporters who wrote the content. I really don't care who Bob Woodward voted for; I only see the articles he writes. If you want to claim that opinions necessarily lead to slanted coverage, then that's a very different claim that you'll have to argue for.

As I pointed out in my previous post, sensitive to accusations they're too liberal, reporters might over-correct and give more favorable coverage to conservatives.

Furthermore, a very wide variety of opinions might lead you to vote Democratic, and the average reporter might disagree with the party on many issues. It's not hard to imagine a pro-abortion, pro-Gulf War (initially opposed by most Democrats), pro-free trade (opposed by many Democrats), pro-Social Security privitization (opposed by most Democrats) NY Times reporter.

I'm certainly not saying the media aren't biased. I'm arguing that analyzing their party preferences are not a very good way to measure this bias.

[ Parent ]

An interesting point... (none / 0) (#123)
by seebs on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 01:07:49 AM EST

I think that, by default, it is reasonable to assume that an opinion *tends* to lead to a bias. If an opinion is *overwhelming*, it will almost certainly lead to bias, because the "sanity check" is short-circuited.

If you have a room full of people who are *all* pro-life, and they try to sanity-check something for bias, they will tend to miss some bias, because they *all* believe similar things.

If you have a newsroom with ten democrats and two republicans, it's very easy to imagine some stories coming out having only been sanity-checked by dems.

It's not that every story is guaranteed to be biased; it's that, over time, we do know with some certainty that there will be an *intrinsic* bias, even if people try very hard to avoid it.

Opinions are very deep-seated, and have a substantial effect on how people evaluate the quality of information, or the reliability of a source. The feedback loop is what makes this a real issue, though.

If you want a good case study, it should be easy to do (for someone with more free time than any of us probably have). Take the various allegations of election irregularities, running from bribing people to vote, to "butterfly ballots". Compare which ones are reported on by which papers, with which party affiliation the reporters have.

My guess is that you will see a tendency for the democrats to view republican shenanagins as "news", and vice versa. The liberal media reported heavily on allegations of irregularities which favored Bush; the conservative media reported heavily on allegations of irregularities which favored Gore.

Thus, for instance, I saw more credence given to reports of "invalid absentee ballots being accepted" by liberal media, and more credence given to reports of "things that aren't valid votes being counted in democratic counties" in conservative media.

It's not that they *try* to bias the stories; it's that the things that agree with you always seem more plausible.


[ Parent ]
This is ridiculous (2.33 / 6) (#37)
by ryancooley on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 12:51:39 AM EST

If you actually read up on the facts and can show that anyone was biased, you can get them fired (if they are part of the press who's job it is not to be biased) or you can very well bring a civil suit against them for huge ammounts of money. If more people did just that, news would be 'facts' with no bias involved as it should be.

To summarize, we should not be rating the bias of anyone, we should be throwing out anyone who is biased, period!

..huh? (3.00 / 3) (#77)
by lucid on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 01:39:05 AM EST

I think the idea was to create or find a way to identify media bias - hence the question "How do you identify media bias?" The answer is probably as simple as opening a paper. If you see a story, you see a bias. I think identifying particular types of bias is necessary, first, for this discussion to proceed anywhere. (I'm not very good at this, but I'll give it a shot.)

For instance, take an obituary. The information there has a bias - that someone decided it was important enough to print. However, take a story on, say, teen crime in the U.S. Not only does this have the implication that it is important, it will probably imply that America is doomed by evil, godless, and violent teens, although occasionally more subtly. Such articles will generally offer one or two statistics for the article to ride on; flashy ones with little substance. This is another bias, because the author(s) choose(s) what to include and what not to include. Again, the bias is one of inclusion and omission.

So, from a very brief look, it appears that bias is generally a place where something is chosen, and something else is not. Is this selection process really what you want to eliminate? I'll tell you why. You have decided that some things are worthy, and some things are not, and still find both of those things in the media. That is, you see the paper, you don't have the scissors, but you still hear snip - snip - snip.

Try this. Don't worry about the bias. It's there. I am assuming that when you say "read up on the facts" you mean "read the National Enquirer" or "read Counterpunch" or somesuch. Understand that there's bias there, too. Nurture it. You want bias. Trust me. People can live without facts, but nobody without opinions. It's important that you confront the authority given to what is printed, and what is said on TV, and what is published on web pages. Without bias, without an editor inside your head, you're nothing. "Snip - snip - snip" is to your mind what your heartbeat is to your body.

Oh, yeah, try to back up your opinions with something, occasionally, too.

Wow, that was really too long.

[ Parent ]
Identifying Biases (none / 0) (#145)
by ryancooley on Wed May 02, 2001 at 11:37:58 PM EST

It's very simple, omission in either direction should not be tolerated! (Did you miss that? It's what my first post was about) Rather, each side of an issue should be presented equally, and the conclusions should not be based on gut instinct, but on the facts at hand.

[ Parent ]
An overly subjective domain (4.37 / 8) (#38)
by Paul Harm on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 01:09:17 AM EST

If one wishes to create a metric to measure media bias, there are a number of definitions and decisions about scope to make.

First, there is the problem of defining "bias" narrowly enough for it to be a measurable quantity. From a dictionary: "A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment." (American Heritage, 3d ed.). Not a particularly useful start, but it does hint that "bias" is something that may occur when judgment is involved. That is, "bias" can occur when there is a question of interpretation involved, but not one of fact. This doesn't bode well for a "bias" metric, I think, since measurements and facts tend to go together.

Second, there is the problem of scope. Limiting myself to television news: are we trying to measure "bias" on the level of a single piece, a single broadcast, all broadcasts for a week, a month, a year? Regarding a single issue, some issues, all issues? How does one measure story selection itself?

Third, we need to define "news". There are an infinite number of stories available at any given moment, but only some end up being "news". For example:
Earth continues orbiting the sun.
John Smith doesn't feel like getting up in the morning, but does so anyway.
Bob Dole looks wistfully out of his office window, reminiscing about a USO dance in 1942. might not be considered "news"
This may seem silly, but this infinitude of possible news poses a big problem. Namely, the decision that something is "news" and something else is not "news" is a subjective one as well. The decision that something is "news" is dependent on all kinds of factors, such as: the interests of management, the reporter, the perceived readership, the competition, the need to fill space, etc.

There is a lot of subjectivity here. I really don't see how it would be possible to create a number to measure bias. I wouldn't be surprised to find that any proposed metric of bias was itself biased. A measurement requires a division of the world along very clear lines, an act which, in this context, is most likely subjective.

The fact of the matter is that all news is, in some way, biased. All news outlets, for example, push the idea that every day, news exists, and is important. This is, in and of itself, a rather recent notion, which developed only in the last 100 years or so. There is a general idea that all news can be described in a story, and usually not a very long one, which means that big, complex issues get less coverage. There is also the general idea that "news" is intrinsically interesting, and if a story isn't, it isn't "news". Cutting through the builtin bias of the industry as a whole makes this whole subjective mess even harder.



I should have said more. (3.40 / 5) (#41)
by elenchos on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 03:42:55 AM EST

I didn't want to introduce too much bias in the original article that would give people something to argue against because I wanted them to concentrate on building up and supporting their own ideas. But I could have saved a lot of time by stipulating that it is to be expected that each individual reporter or editor has their own unavoidable bias. You can't expect an American to report about an American war from a completely neutral point of view, or a person who hates dogs to give a completely fair picture of a dog issue.

I think the kind of media bias that so many people get so riled up about is when they believe that the bias is not randomly distributed, but is rather always in one direction. If some reporters were dog lovers and some dog haters, you could take a sampling of their collected work and get a sort of accurate image. But if almost every one of them just loves the little doggies to death, then you are going to have a much harder time extracting a realistic image of the world. If one of them says, "Sometimes having a dog is a little bit of a pain in the ass," you are going to interpret that as meaning, "Dogs are a HUGE pain in the ass. They are more bother than a bladder infection and more work than having the Queen over for the weekend!" You have to compensate for their known bias right?

It gets really complicated when you have supposedly tree-hugging hippie liberal reporters, but their paychecks are signed by a humongous mega corporation that you are sure can't be trusted. Or can they?

So what I was after was a method for knowing when I was the victim of media bias. When someone says to me, "You're just being fooled by the media," how is it they can make that claim? Is it something we just throw at anyone we disagree with, or can you make it stick?

If you can find out, let me know.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

Problems of knowing (4.50 / 4) (#48)
by Paul Harm on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 02:34:29 PM EST

Okay, then let's try to nail down specific ways to determine bias:

1. Measure story selection and attention. For a given media type, select a large sample of entities producing news in that medium, and determine the frequency and percentage of coverage for a story. Measure the deviance of any particular entity from the mass. For example, if you find that 90% of the coverage distribution of the XYZ Times is closely aligned with the bulk of coverage in all outlets, and for the ABC Tribune, only 20%, you can probably say that the XYZ Times is much more "mainstream" than the ABC Tribune. There is probably some percentage, neither too high nor too low, that would correlate with objectivity.

2. Compare your own independent knowledge with stories that you read. All too often, people complain about media bias regarding stories or issues about which they have no direct knowledge. This is like trying to determine, while sitting in a locked room ten feet underground, if a man saying to you "it is raining" is lying.

Take a subject that you have your own knowledge and opinions about, and consider coverage. For example, suppose you have a great deal of experience and knowledge regarding encryption and programming. Critically consider the coverage of the decss trial. What news outlets covered it fairly? Who covered it poorly?

3. Compare coverage with coverage from other countries. If you don't speak more than one language, you can still get english editions of many papers. At the least, you can see what other english-speaking media outlets have to say about the same subject. Cross-cultural comparisons can be very illuminating, very quickly. Of course, this may disappear as an option, as multinational media conglomerates grow in size and sway.

All that being said, the problem with measuring media bias is that it is a pointless exercise. If you want to make a mature, rational decision about anything, you are going to have to do independent work, and think. Personally, I try to avoid media bias by mostly avoiding major-media outlets. News, nowadays, is a drug, meant to make people want to continue consuming news, and to give them some sense that they understand the world.

If some lazy slob wants to cry that "the media" is biased against a position that he learned from the media itself, that has no effect on his life, and which he has no intention of acting upon, let him cry all he wants.



[ Parent ]
Who needs a metric? (4.00 / 4) (#53)
by G Neric on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 10:01:27 PM EST

Funny you should mention the American Heritage Dictionary :)

The American Heritage Dictionary itself is stuffed full of bias. See for yourself: look up the names of famous world leaders from the past century. Those generally considered right wing (Hitler, Marcos, Mussolini, Franco, et al) are called "dictator" or some other pejorative. Those generally considered left wing, including some violent mass murderers (Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Mao, et al), are simply called "leaders". From the description of the Soviet Union, you'd think it might have been a democracy. And the definitions I'm talking about were were written during the cold war!

The American Heritage Dictionary is not alone in its bias. Other prominent dictionaries in the US are not much better. That these works are the product of college professors and other academics is really a source of shame, a massive blight on the academy. To describe Stalin as anything but a dictatorial murderer is completely disrespectful of the millions who died in communist death camps. I mean, it's one thing if these professors are a bunch of SOBs, but they're not even our SOBs!

Can I give you an objective metric to detect the bias in these dictionaries? Let me turn that around: can anybody give me even a subjective measure that would indicate that what I've pointed out is not bias?

[ Parent ]

Objectivity in dictionaries (4.33 / 3) (#58)
by Paul Harm on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 01:55:35 AM EST

I took a look, and you're right, G. I hope my use of this particular dictionary doesn't offend.

I would say that using the micro-biographies of past world leaders is a very weak measure of the bias of a dictionary. Frankly, I've always looked at these as a rather silly addition to a dictionary. And I don't think there are many, if any, who would guide their opinions of people by these entries.

But this is beside the point. Yes, dictionaries themselves are biased. Not just in obvious ways like these poor biographies. They are biased through exclusion and inclusion. They are naturally biased, through research methods, toward printed, rather than spoken, speech. Simply by existing, dictionaries give the impression that a word means, and means a specific set of things. They imply that a language is something that exists, and has a fairly knowable state.

Not that any of these things are necessarily bad, but there they are. Humans divide up a world that is often not naturally divisible, creating things like words, and stories, and in this process bias toward particular ideas is impossible to avoid.

As for a "subjective measure", I'm not really sure what that means. It sounds oxymoronic, like asking for an "illogical proof."



[ Parent ]
political bias is the topic, not the bias you cite (4.00 / 4) (#78)
by G Neric on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 03:56:54 AM EST

As for a "subjective measure", I'm not really sure what that means.
Huh? who rated you 5 for that? If I rate restaurants from 1 to 10 based solely on how much I like them, that scale is a subjective measure.

I brought it up because I wanted to make the point that subjective measures are not worthless. Tastes vary and your restaurant list might differ from mine, even a lot on a fine scale, but probably not grossly on a gross scale. If you are in a stange city you have a much higher probability than random of getting a good meal if you follow anybody's advice based on their experience. And you don't even need to "agree" to make use of subjective information. I live in an overwhelmingly left wing city. "They" being in the majority have strong political organizations, while "we" do not. So, I use their voter guides to help me decide who to vote against. It works.

In a like manner, I think the calls I keep seeing in this discussion for objective measures of bias are overrated. I think I can convince people that there is media bias based on subjective measures and thus acheive subjective agreement between subjective people. The examples I cited from the American Heritiage Dictionary you agreed are bias. Now I need to convince you that there is a difference between that use of the word bias to describe a systematic and politically motivated attempt to alter or deny historical truth, and the scientific bias you cited, e.g. dictionaries stressing the written word over the spoken. A lexicographer would admit to that sort of research bias, would admit that it is partially based on practical consideration, and partially on a subjective bias in favor of the gravitas of the written word.

Political bias, the subject of this K5 discussion, and of the examples I cited, is not of the same nature at all. Strangely, I suspect that the person(s) who wrote those bios would not admit to political bias; either that or they are incredibly cynical. You yourself call them poorly written. They were not poorly wriitten: if they were, they would have made errors in both directions. They were carefully crafted lies, and that's why they skew in one direction. That is the kind of bias the person who started this discussion was looking for, though a dictionary is not strictly media in the sense that he meant it.

[ Parent ]

Anything that makes a real contribution... (4.33 / 3) (#84)
by elenchos on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 07:16:24 AM EST

...should get a 4 or 5. Staying rigidly on-topic is of little concern to me, and I'd hardly give anyone a high rating if I had to actually agree with them 100%.

As long as I feel that I'm better for having read the comment, because the writer was honestly trying to work towards the truth (and can spell), that's a 5. Aside from those who are just blindly pushing an agenda or stroking their own egos, most posters are only trying to explore their world. Even if the purpose seems dubious, like trying to find a numerical, "scientific" scale for bias, just going there and outlining what it would take to accomplish that is worth while, because you define all sorts of relevant problems, and map out the blind alleys. Defining the difference between "subjective" and "objective" is in fact at the very heart of this entire question.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

ratings (4.00 / 2) (#92)
by G Neric on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 01:34:14 PM EST

Anything that makes a real contribution... ...should get a 4 or 5. Staying rigidly on-topic is of little concern to me, and I'd hardly give anyone a high rating if I had to actually agree with them 100%.

actually, my little comment was a botched edit, that I will blame on the lateness :) I meant to insert another sentence kidding about the moderation scale being a subjective measure itself.

Thanks for the points: you are an honest moderator, unlike YellowBook who cruised through here on a mission to mod down everything I wrote. I think I've presented a good bit of interesting material and a point of view that was not getting represented. I'm sort of new (or infrequent) here. How is abuse of the moderation system handled? Here in a discussion of bias I'm detecting bias in the moderation.

[ Parent ]

Oh, I don't know how it's *supposed* to be... (none / 0) (#98)
by elenchos on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 03:19:11 PM EST

...I was just trying to answer what I thought was your implied question about how I rate comments. I have probably been around here less time than you. The faq (or the draft) should be followed before you pay any attention to someone like me.

I've thought there were a couple people who were out to get me, and I've heard others say the same thing. I suppose it happens, but I think it could also just be a statistical illusion. Anybody can probably look down the list of their own comments and see one or two raters pop up frequently and seem excessively harsh. That in of itself doesn't prove much. Maybe if they hit every single one and they always give you a 1 you might be right. But why worry about it? I think the only outcome from paying attention to such things is you start to become paranoid, and spend more time fretting about ratings than learning anything. As long as the spam and garbage is being kept out, the moderation system is working fine, I think.

I do let ratings bother me too much unfortunately, but I really try to ignore them as much as I'm able.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

Subjective / objective measures (5.00 / 3) (#96)
by Paul Harm on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 02:27:45 PM EST

Excellent example; I see what you mean about subjective measures. Yes, within a particular group, such a thing has utility. However, when you're trying to talk to someone not in your "in-group", you're going to be rendered mute. Furthermore, if you use a subjective measure of bias, you'll remain in the same morass, wondering whether the bias you're measuring is real or not.

As for the builtin biases of dictionaries, I wouldn't completely ignore their significance, or call them merely scientific. How many times have you been berated, or berated someone else, for not using a word "correctly"? How often have you checked a dictionary for the "correct" pronunciation of a word? There are many people for whom a dictionary, and perhaps also a grammar book, define rather than describe the language. If dictionary publishers wished to make clear that they were not authoritative, they could, by the tone, layout, and choices of entries--but they don't (except, perhaps, in a paragraph in a foreword that only dictionary wonks like me would read).

I would also hesitate to call the entries in question "carefully crafted lies." I don't have the third edition here at work, but an online 4th edition (which you may find here reads (and I hope these qualify as fair use quotes)):

Soviet politician. The successor of Lenin, he was general secretary of the Communist Party (1922-1953) and premier (1941-1953) of the USSR. His rule was marked by the exile of Trotsky (1929), a purge of the government and military, the forced collectivization of agriculture, a policy of industrialization, and a victorious but devastating role for the Soviets in World War II.
I'm not really sure that there are any factual errors here. There are sins of omission, certainly, but I don't see any lies. For comparison's sake, here's Hitler's:
Austrian-born founder of the German Nazi Party and chancellor of the Third Reich (1933-1945). His fascist philosophy, embodied in Mein Kampf (1925-1927), attracted widespread support, and after 1934 he ruled as an absolute dictator. Hitler's pursuit of aggressive nationalist policies resulted in the invasion of Poland (1939) and the subsequent outbreak of World War II. His regime was infamous for the extermination of millions of people, especially European Jews. He committed suicide when the collapse of the Third Reich was imminent (1945).
Again, seems pretty factual, though the sentence about his suicide seems strangely out of place. I would be surprised if these two entries were written by the same person.

It is certainly tempting to call inequality of tone and focus "lies", because lies are undeniably bad in a dictionary (or anywhere else). But another poster made the distinction between lies and bias, and I agree. The basic problem of bias is not that the truth is broken, but bent. That's why it is so hard to measure (either objectively or subjectively) bias.

A dictionary would certainly seem fair game for this discussion, anyway, since many of the conditions are the same. There are writers, there is an editorial staff, there are limitations of time and space, there is a profit motive, and there is reportage, of a sort. Perhaps one could think of a dictionary as a very slow, very long, and differently organized newspaper.



[ Parent ]
more on the dictionary (4.66 / 3) (#102)
by G Neric on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 11:49:03 PM EST

I'm not really sure that there are any factual errors here. There are sins of omission, certainly, but I don't see any lies.

that's 'cuz you are too trusting: these guys are devious :) considering a dictionary to be a broadly nested virtual hypertext, you have to "chase the links". In this case they call Stalin a "Soviet politician" and head of the "Communist Party", while Hitler was an absolute dictator with a "fascist philosophy". Now, look up their definitions of those words.

  • fascism: a philosophy or system of government that advocates or exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right
  • communism: a social system characterized by the absence of classes and by common ownership of the means of production
OK, now that contrast points to a pretty big fib. They make communism seem like summer camp. But that's not even the worst. Look at this one:
  • soviet: one of the popularly elected legislative assemblies...
See? According to them, Stalin was leader of a democratic country with popular elections, where everybody is equal!

There's a lot more there, too, just in the stuff you quoted. It's not that they saw fit to omit random facts. It is the pattern of facts omitted allows for direct comparison. As you mention, they went to the trouble to mention Hitler's suicide, and so too Trotsky's exile, but not Trotsky's assassination. They mention Hitler invading Poland, and that Russia was in the war, leaving out that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact called for the two countries to partition Poland. They mention Hitler's program of genocide, but fail to mention that Stalin exterminated far more, far far more, people than Hitler did.

But on the basis of just two bios I would not have called this piece of fiction a carefully crafted lie. It is because it is so comprehensive, both deep (the very definitions of words like soviet) and broad: look up Mao ("theorist, leader, head"), look up Lenin ("leader", "head of"), also both bigger mass murderers than Hitler. Look up Castro ("revolutionary, premier"), Batista ("dictator"), Tito ("statesman"). Trujillo ("dictator"), Franco ("dictator"), Ortega ("revolutionary leader") Marcos ("dictatorial control")--Ceaucescu gets "absolute ruler" (that definition was added late). They can't bring themselves to say "dictator". These guys follow the Pravda line, 98% of the time -- one exceptions is Somoza, who knows why. They come close to criticizing a single leftist in the latest revisions where they point out that Mao presided over the Cultural Revolution which they don't describe glowingly. Why do they come close to criticizing Mao for this? I surmise because the Cultural Revolution did entail suppression of academics and intellectuals: the kind of people who write dictionaries :)

Like you, I do not think it was one person either; no starry eyed innocent who was subconciously biased. I think it's a river of ideology that runs very deep. These errors have been pointed out to them before, and they have made revisions, but they have not corrected the pattern. I'm not accusing them of being so stupid that they'd make up easily refutable facts. I'm accusing them of being sly enough to maximize the amount of fabrication they can get away with.

[ Parent ]

A proto-taxonomy of bias (5.00 / 3) (#112)
by Paul Harm on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 04:43:54 PM EST

I took a look at most of the other entries you mentioned, and you're right. You're also right that they have made some spot revisions. The fascism/communism comparison would be more meaningful if you used the second definition of communism (Communism, with a capital C), since the first seems to be defining theoretical communism:

A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people.
Which seems a more realistic definition of real-world Communism, but mixed, unfortunately, with more communist ideology.

Another change they've made is removed the term "far right" from the 4th edition, in the definition of fascism, which seems a good change.

I also agree that much of the light treatment of left-wing dictators is a function of the leanings of the editorial staff as a whole. Which makes me want to make a list of some kinds of bias that are not the product of a single actor, nor the product of an intentional desire for bias:

Structural bias This is the kind of bias that comes from the organizational structure of the entity that produced it. The editorial staff, and who comprised it, would be one example. Another might be a television network owned by a multinational corporation, and whose stories seldom call into question the existence, or rights, of multinationals.

Procedural bias This is bias that results from how you go about collecting, or disseminating, information. For example, if a reporter must have a story turnaround time of only a few hours, then you probably end up with stories emphasizing official statements, or based almost entirely on press releases.

Conventional bias This is the result of handling a story using a frame that already exists. I had another post somewhere in this thread about frames ("Suggested Reading" was the title).

I'm sure there are others, and even these definitions are only sketches.



[ Parent ]
dictionary from 1973 versus 1992 (5.00 / 1) (#117)
by G Neric on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 08:16:22 PM EST

The fascism/communism comparison would be more meaningful if you used the second definition of communism (Communism, with a capital C), since the first seems to be defining theoretical communism

hey, thanks for looking that up. I have two editions of the print dictionary, one from 1973 (no edition) and the 3rd edition from 1992. I had been using the 1973 for most of what I wrote--due to laziness, but also with a false confidence that the definitions hadn't changed--and what you quoted is not in the 73 edition. It has:

The Marxist-Leninist doctrine of revolutionary struggle toward this goal, the political movement representing it, or, loosely, socialism as practiced in countries ruled by Communist parties.

I only got off my butt to dig up the 1992 when I couldn't find Ceaucescu. I relooked at a few, but I did not look them all up again, hence I missed that. Though, I did spot the Mao change which added in the bit about the Cultural Revolution.

I appreciate your taxonomy but unfortunately don't have time at the moment to respond to it thoughtfully.

[ Parent ]

bias -- statistics (none / 0) (#139)
by Bisun on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 06:05:38 PM EST

It's been awhile, but I believe that statistically bias is defined as the distance between the median and the mean. Of course, for this to make any sense one must have a clear and definite (and applicable) definition of exactly how one is performing the measurments.

It's not clear to me that is even in principle to come up with a precise definition (matching even approximately to current usage) that doesn't require a computer to semantically understand the sentences (and probably paragraphs) being examined. I don't know that it can't be done, but I sure don't know how to prove that it can be.



[ Parent ]

Watch yourself (4.33 / 6) (#40)
by spacejack on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 03:32:38 AM EST

As an expermient, I recommend watching yourself. Do you visit CNN.com much? If you do, what stories do you click on? What are you personally generating for CNN in terms of page views? Which stories attract your attention?

If we really want to be able to make judgements on media providers I think it would be very useful to be able to view our personal history.. to view our own habits as to what attracts our hits. I don't suppose CNN.com offers this service, but I would recommend it to any news service. Even k5.

If we are to rule the internet democratically, it would be advisable to know our own habits. I think the most interesting thing about internet media is the ability to track relatively accurate statistics about a great number of things.

OTOH, I don't know what this implies. Should I click on every environmental issue because I happen to be biased towards enviromnental issues? In general, I tend to dislike reading doom and gloom stuff a lot so I may avoid enviro articles :/

What do we expect from the media anyways? I assume we are all lamenting the fact that the media doesn't cover the issues we feel are important. So let's come to grips with the situation: the media reports what we are compelled to watch. What humans are compelled to watch does not necessarily mesh with what is good for us as a species (or perhaps it does?).

A difficult question indeed!

(late nite ramblings, etc. :)

Let's get down to cases: (2.20 / 5) (#46)
by cryon on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 02:24:26 PM EST

Here are FAIR USE excerpts from a newspaper article from the Detroit Free Press about the political battle to stop imigration. The article, at http://www.betterimmigration.com/abesthorn.html , like almost all mass media articles, because they are paid for by people and companies that benefit from immigration (because they buy labor, instead of selling it), is FOR immigration. Let's look at how they make their biases known: "....this group has a Macomb County address, is led by a handful of ***disaffected*** Michigan Republican conservatives and ***openly*** states that it's "a single-issue organization for the year 2000" whose "sole purpose is to defeat U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham." "Disaffected" and "openly" have clearl negative connotations in this context and represent bias. '... the list of better-known and, so far, more active national anti-immigration groups (or, as **they prefer to be known**, immigration "control" groups)...' "they prefer to be known..." is clearly derogatory in this context. "....led by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has been hounding Abraham for weeks now with ***shrill***, controversial radio, TV and newspaper attack ads. " Obviously, "shrill"... This is from the Detroit Free Press! A MAJOR newspaper! Here is a subheader: "Hate, xenophobia " Unjust characterization?
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Let's get down to cases: (3.28 / 7) (#47)
by cryon on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 02:26:18 PM EST

Here are FAIR USE excerpts from a newspaper article from the Detroit Free Press about the political battle to stop imigration. The article,
at http://www.betterimmigration.com/abesthorn.html ,
like almost all mass media articles, because they are paid for by people and companies that benefit from immigration (because they buy labor, instead of selling it), is FOR immigration. Let's look at how they make their biases known:

"....this group has a Macomb County address, is led by a handful of ***disaffected*** Michigan Republican conservatives and ***openly*** states that it's "a single-issue organization for the year 2000" whose "sole purpose is to defeat U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham."

"Disaffected" and "openly" have clearl negative connotations in this context and represent bias.

'... the list of better-known and, so far, more active national anti-immigration groups (or, as **they prefer to be known**, immigration "control" groups)...'

"they prefer to be known..." is clearly derogatory in this context.

"....led by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has been hounding Abraham for weeks now with ***shrill***, controversial radio, TV and newspaper attack ads. "

Obviously, "shrill"... This is from the Detroit Free Press! A MAJOR newspaper!

Here is a subheader:

"Hate, xenophobia "

Unjust characterization?


HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

Hey, NY TIMES: your bias is showing (another case) (3.00 / 3) (#49)
by cryon on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 02:42:32 PM EST

From http://projectusa.org/press/oct00/nytimes-10-23-00.html FAIR USE excerpts: New York Times October 22, 2000, Sunday By TARA BAHRAMPOUR Billboard Foes Yearn to Breathe Free Without Its Presence ...The only part of the article I am excerpting is the very end. Of course if you have studied rhetoric, you know you save your real strong argument for the very end. And that is what this article is, an argument--FOR immigration. "'It's a real shame that a billboard like this should be facing opposite the Statue of Liberty,'' Councilman Kenneth K. Fisher said. ''It's a shame that it would be in a neighborhood that was built by immigrants.'"
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

[ Parent ]
One of the mass media's favorite tricks! (3.40 / 5) (#50)
by cryon on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 03:05:29 PM EST

When they want to influence public opinion, they save a quote from one of the interviewees, a quote that expresses the "correct" viewpoint, for the end of the article. A nice homey quote such as the above is preferred. Dig that Brooklyn syntax....

Don't tell me I am the only person who notices this! Anyone who has studied rhetoric knows that this technique is part of the very CORE of rhetorical argument.

The answer to the original post for this topic: The media is DEFINITELY biased.

Not only that, but in order to place themselves sympathetically in the public eye, they have de facto *defined* what liberalism is, what issues define it, and have cast themselves as "liberals" who fight for the "little guy", the underdog, and so therefore they can better influence public opinion. The better to get the big ad bucks from Big Capital, my dear....not only do they deliver eyeballs, but they DETERMINE the agenda.

Oh, you say you don't want to buy our ads? Well, we will RUIN you or your industry. We'll *feed* you to Congress by demonizing you in our bully pulpit; once they have done that, the recalcitrant industry/company is now fodder for any congressional wolf who needs media face-time soundbites for his campaign.

It's really extortion. But if you are Nice, and pay them the money, they will lobby for you with rhetorical techniques such as I have given examples of above. The bias displayed in the articles I have shown were bought and paid for with software industry money. Indirectly.

Welcome to the real world, dear reader....
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[ Parent ]

Rhetorical devices vs. Newspaper production (5.00 / 2) (#69)
by Paul Harm on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 11:34:00 PM EST

Yes, anyone who has studied rhetoric knows that. But, anyone who has taken a journalism class knows that newspaper articles aren't written as rhetorical arguments. Notably, nothing is saved for the end.

First of all, reporters and editors know that any article starts losing readers after the first sentence. Articles are "front-loaded" so that the most important information appears first. Readers know this, too, so they can feel safe in not reading every article to the end.

Second, newspaper articles are written with the knowledge that it is quite likely that they will be truncated. This also explains the front-loading of information. Articles, especially minor ones like this, are often truncated to fit on a page. It's actually quite likely that there were additional paragraphs that were dropped by the editor. Try it yourself; read the article and stop after any paragraph, and it still feels like a complete article.



[ Parent ]
Oops--reformatting: (2.75 / 4) (#51)
by cryon on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 03:33:09 PM EST

From

http://projectusa.org/press/oct00/nytimes-10-23-00.html

FAIR USE excerpt:

New York Times October 22, 2000, Sunday By TARA BAHRAMPOUR

Billboard Foes Yearn to Breathe Free Without Its Presence ...

The article is about about showing a little white boy and a little black girl with a caption reading: "The population of America will double in their lifetimes."

The billboard is anti-immigration.

The only part of the article I am excerpting is the very end. Of course if you have studied rhetoric, you know you save your real strong argument for the very end. And that is what this article is, an argument--FOR immigration:

"'It's a real shame that a billboard like this should be facing opposite the Statue of Liberty,'' Councilman Kenneth K. Fisher said. ''It's a shame that it would be in a neighborhood that was built by immigrants.'" <end of article>
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[ Parent ]

Negative connotations aren't necessarily bias (5.00 / 3) (#68)
by Paul Harm on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 11:22:36 PM EST

Given this is a discussion of methodology, this is somewhat off-topic. Still:

You might want to take a look at the web site of the group in question, here. I think you can get a pretty good sense that the words chosen by this reporter are pretty accurate. I will provide quotes for each word you attack.

disaffected: Does disaffected sum up the tone of this paragraph, in their "Call to Arms"?

We have pursued a strictly defensive approach in our dealings with those in positions of power. We have long ago given our legislators mountains of statistics and excruciatingly clear documentation of the imminent disaster surrounding their failed immigration policies. With our collective-hat-in-hand we have genuflected before congressmen and women begging for any minor consideration. We have learned the hard way that Congress is totally committed to placating the demands of the special interest groups and doesn't give a damn about the impact that today's unprecedented immigration will have on America's future.

openly: From their mission statement, with emphasis added.

To our knowledge, this campaign will be a first. It is an open declaration of war against an archenemy to the American way--our heritage, our sovereignty, our Constitution, and the ideals it gives rise to.

they prefer to be known: From "Michimpac Explanation".

To label Michlmpac as anti-immigration is a cheap rhetorical trick, practice by politicians and those who wish to stifle any meaningful reform of our nation's absurdly myopic immigration policies.
What's a reporter to do in such a situation? Here is a group which pretty much anyone, even people who agree with them, would call an "anti-immigration" group. But they want to play language war, and demand to be called something else. So, the writer splits the difference and uses both. Would you prefer he use "anti-immigration" or "immigration-control" exclusively? Wouldn't that be even worse?

shrill: Okay, I haven't seen the ads they have on tv, but you can see a print ad they have, here. Which includes such gems as

Don't let Spence Abraham spend six more years rolling out the red carpet for those who ignore our borders and break our laws.
Take another look at the paragraphs quoted above, especially from their Mission Statement. These are the norm on their site. Is "shrill" such an inappropriate choice of words? It almost seems an understatement--these guys are one step away from calling this guy Hitler, simply on the basis of his resistance to changing immigration policy.

Furthermore, in the article that you quote, if you read on a bit, you get this:

The rebuttals from the Abraham campaign -- and from others, including business groups and, most recently, the Michigan Catholic Conference, are equally shrill.
So, even if you think that "shrill" is a loaded word, it is being used pretty evenly.



[ Parent ]
Media bias is an old and honorable tradition. (3.60 / 5) (#57)
by Abumarie on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 12:07:59 AM EST

Journalism, like the legal profession, is somewhat based on the champion system. Most print media over time have openly declared their bias in coverage, frequently through the name that they have given themselves. What is troubling these days is not that bias perhaps exists, but that there are so few alternative news sources available to the average person. New York city used to have a plethora of newspapers (the Times, Daily News, Mirror, Herald Tribune and a couple more in the morning, and the World Telegram and Sun, and the Post in the afternoon + others). Now for all practical purposes, it is the Times and the Post. Also sadly, even the tv coverage is often driven by a "pool" mentality, where all the networks derive their news from only a very few sources. One of my great hopes for the web (and webcasting) was that it would re-infuse the journalistic scene with a new set of viewpoints, but alas to date this has not occurred. Although I must admit that it is refreshing to be able to get the BBC news on demand.





Having sex is heriditary. If your parents didn't have it, chances are good you won't either.

The media are biased, of course, towards SURVIVAL (4.33 / 9) (#64)
by pmk on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 02:28:49 PM EST

Commercial media outlets compete for advertising revenue. Their earnings are directly dependent on the size and (to a lesser extent) the demographics of their audience. The ruthless logic of natural selection utterly requires them to maximize their appeal. Any commercial outlet that prioritized some aspect of their programming, such as objectivity or depth, at the expense of their audience share, is doomed to fail, regardless of whether or not that would be "good for society" or not.

It follows immediately that commercial outlets must bias their programming, including "news" programming, to the sensational, to facile explanations, to "feel good" stories, to titillation, and against anything that might offend the viewer by implying that he or she may be part of a problem. Expect this bias; any outlet that does not use it as a baseline was eliminated or modified long ago by selection pressure. Expect the commercial media to present a continuously improving reflection of what its audience wants to see and hear.

Noncommercial outlets are not part of this competition, but they still have a survival imperative. Expect biases here, too, that encourage direct public support and indirect support through governmental assistance.

The good news is that one need not freely donate one's own time to commercial media outlets for sale to their advertisers if one does not want to do so, just as one is not required to read the advertisements in newspapers or magazines. I destroyed my television six years ago and have not missed it; life is too short and too precious to waste in incompensated service as a broadcaster's product. I am also not compelled to donate to public broadcasters to whom I listen on the radio, although I do choose to direct donations to stations according to my own criteria.

You may find this outlook gloomy and pessimistic, and reject it because it's uncomfortable, and implies that one might have to work to find out what's going on and think critically about conflicting claims. But if you really want the objectivity you claim you seek, realize that the truth or falsehood of an argument has nothing to do with whether it makes you feel good or not.



Pick your poison (4.00 / 1) (#89)
by MantorpCity on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 12:52:47 PM EST

Many other countries have direct govt control over the media. Would you rather have Madison Ave or Pennsylvania Ave decide?

[ Parent ]
Changing the situation? Change the audience (5.00 / 1) (#90)
by pmk on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 01:22:04 PM EST

My comment was not a call for change in the media, or even a condemnation of its current state here in my country. Since selection pressure in a competitive environment forces the commercial media to conform to what its audience wants to see and hear, the only effective means of changing the media is to improve the audience's demands for objectivity and depth.

Your comment assumes that we have an "either-or" choice between free commercial media and total government control. If that were true, then the choice would be clear, of course. But that's not the actual situation. We have access via the Web to a host of domestic and foreign news sources. In my area, I have multiple daily newspapers, some weeklies, and six public radio stations. With some work, I can get reasonably well informed. The freedoms I exercise to get to the information sources are what's really important.

And a freedom that isn't used might as well not be there, just as a person who can read, but doesn't, might as well be illiterate. The majority of people in my country identify local television news programs as their primary or only source of information, and would probably not care whether these programs were commercial broadcasts or government-controlled propaganda. Either way, it disturbs me. But I contend that the problem is with the audience, not the programming or the source of the programming.



[ Parent ]

Sorry (5.00 / 1) (#95)
by MantorpCity on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 02:06:37 PM EST

I misunderstood you. I agree that most people are ignorant to where the news are coming from and don't try to get a balanced view of things.

[ Parent ]
re: towards SURVIVAL (none / 0) (#138)
by Bisun on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 05:57:23 PM EST

This clearly indicates that the commercial media will generally be biased toward those with money to spend (both as purchasers of ads, and as customers of those ads). This would lead one to expect that the media would be biased towards the conservatives (i.e., the holders of wealth). However there seems to be a large contingent who are claiming that the media is biased towards the liberals (those wishing to distribute wealth).

This is a rational prediction that could be tested if there were a good metric. The current state of confusion is what is to be expected when there is not a good metric.

OTOH, it has been stated that the law of gravity could be thrown into doubt if there were an economic interest involved. (This is a paraphrase, and I don't remember the original source.)



[ Parent ]

What the public think (4.00 / 5) (#67)
by cwong on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 11:16:53 PM EST

This does not answer the question, but I would say that it is possible to answer how the media is biased relative to the general (US) public. It would appear, from a Portrait of America poll, that the public seems to see the media in general as leaning leftwards. With the exception of Fox, nothing is seen as favoring Bush.

I think what defines as "left-wing" or "right-wing" for most people is the rule that "left-wing is whoever is to the left of me, and right-wing is whoever is to the right of me". Consequently, what we might gain from this poll is the conclusion either that the public leans to the right of the media or that the media leans to the left of the public.

Another possible interpretation (3.00 / 1) (#71)
by Paul Harm on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 11:54:31 PM EST

Actually, you might only be seeing the effect of a general distrust of media on the part of Republicans, and their specific unhappiness with coverage of the Florida debacle. A large percentage of Democrats, in this particular poll, said that coverage was "fair and unbiased" as opposed to "helping Bush".

These follow, pretty much, the lines of the two campaigns. Democrats generally argued, and believed, that a recount would be both fair, and help Gore. Republicans believed that a recount would be both unfair, and would help Gore.

Strangely enough, they agreed, insofar as helping Gore went. And so coverage that didn't imply that recounts should happen, or that implied there were big problems with the initial vote tallies and automatic recounts, were considered by all to be helpful to Gore, albeit for different reasons. At least, this is one way to look at these results.



[ Parent ]
We can rule out THAT interpretation (4.50 / 2) (#73)
by cwong on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 12:24:30 AM EST

The poll was published on October 27th: before the election actually took place. Nobody was thinking about recounts then.

[ Parent ]
Whoops, my bad (4.66 / 3) (#75)
by Paul Harm on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 12:42:03 AM EST

Duh, leave it to me to read the whole thing, and miss the date. If I could retract my post, I would. Sorry!



[ Parent ]
kinda OT: I *hate* "liberal" and "c (4.00 / 5) (#79)
by johnzo on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 04:42:42 AM EST

One of the things that annoys me about the media is their oversimplistic filing of modern political opinion into two buckets: "liberal" and "conservative."

See, in some ways, I'm a lefty. I abhor the prosecution of consensual crimes, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of for-profit education, I'd like to see health care enacted as a basic right in the US, I'm generally pro-union, I believe that capital punishment isn't a good idea, I see no reason why AOL and Time-Warner should be allowed to merge, and I believe that people have a duty to repay Western society for the stability and advantages that it's given them.

Yet, in other ways, I'm "conservative." I'm conflicted about my stance on abortion, I'm generally in favor of less gun control, I'm not in favor of race-based affirmative action, I believe that the military is a good thing, and I also believe that people have a fundamental right to profit from their personal initiative.

The media seems bent on denying the existence of people like myself.



More on topic than you realize (4.00 / 4) (#91)
by 0xdeadbeef on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 01:28:31 PM EST

Heh, I would say the entire structure of our political system denies the existence of people like you (or me, or anyone whose political opinions can't be pigeon-holed). Even with all the minor candidates, this last election seem like the lesser of ten evils.

I think the media simply reflects this. It generally avoids economic issues because they aren't interesting, so strong supporters of civil liberties who are also fiscally conservative are largely ignored. This is where all this nonsense about the "liberal bias" comes from, because from both sides of the aisle can't seem to handle the fact that there are people who despise the "establishment" but don't think bigger government is an answer to those problems.

In the simplified world of the media, every issue has two sides: that of the East Coast Liberal and that of the Big Money Fundamentalist. In such a false diachotomy most people will identify with the nicer guys, which means "liberals" outnumber "conservatives", which results in these accusations of bias.

[ Parent ]
blame the two party system, not the media. (4.50 / 2) (#97)
by G Neric on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 02:53:11 PM EST

I understand your point, but I think coming through your filter it is getting exaggerated.

Your political issues, all the ones you mentioned, do get great coverage in the news, on both sides though not necessarily without bias. Your gripe is that the media doesn't point out the people who share your opinion of a variety of issues. But this is because the media does point out blocs of voters when they can identify them, large groups of people who share opinions on ranges of issues. The media reports on the large blocs because they affect the outcome of elections in our system which turns out to heavily favor a two-party spectrum.

You simply have an unusual profile, and it gets covered "not usually". If you lived in a country like Israel that has many tiny splinter parties, you might find more reporting on your cohort. Blame the two-party system for that, not the media.

The problem with even holding a discussion like this on kuro5hin is that this seems to be the Land of Misfit Toys. What you are grousing about, and what many others here grouse about is not what is typically meant by bias. It's like saying "the status quo is to report the status quo, and the majority of the time I read about the majority". Yes, it is, that's what status quo means. But out of the vast majority that forms the Democrats and Republicans, there is a wide gap. Yep, different factions in each party for sure, but wide agreement on many issues on each side, and a gulf in between. That is an interesting place to look for bias. But splinters getting too little coverage? We've sure heard a lot about the Green Party, and in the past the Reform Party. We heard about them a lot more than they got votes, and we hear about their issues, too.

To get back on track, do you think the issues you care about get reported individually in a biased way? I think they do, with a persistent tug to the left.

[ Parent ]

Bias is a subset of consistency (3.33 / 3) (#87)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 07:52:21 AM EST

I don't think there are many rules of thumb when trying to detect bias, unless it's very obvious. After all, sometimes to show the good in something, one puts lesser emphasis on the bad things. That's not bad. But it is confusing, since how can one tell the difference between boosterism and flat-out bias?

The only true guard against biased information is knowledge. When I read commercial small-town newspapers about some international story, it's often amusing. But as a child, while I may not have trusted it, I might have quietly formed some opinions about the world that really do not hold true. Now I don't know how much of the Economist to trust; the bias is there, but not always. If hackers are so easily compromised, no doubt the Economist is infiltrated.

Come to think of it, if I have a rule of thumb, it is this: Consistency. If bias is a pattern, then any regularity could be a sign of bias.

Wrong question (4.40 / 5) (#88)
by Beorn on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 10:28:30 AM EST

The word bias should be avoided when discussing media, because it assumes that a lack of opinions is the ultimate goal of journalism, and I don't think it is. Hidden opinions are bad, but being open about it is at least honest - and possible. Nobody can write an interesting article about sensitive political issues without being influenced by their worldview, and anyone who claims to do this is either naive or dishonest.

Accusing a journalist of bias ignores the real issues. The question is not: Is this journalist biased, but: Is this article correct, and is the journalist honest about his/her opinions? Inaccuracy and dishonesty is what is usually meant when somebody accuses the media of bias, and admitting this places media criticism on a level where it can actually be discussed. It would be idiotic to accuse Salon of having a liberal bias, or Slashdot of being anti-Microsoft, because their views on these issues are pretty obvious. It's much more relevant to discuss whether they are correct, - and to reveal hidden motivations where they may exist.

So the real challenge of course is not how to identify bias, but how to identify inaccuracy in the media, and that spawns a whole lot of interesting questions such as Who is an expert? What is truth? How do we form opinions?

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]

well, it's like this... (4.00 / 1) (#99)
by G Neric on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 03:24:26 PM EST

There is a little bit of a problem discussing this stuff internationally because the character of the press is very different in different countries. In the UK, the various newspapers are highly biased toward respective political parties, while their broadcasting is not because it it publically financed. In America, the newspapers and other media claim that they are unbiased. So, I'm going to "argue" with you a bit here, but I think it's because you may not understand our media.

The word bias should be avoided when discussing media

too late: the American media claim to be unbiased. In their defense, I think they do try to be unbiased, and I think they succeed as well any anybody ever could, but I think they ultimately fail.

Accusing a journalist of bias ignores the real issues. The question is not: Is this journalist biased, but: Is this article correct, and is the journalist honest about his/her opinions?

what you are asking for is exactly what the American public debate has been about. Leading American media do claim that they report the news unbiased. The journalists strive to hide their own opinions so we don't know what they are. This makes it hard to say they are being "honest" as you suggest. The reporters in question are therefore accused of not being honest about their opinions. The question on the floor in this forum is how to go about proving the case.

It's much more relevant to discuss whether they are correct, - and to reveal hidden motivations where they may exist.

Yes, that is the question: how to go about doing exactly what you are proposing needs to be done. It is difficult to do because the code of conduct for American journalists is quite effective at hiding opinion. We've even had some famous journalists say that they never vote in elections because they don't want to have a stake in the outcome. Of course, not voting does not remove the stake in the outcome, but how make that case?

[ Parent ]

Revealing opinions (4.00 / 1) (#126)
by Beorn on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 05:34:09 AM EST

So, I'm going to "argue" with you a bit here, but I think it's because you may not understand our media.

Yes, you're propably right. Most of what I read about american politics is clearly opinionated one way or the other, and I rarely watch CNN or read newspapers with the word Times in the name.

The question on the floor in this forum is how to go about proving the case.

Perhaps proving specific bias is unnecessary. If we agree that journalism is often influenced by personal opinions, we should automatically distrust a journalist who doesn't reveal his/her opinions. If a newspaper writes an article about their own investors, they are expected to reveal this, even if the article is honest and accurate. So perhaps we should expect this from all news reporting.

An article on an election would be followed by a statement of how the writer intends to vote, (if it isn't obvious), an article on internet censorship by the writer's general opinion on free speech, and even generally assumed opinions ("NN thinks Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator") should be revealed.

There's a parallell to the recent k5 rating controversy here. Hidden information encourages conspiracy theories and reduces trust unnecessarily. Transparency allows anyone to decide how relevant the information is -- it may be irrelevant much of the time, but that decision should be for the readers to make.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]
[ Parent ]

Tangential Comment (3.50 / 4) (#107)
by dirac on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:35:10 AM EST

Can't remember where I heard this, but it made a lot of sense:

"Being a minority doesn't necessarily require you to be in a numerical minority. The defining characteristic of a minority is a persecution complex."

A provocative example are "Women", often mentioned as a minority, although they make up (slightly) more than 50% of the poulation.



Objectivity (5.00 / 3) (#113)
by Paul Harm on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 05:22:16 PM EST

With all this discussion of how to measure bias, perhaps it would be useful to consider its opposite, objectivity.

What is it? Is objectivity a state? A process? What would an objective news report look like? What would an objective newspaper look like? How would a reporter, an editor, an organization go about being objective?

About the closest thing I can come up with, in way of an existing institution, would be found in scientific journals. If you wish to know the state of, say, ceramics research, you can sit yourself down and read some articles. Those you didn't believe you could test, at least in theory. You could feel reasonably assured that a number of knowledgable people had reviewed the paper, and that it was at least probably true. And you could feel reasonably secure that, having read enough, you were pretty close to knowing the state of the art--or were, at least, only a small amount behind.

Some of the differences from how normal news media works are:

  • Many eyes: Articles are usually written by multiple people, and reviewed by more, before publication
  • Verifiability: The content of articles can be independently verfied
  • Accountability: The author and publisher have a direct stake in the truth of an article
  • Leisure: The clock, while still present, is much less defining of the process of a whole. If peer review takes a month, it takes a month.
  • Autonomy: I'm not really hep to the business of journals, but it is my impression that most of these are independently funded by professional societies and universities, and are given wide editorial discretion by their benefactors.

Perhaps there are specific characteristics that all objectivity-producing processes share. What are they? If you could discover these, then you could compare the news production processes of the various media, and specific entities within them, and get some sense of their objectivity-potential, or inverse bias-potential.



Good concept. (4.66 / 3) (#115)
by elenchos on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 07:31:20 PM EST

While the journals have their flaws, the way they are supposed to work is a good model to follow.

To translate the verifiability aspect from science to journalism, the reporter would feel obliged to try to give the reader the tools to either verify or disprove the story themselves. As in Einstein's famous suggestion to disprove general realativity by observing if distant starlight is bent around the sun, a good scientist offers as many experiments as he or she can think of that his or her peers can perform to disprove the theory proposed.

Journalism relies mostly on the argument to authority for support. "This many reputable sources said it, so you can believe it." Instead, reports could add to that, "Go and look at this, go and do that, and thereby you will know this is true." For issues like the recent election confusion, reports could walk the reader through the math so they can see for themselves how it works, instead of just stating the result of the calculation. I saw newspaper accounts of alternate voting schemes that are available, but they didn't explain exactly how they worked. They just said, the American Mathematical Society uses this system, and this expert endorses it. You weren't expected to "try it at home."

In many cases it is still impossible, but reporters could try. "Go and talk to someone who has lived in that country." "Ask a Gulf War veteran what they saw."

We do this quite a bit, by providing links instead of just quoting web sites. It makes a big difference. I suppose that means I should be putting links in this post, but sorry, too tired.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

objectivity is impossible (in my objective view) (4.50 / 2) (#116)
by jrh on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 08:00:55 PM EST

I picture the objective newspaper article being something like a Hemingway story: stripped of adjectives, all sentences having subjects performing concrete actions. (Of course, bias still exists in the choice of information to report.)

Science (not social science!) is less subjective than politics since it relies on observation and empirical evidence. And however complex quantum theory is, it's infinitely simpler than analyzing human actions, which is what we might want our media to do. For example, if we're talking about the diplomatic consequences of building a missile defense, there's no objective way I can tell you if it would lead to unacceptable relations with Russia and China. The best I could give you is an informed guess, influenced by my own view of US foreign policy. Or how about all the political scientists whose models predicted a Gore victory? Objective tools just aren't up to the task.

An area where we (perhaps) achieve objectivity is pure mathematics and logic. In the proof of a theorem, there is no need for context or interpretation. As soon as you get into applications of your theorem, I suppose you do start demonstrating your biases. And why did mathematicians spend so much time (for example) on Fermat's Last Theorem? By spending such effort on a minor question in number theory, weren't they demonstrating their desire for fame over the pursuit of knowledge? Does this constitute a bias on their part?

Even in the most pure of sciences, we're still governed by our hidden biases.

Peer review, instead of eliminating biases of the authors, might instead reinforce the commonly held view--which is not necessarily correct, particularly during a revolution in the field.

And scientific journals are also biased towards publishing more interesting results, which doesn't improve their accuracy.

Let's step back for a second, and even get back on-topic. I'll pose a question: is it impossible to define a satisfactory metric for media bias? (That is, to be able to say whether any given media product is biased, and perhaps if it is more or less biased than another.) I'm inclined to think so, simply because we can't (or I can't) define what objective reporting might be.

[ Parent ]

What does objectivelook like? a voter guide (4.00 / 1) (#124)
by G Neric on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 02:35:12 AM EST

I don't know if they have them where you live, but here we get a voter guide sent to us before elections, listing the referenda in 4 parts:

  1. the actual text of the proposed legalese
  2. easy-to-read synopsis
  3. pro argument
  4. con argument
I don't know how they do it, but it meets my criteria for "unbiased". It is not entirely objective as they do list actual pro and con arguments, and the referendum is usually named and worded in political spin speech. Yet, reading the guide I get a strong sense that the people who put it together are really trying hard to not bias my choice. They're not perfect. Sometimes I'll feel more knowledgeable on the issues and I'll feel there could have been a more compelling arguement for or against, but I distinctly do not get the sense that any such shortcoming comes from partisanship.

I'm not sure how they do it. I believe that representatives from the different sides of the issue are asked to participate so that probably helps. Also, since it's part of the official election process I think that the clerks involve get swelled up with patriotism and civic duty in a positive way and really bend over backward to make sure they don't offend.

But however they do it (and I live in a lopsidedly partisan nuthouse of a place) they do a really good job, a sense I never pick up from the newspapers here.

[ Parent ]

Yes, but... (none / 0) (#137)
by Bisun on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 05:44:04 PM EST

You are describing a process created specifically to allow those journals that desire to do so the create relatively objective articles.

The problem is to decover what bias exists in some particular article, or set of articles. Generally one would not know the process used in the creation of the articles, and, indeed, one could expect that the techiniques used in the creation would not be closely similar.

OTOH, one of your proposed tests is that differing observers should, by and large, come to the same conclusion. Unfortunately, this only happens, even in scientific papers, when none of the parties has anything significant at stake. Such as, for example, a favored theory. (This is the barricade that builds the wall that crumbles when a paradigm shift happens.) But in a political or economic discussion a disinterested observer is not only quite rare, it is also difficult to determine whether or not a particular posited individual actually is disinterested. (Here's $5 million for you to conduct a study on the economics of...)

So the desired metric would be one that could be applied to the finished product, similar to a tesile strength test, or a crash test, that would enable one to determine the amount of bias present.

Loaded adjectives, one-sided reporting, assumed beliefs, assumed points of view, etc. Are certainly clear indications of such a presence. How to measure the quantity of such content (or is percentage a better measure?) is not at all clear.



[ Parent ]

How I changed my mind about media bias (5.00 / 1) (#118)
by Ring Kichard on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:00:08 PM EST

"What bias?" I thought. Fox seemed to support Republicans; Public Television boosted Democrats. Damn near everywhere else has the 60/40 "liberal lean" that you would find in a random handful of Americans.

It seemed to me that there was bias toward Republicans and Democrats, both, and it balanced. On the radio I had heard of the, "Vast right wing conspiracy," and the, "Liberal media bias." The media was only too happy to talk about it's own bias. Rush L on one hand and Daniel Z. on the other. Then one year I woke up to a world I'd never heard about. I was a populist and a libertarian. Suddenly, I cared about things no one was talking about.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans support things I hate (death penalty) and fight things I'd embrace (true separation of church and state).
The media no longer gave a damn. It never talked about its own bias on these issues. If it wasn't a Republican or Democratic issue, it wasn't worth public notice. If that policy shafted Libertarians, Communists, or any group without 15% of the popular vote, it wasn't news.

Now I think there is a bad media bias: it's toward the establishment. That's all the evening's news folks. Goodnight.

"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- The rest of us will go to the stars."
K5 Media Bias (2.00 / 1) (#128)
by bnf on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 09:19:50 AM EST

How to identify Media Bias:

Media Bias is when a post is the top story on the homepage for five days straight.

This is a little stale. Can't we move onto something else?

bnf

Well, blame yourself. (none / 0) (#129)
by elenchos on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 10:36:18 AM EST

Post something good and I'll vote it up. This is not a spectator sport.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

Simple (none / 0) (#130)
by Khedak on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 11:50:36 AM EST

You identify media bias by looking at what is said by whatever media you are examining, and then considering what was assumed by that media without explanation. For example, if the media is interviewing a Republican senator and asks him why he thinks his personal religious views should affect everyone else in the country, that means the interviewer is biased against this senator's actions, because rather than explaining why their question is valid, they simply assumed it to be. Namely, they assumed that the senator's actions affecting everyone else in the country were based on his personal religious beliefs rather than some other more valid basis.

When a news story covering China talks about how their "soviet-trained dam-fetishist" scientists are going to create another hydroelectric plant to generate power, the bias is obviously against the soviets and against hydroelectric dams. They don't explain whether Chinese scientists are really soviet-trained, or whether dams are efficient sources of energy, they just assume a bias against them.

Look for who will benefit and who will be harmed (or even who is made to look good and bad), then look at what the media does not say. That's how you identify bias. It's a simple process. For example, this write-up assumed that kuro5hin has enough discussion of the types of media bias, and that that discussion is heated and incoherent. The author asks us to "spare him" that kind of discussion, and in the last sentence asks us to "try to stay calm", and to "go to your respective corners." This represents an obvious bias: the author thinks that media bias exists in the reader's minds more than anywhere else, and thinks most people who complain about media bias aren't being rational. He actually states that his opinion is that the media is simply being erroneous and lazy, but provides links to two publications as his reasoning. And he doesn't provide any reasons as to why a discussion of media biases is 'overdone' and why we should 'spare him'. The answer is his bias against claims of specific media biases in favor of simple error on the part of media.

Speaking of assumptions (none / 0) (#136)
by Bisun on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 05:28:16 PM EST

...corners." This represents an obvious bias: the author thinks that media bias exists in the reader's minds more than anywhere else, and thinks most people who complain about media bias aren't being rational. He actually states that his opinion ...

That is an interesting interpretation. I interpreted it quite differently. A normal part of the pragmatic/scientific model is that if you can't measure something, then you can't really make useful quantitative statements about it. I heard him as asking how such a measuring tool could be constructed. To even assert that the statement "media bias exists in the reader's minds more than..." has meaning, one must assume that there is some reasonable way of measuring it, or at least of performing a topological sort on it.

Interestingly, I am certain that it does have some sort of objective meaning, but have no idea how to determine what the objective meaning would be.

[ Parent ]
True enough (3.00 / 1) (#141)
by Khedak on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 07:03:05 PM EST

You're right, that's a bias too. I think though that what's important to remember isn't that biases are always bad, what's bad is when bias goes unrecognized. So in that vein, thanks for pointing that out. :)

After all, if you read a conservative publication and they leave out their basis for assuming certain things that all conservatives have in common, that's not really harmful so long as they say up front that they're conservative, so we know what their biases are. Likewise for anyone. If someone writes something about corporate bias in the media, they're probably complaining because most of the time the media doesn't come out and say "We're running this story on the medical benefits of deodorant at the behest of Proctor and Gamble, whose deodorant sales are decreasing." If they did, then we'd know their biases, and though we might disagree, at least we couldn't accuse them of being deceptive. The problem isn't with the bias existing, it's when people fail to recognize bias and instead treat something as objective truth, as you pointed out. Eliminating bias is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for most topics of any complexity. What's important is measuring and recognizing it.

[ Parent ]
Immigration: media bias cases & Ponzi schemes (none / 0) (#132)
by cryon on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 05:51:33 PM EST

Here are some fair use exceprts from various net news stories, quoted in excerpts under fair use ( "[]" are my commnets):

From Sydney Morning Herald:

(This is an editorial disguised as a news feature:

>>>>>

"The trade is part of a huge illegal movement of people going on in Europe; an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants crossed borders into Western European countries this year, up from 40,000 six years ago.

But as the world's dispossessed risk their lives and possessions to beat immigration barriers a nationalist reaction has set in among the rich countries, marked by jingoistic hymns to national cultures, anti-immigrant tirades and the scapegoating of foreigners for everything from rising crime to rotten schools. "

<<<<<<<<

[Many Europeans don't want immigration. How does it profit them? Very little. Rents go up because there is more demand; wages go down because there is more supply. It's just common sense, and no number of bought-and-paid-for studies will convince me otherwise. Yes, some people DO benefit, but just those who alraey have money, just those who are in the upper brackets of net wealth.]

. >>>>>>>>>>

"Europe needs migrants, and the need is growing rapidly.

<<<<<<<<<<<

[Sez who? Their bought economic studies?]

>>>>>>>>>>

"The proportion of the elderly in the EU, defined as people aged 65 and over, is expected to rise to 22.4 per cent in 2025 from 15.4 per cent today. With birth rates low, Europe's already strained state pension system faces collapse unless the working population that supports it is expanded through immigration. One EU working paper puts the number needed at 75 million immigrants by 2050. " <<<<<<<<<<<<<

[Here we go with one of their most grotesque tactic: appealing to people's fear about old age. Again, it's really nothing more than extortion. Govt takes the money fromus in the form of Social Security taxes, supposedly to invest it for our old age, but then it will only be there if we let in millions of immigrants? Is no one here familiar with the Ponzi Scheme???]

>>>>>>>>>>>

"The European Commission warned recently this would require strong political leadership to combat "racism and xenophobia".

<<<<< [Excuse me, but the Europeans OWN their respective countries! Ever heard of teh phrase, "We reserve teh right to refuse anyone..."? If they want o keep immigrants out, that is their business. It's THEIR property. By analogy, if a trespasser comes onto a business that I own jointly with other people, and he is not invited, I may if I chose (with the agreement of my business partners), kick his butt off my property. You can call it "xenophobia" or a "ham sandwich". I call it property rights. They find that appealing to racial guilt iis very effective in getting their way and being able to lower labor costs by increasing the supply of labor. ]

-----------------------------

From the north New Jersy Newspaper in Bergen, more bias in the form of a news story which is really an editorial in disguise:

>>>>>>

"Recent arrivals crucial to clout " <<<<<<<<<<

[Nice objective headline. I can already guess where their sympathies lie....]

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

By ELIZABETH LLORENTE Staff Writer

http://www.bergen.com/news/cenimmig200012312.htm last...............

[I am only showing the last part, which AGAIN, as I pointed out, is a quote from someone who is esposing the same viewpoint as the news-story/editorial (which of course is pro-immigration)]:

.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

"I feel the vitality of immigrants every time," said Schuber, the son of an Irish immigrant mother, "when I look at the new churches, the new businesses, and thriving new communities all around me." >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

[Dig all those positive-connotaion words like "vitality". But on the pther side of the fence, it "hate" and xenophobia". THey play the connotaions game to the hilt....

----------------------\

From Time magazine:

[Again, this is just the last part of the story, and what a coincidence...it's PRO-immigration because it gives an argument supporting immigration. What a surprise!]

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/archive/1994/941128/941128.immigration.html

>>>>>>>>>>>

"The larger problem is that tight control over the southwestern U.S. border, along with the potential impact of Proposition 187, creates entirely new categories of problems. It will almost certainly place enormous hardships on the Mexican population, which will in turn create diplomatic strains between two countries working hard to make the North American Free Trade Agreement succeed. It also stands to devastate agriculture in states like California, which rely on illegal immigrant labor to bring in the harvest. All of which suggests that, even if it is possible to shut down the border with Mexico, reaching that goal may be far from the political slam dunk it seemed to be in the campaign season. While cutting off illegal immigration may save some money in social services, the price will be the loss of a labor pool that the U.S. has long taken for granted.

With reporting by Laura Lopez/Mexico City and Elaine Shannon/Washington "

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

[Closing Note: I am not saying there is no upside to immigration. There is. In fact, we ought to import every foreign-born medical doctor we can get our grubby hands on. Period. In fact, we ought to stop training doctors in the US. We could train many many more overseas for the same price. And medical doctors provide a huge personal benefit to us all, even though it would depress doctors' wages...and wouldn't THAT be a huge shame?

And there is definitely something to be said for letting in all science PhD's (legitimate ones only, and there will be a cost for the kind of extensive checking that would be needed).

But I am just the sort of contrarian who gets his back up bigtime when confronted by society-wide lies, such as we have here.

I am also submitting this as an independent topic post.

However, I ask you to look at this aubject in as purely an objective light as possible and ask yourself how much your responses are kneejerked straight from the old progaganda bin in your head, filled on a daily basis by the mass media. ]
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

Metrics? (none / 0) (#135)
by Bisun on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 05:18:01 PM EST

I am not questioning your assertions. Some of them seem reasonable, some I don't know enough to protest. However ... I didn't see any mention of the metric that you used. "Common Sense" doesn't count. It's to unspecified. Try to come up with a metric that could be applied by a liberal and a conservative, with both reaching the same answer (if they applied it fairly). (I don't have an answer either.)

[ Parent ]
Media and selective reporting (none / 0) (#143)
by Zenith on Sat Jan 06, 2001 at 07:59:18 PM EST

Most of the issues that media reports are usually been selected to suit the audience, it is more than bias, it creates propaganda toward certain people and races/nationalities. This can be clearly seen in reporting crime reports, suburbs with bad name are the main target, regardless how it have changed and shift, the constant bombarment of bad publicity by the media intensify how people view this particular place.

"Truth is what people conceit, but in reality there is no real truth, just opinions." - Zenith

How do you identify media bias? | 145 comments (143 topical, 2 editorial, 2 hidden)
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