Saturday, December 29, 2007

Journalists are normal people too

My parents are always talking about bias in the news media. They think that the media is largely made up of pinko commie liberals.

They may be right.

But it doesn't matter if the media leans toward the left. It doesn't even matter if it leans to the right. What matters is realizing that it's not actually wrong for journalists to be opinionated.

We are called “Fourth Estate,” the unofficial fourth branch of government that keeps the executive, legislative and judicial branches in check.

Journalism is a tool. It's a way to bring about change, to keep leaders accountable and to look out for the little man. It would be impossible to write something without having some sort of opinion about it, however small it might be.

Let’s take the example of Watergate. If it hadn’t been for Bob Woodward and Carl Berstein’s conviction that President Nixon was behind the break-in at the Watergate complex and that the public needed to know about it, justice would not have been served.

It is also important to keep in mind that the concept of objectivity is a fairly new one to the world of journalism. It was not so long ago that William Randolph Hearst, the famous American newspaper magnate, told one of his reporters, “You furnish the pictures. I’ll furnish the war.”

Granted, readers want to get both sides of the story, and any upstanding journalist should strive to be as objective and fair in his coverage as possible, but the point is that it is absurd to ask him not to have a view on the story.

In any event, we will never be able to completely escape bias. If you find yourself trying to discredit information just because of perceived bias, you may want to reevaluate your thinking.

The thing to realize is that there will always be an element of human opinion in writing. That is why it is important you, as the reader, select a wide range of material from multiple sources—conservative, liberal and in between—in order to get all aspects of the story instead of subscribing to one side’s interpretation of the facts.

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