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September 15, 2008

A Bias About Media Bias

Steven R. Berryman

Last Saturday my attention was taken from Tentacle scribing and also from my other compulsion, posting comments to, by their Ask the Editor feature, “The dark secrets of our political bias,” by Comfort Dorn.


I found this title to be most intriguing, as for years I had suspected that they held such a secret, so I read on. The article was really an editorial lost on the wrong page.


Ms. Dorn, an editor, muses about the many readers that think The Frederick News-Post has a political agenda, and what that might be.


As an example, she exposes a story of a potential media conspiracy to stonewall about the arrest of peaceful demonstrators from Defend Life’s “Face the Truth” tour. Three were arrested in Bel Air, MD, one from our area, and word was that the story was squelched.


Ms. Dorn’s explanation was that protestors themselves refused an interview, and thus there was no story, as the subject was worried about the slant of the paper. The hypothesis being that the News-Post had a known “bias” on the abortion issue that never would have allowed a fair presentation of the facts in this matter.


A review of itself on the pro-abortion issue by the News-Post on itself revealed no trend, as was expected.


With a click on the “comments” link to the column in its Internet form, I was afforded some insight as to a “sense of the readership.” This polling method can be very informative.


The very first comment was posted anonymously by a person going by “baktun13” and read: “This means nothing as a poll question. Publish the political parties of FNP reporters, writers, and editorialist. This was done by the national media and gee, what a surprise, 85 to 90% were Democrats.”


Baktun13 was indeed already convinced that a bias to the Left was already fully in force, and the agenda was showing up as the Democrat’s position on the abortion issue.


Posters are terrible at grammar, spelling, and annotating their comments. Many fail even the “common sense” test. The option for anyone reading through them is to take-it-or-leave-it on the content. In this case, I chose to take it, as I had already read “Bias,” by Bernard Goldberg, who was the “CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News” story, penned in 2002.


In making the above choice, I had revealed a bias within myself!


The human tendency to believe what we want to believe is at the heart of the bias matter. At least taking a preliminary position is a common starting point. For open-minded people, the operating process is to simply go from there and take-in further information as you seek any corroborating research. For you closed minded people, your work is already done.


Bias is also “the memory of the heart” that we all have. You are the sum-total of all of your experiences coupled with knowledge. Without this aspect of attitude, it would be impossible to function and to take in the world.


Having a newspaper do a story about bias and agenda about itself is really as silly proposition – prima facie. But, of course, an internal conflict-of-interest prohibits all but a theoretically fair hearing on the subject!


Does an editor not view “The dark secrets of our political bias” before it is released to the presses and Internet webmaster? We shall never know what dark secrets may have been redacted. The title itself sheds light on the level of seriousness involved.


My “comment” posted on this was in agreement with Bernie Goldberg’s book was this. “Most conventional newspapers carry an institutional bias, as most journalists and some columnists come to their work-places from left-leaning colleges/universities.”


This is well documented and has been surveyed.


This is just a simple fact and worthy explanation for one common source of bias that can be anticipated in your media.


“Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle,” which I borrow from physics, essentially states that it is impossible to witness an event without having the observer himself becoming part of the observation. This is how I view newspapers coming clean about bias.


Bias itself cannot fairly be self-analyzed without introducing even more bias.


“Dark Secrets” was a noble column in intent, impossible in reality.


But that is only my biased opinion.


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