General discussion


Media bias ...

By jardinier ·
Because of a strong tendency in these discussions to rubbish the "biased lefty media," I think it is appropriate to define and explain precisely what function the media fills in our societies.

The most common incorrect assumption is that the media has some duty to provide the public with the "absolute" truth in all regards.

In fact the media has no obligation whatsoever. The various branches of the media are merely industries whose primary funtion is to return a profit to their shareholders.

The only laws which apply directly to the media are libel laws and ownership monopoly laws.

You will not find any government legislation which requires the media to be honest. However within particular publications, and if a journalist joins a professional union, a code of ethics may apply. But the government is not involved in policing these codes.

Some publications will target a particular social group by attempting to provide the best quality of reporting that is feasible. Others will deliberately target the sensation seeker -- I understand the the British tabloids specialise in this.

I worked for a number of years on the now defunct Daily Mirror, which was regarded as the worst "rag" in Sydney. But let me assure you that I was under as much pressure there as at the Sydney Morning Herald, to report as accurately as possible.

Now to bias: this is sometimes as interpreted as "it's different from my point of view, therefore it is biased." As regards political bias, the media in Australia retains a fair balance and in fact the only news source that is continually attacked as having a left-wing bias is the Government funded ABC.

Deliberate political bias will only come from the owner of the publication which, in turn, is almost entirely dependent upon advertising income. As an example, if a newspaper has a cover price of $1, about 90 per cent of this comes from advertising. If there were no advertising, there would be no media, period.

The second primary aspect which the reader overlooks is that the media is competetive, and time is of the essence. In order to stay ahead of or even with the competition, the newspaper/radio/TV staton must get the basic story published as soon as the rudimentary facts are available. It might take weeks to research a story and refine it.

Finally, in the vast majority of instances, the information comes from a third party. Parliament is one of the few exceptions in which the reporter can actually hear the words as they are spoken, study body language and gauge acceptance/disagreement by the actual real-time response.

So next time you are on the point of exlaiming "media bias," please try and look at some of the background factors which have led to the story being presented as it is.

This conversation is currently closed to new comments.

Thread display: Collapse - | Expand +

All Comments

Collapse -

A matter of perspective, I suppose

by maxwell edison In reply to Media bias ...

So many things are a matter of perspective.

Just as the average height but anorexic 75 pound woman would consider a 110 pound frame "fat", someone else would consider it slim and trim. Still, others might consider that skinny. It all depends on one's mind-set and perspective.

In the political arena, whereas an opinion writer such as Molly Ivans would consider the current Republican administration "extreme right wing", someone like Pat Buchanan might consider it way too far to the left. (Apologies to those who are unfamiliar with the people mentioned in my illustration.)

I think I've errored in past threads challenging some assertions that the American media is right-wing. If that right-wing media assertion was coming from a person with, what I might consider, an extreme left wing mindset, then it's understandable that he might make that claim. On the other hand, someone working from the perspective of the extreme right-wing would consider that assertion ludicrous. I've even called that assertion ludicrous, and even though I would consider my political slant to be right of center, I certainly wouldn't consider myself extreme right-wing.

I'm beginning to wonder if it's even possible to find a common language with some things, especially in an international forum. It's no wonder that in the arena of foreign policy, even the most seemingly insignificant detail could derail the desire to find a common ground, or even a common language. It's been said that being the President of the United States is the most difficult job in the world. Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But if it is, the job of Secretary of State must come in a strong second.


(By the way, Julian. On a totally unrelated topic, whenever I run my spell-checker, it identifies the word "errored" as incorrect. Moreover, I can't find any reference to "errored" as being the past tense of "error". Am I being grammatically correct or incorrect in my choice of using "errored" as the past tense of "error"? I suppose I could say, " I've been in error" as a substitute, but it's something I've been wondering about lately.)

Collapse -

To err is human ...

by jardinier In reply to A matter of perspective, ...

In my two best dictionaries "error" is listed only as a noun.

The corresponding verb would be "err," of which the past tense would be "erred."

Collapse -

Interpretation of Point

by Oldefar In reply to Media bias ...

Your statement regarding bias and advertising is accurate, Jules, but your interpretation misses some key dynamics I think.

Begin with deliberate political bias. The owner(s) of the paper influence the general leaning of the paper not by direct approval of articles but through hiring practices. Editors make decisions on controversial articles based on their assumptions of what will be acceptable to the publishers. Journalists submit articles based on their assumption of acceptable parameters from the editor. In this manner a political or other bias becomes part of the culture of each media firm.

A savvy publisher plays on this and owns publications biased in opposite directions. In effect, he becomes his own competition for an audience within a given market.

Some privately held media remain platforms for a specific position. Many state sponsored media fall into this category, as well as some narrow focus print media and probably most Web sites. Web sites in particular can reach a large audience with self funding versus advertising dollars. The tools to present a "professional" appearance are now available at a low enough cost to allow anyone with a strong enough motive able to appear as if having a global presense.

As for the advertisors, this is a numbers game. What is important to them are the demographics of the readers and the potential exposure per dollar spent. Controversy, unpopular positions, and even a direct attack to the advertisor's beliefs are not important if the demographics and numbers hold or even improve.

An exception to this is consumer backlash. When consumers specifically and openly choose to not buy from an advertisor because of where they are advertising, this will influence where they spend their advertising budget.

Collapse -

The Natural Move Left

by Oldefar In reply to Interpretation of Point

Ignoring columnists with little direct interaction, I believe there is a natural inclination for journalists to move left over time.

I start with an assumption that most people, journalists included, are essentially good. Most of us share a common sense of right versus wrong, fair play, a dislike of blatant selfishness and self centered behavior, a desire to simply get along, and a dislike of overt control by others.

For societies to function, and for businesses to flourish, we accept a certain amount of questionable behavior provided we can distance ourselves from the behavior. This is why a government can exist without being totally fair and with a degree of control. This is why businesses, seen as non-human entities, can behave selfishly. We overlook self centered politicians by believing they also have a sense of vision and an underlying ethic for fair play.

As long as we can keep sufficient distance, we can ingore any variance from our own ethics by simply creating an excuse (greater good is popular), or claiming it is out of our control (another popular excuse).

Enter the journalist. By investigating a story the journalist loses the ability to maintain a distance. The journalist sees not a casualty list, but dead or maimed individuals with family, feelings, and goals and objectives not unlike his own. The journalist does not see a corporation, but workers directly harmed or mistreated by managers with names and faces.

Under these circumstances, the journalist must deal with the facts on a personal level. Most often, this means facing a government that is acting unfairly in some aspect, or a corporation managed by individuals focused only on their own best self interests, or a politician who considers the next election when acting in a particular fashion. Actions take on the more limited immediate result rather than the long term or big picture aspect. Since the journalist cannot change reality, his own ability to function requires him to gravitate towards those parties and persons who at least seem to have a higher regard for others. This tends to be politically a move left.

I suppose this is much like being a soldier and demonizing or at least dehumanising those he must kill.

Collapse -

Moving left

by Oz_Media In reply to The Natural Move Left

I have a university psych book(Hunting Humans) that explains how serial muders are played by the press to help in prifiling. One of the things it mentions is that in the USA, most young reporters may start out with string leftwing beliefs but usually move left with experience. It says that reporters and those who cover human tradgedy, are usually pushed toward left-wing or "human stories" as they experience more human destruction.

They say this move is generally due to higher intelligence and worldly education that allows one to undertsand issues and people from a widened perspective.
These left-wingers are chosen based on thier ability to add feeling and a more understanding or human perspective to stories.

Your statement that media will favor hiring left wing reporters may hold true but this can also be seen as a sign of industry experience, as a reporter gains wider knowlegde and understandig of humanity they are 'graduating'(for lack of a better word0 into left-wing reporters.

I don't know if left-wing supporters can neccessarily be considered MORE intelligent but perhaps someone with either higher intelligence or s more wordly knowledge tends to fall left more than right. I don't know if this refers to a learned intelligence or just a greater sense of spirituality and inner awareness.

Collapse -


by Oz_Media In reply to Moving left

Sprry I missed the foirst paragraph 2nd sentence, I said:
"One of the things it mentions is that in the USA, most young reporters may start out with string leftwing beliefs but usually move left with experience."

This should read: "ONe of the things it mentions is that in the USA, most young reporters start out with strong RIGHT-wing beliefs but usually move left as they gain more experience."

Got the left and right mixed up, I a pair of those shoes with the green 'L' on one and the red 'R' on the other.

Collapse -


by Oldefar In reply to Moving left

The study seems to contradict my personal observations and experiences. However, I have made no attempt to validate my perspective with any valid scientific study.

Collapse -

Left Right which is correct?

by jkaras In reply to Moving left

I never understood what is right or left wing opinions. Why classify them and not have a specific opinion on a specific problem? We love to stereotype people into categories so they can only respond within the confines of the group rather than formulate the own opinion. When these people operate outside the box they get written up over their deviation rather than talk about the right choice for the right situation to better existence. We rather attempt to discredit them rather than praise their attempt at a better tomorrow. If people just did the right things when they mattered just think how the world might be? I say bring back the Inquesition and really go to town!

Collapse -

Where were you?

by Oz_Media In reply to Left Right which is corre ...

Gee, that just mirrors my thoughts here a year ago.
I was scolded for having an 'unsupported' opinion.
Basically, I'd seen both sides of the news and had arrived at my own conclusions as a result of seeing various views and decidgin which were credible and which were not.

I was told that unless I had support for my comments, they meant nothing and were just uneducated babbling.

I then started to post links to views that mirrored my own. This was instantly degraded as it was a LEFT-wing source. The old, if the Democrats didn't win the election they must be wrong, frame of mind. SO this then made me see that unless you are republican or right-wing, your statements are not valid.

This could then be seen as unless you follow the leader, you are wrong. Therefore in order to have a valid opinion, you must follow Republicans, which some have admitted to doing here, no matter what Bush does, as it is thier obligation as an American to support him no matter what.

This is complete crap. You voted for him on his promises, if you don't like what he does after being elected you should be free to say so without the whole left-right argument being relevant.

Your political views should not, and in MOST countries DO not, have any bearing on the validity of your opinion. That like minded attitude has held back positive progression for too many years by having closed eyes and ears.

Collapse -

The widget crisis

by maxwell edison In reply to Left Right which is corre ...

You're right. People should form their opinion based on doing the right thing or, as you said, making the right choice for the right situation. So let me ask you this.

What do you think should be done about the widget crises in Wenobia?

What widget crisis, you might ask. Furthermore, where is Wenobia and what does it mean to me?

As a concerned citizen you decide to educate yourself on the issue, so pick up your local newspaper so that you might be informed enough to make a wise decision. Your local paper, the Podunk Daily Times, has a front page story about the widget crises in Wenobia. The story quotes people "in the know" that suggest that widgets are bad, really bad, and that Wenobia should solve their own problems. But wait, you pick up another newspaper, the Nowhere Daily Post, and sure enough, they also have a front page story about the widget crises in Wenobia. Their story also quotes people "in the know", but wait a minute. These people suggest that widgets are good, in fact, they say they're really good, and that we should help the Wenobians solve this problem.

So what's a person to think, and why? And whose right, and why? And more importantly, why do these two different newspapers suggest totally different things?

Related Discussions

Related Forums