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Blog 2: Media Bias

The media is biased. This statement is old hat and eye-rollingly obvious. Just based on a few readings from our text, it is clear that academics and journalists alike agree that journalism in America is indeed biased. This can be attributed to the fact that journalism is a business.

Because journalism is a business, journalistic institutions are inherently biased based on the capitalist cornerstone of profit. Media must find the hardest hitting, most exciting stories to grab the public’s fleeting attention. Thus, a plane crash on the White House lawn rather than the launching of AmeriCorps makes front page news because it’s far out of the ordinary, sensational and, most importantly, will sell newspapers.

As discussed in class, most people get their news info from FOX News, CNN, one of the Comedy Central pundits and MSNBC, all of which a) have distinct partisan or ideological slants and b) are funded, in large part, by advertisements and/or corporate sponsors. Without hard hitting stories that attract a glut of viewers, sponsorship tapers. Without sponsorships, news networks lose money and, vicariously, resources, that allow for production of the hard hitting stories that captivate the American mindset.

Because of this circle of expectation, coupled with the notion that it would be financial suicide to displease a sponsor, the media thus panders to its sponsors and to what has been proven to work, i.e. those stories that garner the most viewers and, as a result, the most money. So, while stories about AmeriCorps may be more relevant to the functions of government and American lifestyles, because its less sexy and profitable than a plane crash it is buried deep in a blizzard of sensationalism and profitable news stories.

In addition to the business bias, our text shows that journalism tends to depend on official sources when reporting on events rather than offering a wide array of opinions and viewpoints. While having experts expound on happenings that are distinct to their field of expertise, to rely solely on them does contribute to a bias that can affect the type of information received by news followers.

An oft cited example is the coverage of the Iraq War as being overly patriotic to the point of being pro-war. This article also gives evidence of ratings and profit as reason behind such media bias. Ironically, in addition to media being labeled as “pro-war,” they are also critiqued as not supporting the cause as well. Even these linked examples, which are technically part of a media as the Internet grows as a breeding ground for information gathering, are biased themselves.

Finally, there’s the old “East/West coast bias”, wherein the news is shaped out of New York, L.A., D.C. and to an extent, Chicago, while stories out of the Midwest tend to be overlooked on the national stage. This article by MU Journalism grad Juana Summers points out these flaws and offers some solutions on how to overcome these biases.

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  1. February 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Good post. You did a nice job reviewing the ways in which the news media might be biased. Good linking to other sources and use of embedded video.

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