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Blog 2: Media Bias

Are the media biased? How do you know?

Illustration of Media Bias

My immediate reaction to this question is a resounding “YES!”  Yes the media is biased, but how do we know? There seem to be so many ways to answer this question, and yet no single way that will provide solid and absolute proof.  I think the question of media bias comes down to one simple question: “Is there such a thing as objective reporting?”



Is there such a thing as objective reporting?

No.  I do not believe that any human is capable of truly objective reporting.  I believe this because all communication is delivered within a specific context.  All messaging is influenced by the social, economic, political, and historical background of both the message deliverer and message recipient.  Although journalists may try to push these factors aside in order to deliver fair and objective reports, some bias will automatically be incorporated into their reports.  Media bias can be reflected through simple word choice, the decision about what stories and information are newsworthy, or through blatant support of one point of view on an issue.  No matter how hard journalists (or any people, for that matter) try they are incapable of truly objective communication.

An interesting take on objectivity from Peter Novick’s That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity” Question and the American Historical Profession:

“No community can be satisfied that its discourse is objective — or even know what it would mean to be objective — without substantial agreement on values, goals, and perceptions of reality.”

This quote not only emphasizes the fact that objectivity cannot exist in a society of differing ideological values but also points out that the sharing of information is a discourse.  The media’s purpose is not solely to provide unbiased, fair, and completely objective facts to the public, but to foster a public discourse about that information.  If all information communication were objective no such discourse could exist because the nature of discourse is to debate different values and goals.

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  1. jpullega
    January 29, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Excellent work. You make lucid and well thought out arguments and points throughout this post. Very impressive.

  2. February 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Interesting post. I like that you focus on the nature of objectivity.

    But, if true objectivity is impossible, then that implies all discourse is to some extent subjective. But does subjective discourse equal biased discourse? Perhaps pure objectivity is impossible, but does that automatically mean bias exists? Are subjectivity and bias synonymous?

    Also, Americans have a baseline of values, goals, etc. that we seem to share. Freedom of speech and religion. Right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc. Does a general recognition of these values provide enough agreement to make objective discourse possible? How much agreement is “substantial” agreement in terms of figuring out if objective discourse can occur?

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