Self-interest is on the job in newsrooms

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1 Response

  1. Diane says:

    Dean, two paragraphs in particular caught my eye:

    Family life. Political affiliation. Economic class. Health concerns. Each of these background characteristics skew the prism through which journalists view the world at large and their story subjects in particular.

    The facts remain the facts, but journalists have abundant freedom to interpret those details, prioritize them, ignore them and spin them as their professional and personal experiences dictate.

    I figure you will cringe when you read this comment, but conservatives like me have argued for years that journalists do spin news to conform to their biases.

    A story can be 100% factually accurate and yet still biased … it depends on what you include or omit, what you ask, who you interview, what part of a quote you use, what order you present things in, what words you choose and so on. What stories do you cover and what do you ignore? You can give someone an opportunity to give “their side” and yet still make them look stupid by how you structure a story. Any journalist knows this and knows how to do it.

    What angle do you have in mind: you have to start with a premise or you’ll never finish a story, for sure, but if your deep belief is that “banks are evil” “utilities deliberately pass up chances to use renewables” “rich people don’t pay enough tax” or whatever, you CANNOT produce balanced coverage.

    Further, there is powerful peer pressure in most newsrooms to take certain stances. It is almost impossible to just dispassionately do your work: your colleagues expect you to take certain views. Insidiously, this becomes an evaluation of your professional competence.

    News judgement ultimately is subjective: what is news represents only what most people in the media consider news. If you disagree on the grounds of being ideologically in the conservative minority, and I’m sure you can realize this is quite possible, subtly, this becomes a career problem for you: you “don’t get it”. You are “not a good journalist”.

    Your colleagues claim that your career isn’t being affected by your political views, they would NEVER do such a thing, etc., but in fact, it is.

    Journalists criticize “conflicts of interest” and “hidden agendas” … what about their own?

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