Exclusive: Media Bias? What Media Bias?
by TOM MCLAUGHLIN
January 7, 2010
As a history teacher, I must strive for objectivity. However, I know it’s not possible for a thoughtful person to study history, politics, or economics and not develop biases. Best practice would be to disclose those biases to students because it’s inevitable that I’ll teach concepts I believe in with more enthusiasm than concepts in which I don’t believe. It’s human nature. To detect this, students would need to understand the left/right political spectrum and the terminology used to describe it, so I sketched one out and taught it. Then I advised them to point out my bias when they detect it. Those exercises train them to identify and to be aware of a presenter’s political perspective when any sort of information is promulgated.
As their own biases develop, they need to be conscious of them when they listen to information. Facts are facts, and when they learn things that contradict their tentative understanding of cause and effect, they have to be willing to do the work necessary to adjust it. Thoughtful, informed teachers and students inevitably develop a point of view on issues. Only a robot could play it completely down the middle every time.
The same would be true for a reporter. Some stories are just straight news and bias doesn’t come into play, but when a reporter researches background to find causes for example, it probably will. He or she will look for certain things and not others according to his/her understanding of cause and effect. An editor can mitigate that by suggesting alternative areas of inquiry to the reporter, but when the reporters and editors all share the same biases, that’s just not likely to happen, and that’s been the case for decades in our mainstream media.
Up to now, I’ve been pointing out unintentional bias, but evidence is increasing that Mainstream Media (MSM) bias is becoming more and more deliberate. By MSM, I mean the three major broadcast networks of ABC, NBC and CBS. I mean the big-city broadsheets like the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. I mean the weekly newsmagazines like Time and Newsweek, and I mean taxpayer-funded media like PBS and NPR.
Although MSM influence is waning fast due to the rise of the internet, of talk radio and of cable news, it still predominates with much bigger audience share. The clearest example of MSM left-wing bias is their coverage of the last presidential campaign. Compare the merciless vetting of vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin with the almost complete lack of scrutiny into Sen. Barack Obama. Obama had been impressing crowds with his oratorical skills – especially compared to the hum-drum speechifying of rival Sen. John McCain. But when McCain picked Palin as his VP nominee, she gave a speech that electrified conservatives and many independents as well. Then she followed up with another hard-hitting speech at the GOP convention and the MSM went after her relentlessly. One poll indicates that 90 percent of Americans believe the MSM actively helped Obama get elected and 70 percent believe they’re promoting this administration.
When we were promised lower ocean levels by reduced carbon emissions, the MSM cooperated by hyping alleged human causes of global warming. When liberals pushed the Cap and Trade bill, CBS’s Scott Pelley compared global warming skeptics to Holocaust deniers. When a hacker exposed the bias, lies and hypocrisy of global warming scientists in Europe and the United States just prior to the big “climate change” summit in Copenhagen, again the MSM ignored the story.
When Obama made his speech before Congress on health care “reform,” he used erroneous examples of people who allegedly suffered at the hands of insurance companies, but the MSM declined to investigate. When he made a speech in New Hampshire claiming surgeons would rather make $30-50 thousand on a amputation than treat a patient to save his leg, that was a whopper. Medicare pays $700-$1,200. Did you see any scrutiny of that? Not unless you saw it online, or on AM Radio, or on Fox News.
Then there was ACORN, the “Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now.” ACORN officials were filmed during a sting operation in five cities across the country offering to help people avoid tax laws, start prostitution services, and smuggle in underage illegal aliens to work in them – all with public tax money. The MSM ignored the story until Congress cut off ACORN’s funds.
As a columnist, I deal in opinions. Pushing a point of view and is part of my job. However, my turf is increasingly encroached upon by people purported to be reporters in the MSM. They brazenly amplify stories reinforcing their point of view and they play down or ignore stories that contradict it. Do they do so consciously and deliberately? Evidence is mounting that they do, and that is the most insidious form of propaganda.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Tom McLaughlin Tom is a history teacher and a regular weekly columnist for newspapers in Maine and New Hampshire. He writes about political and social issues, history, family, education and Radical Islam. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.