Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Media's True Bias

Media bias this, media bias that. With the Republican party, there seem to be no mistakes- only perception problems. Perception problems do exist, but they normally have little to do with politics, and everything to do with somebody’s prejudice of what will entertain and appeal to people. Efficiency, as I have asserted before, always concerns the goals one has in mind. Unfortunately, news isn’t entertaining the way a movie is. What’s more, it shouldn’t be. Good newsgathering can be compelling even if one forgoes the flashy graphics and overwrought sensationalism, because what makes news truly compelling is how it brings us insight.

Why does the negative get focused on in Iraq? There are two answers to that have nothing much to do with politics.

The first answer is legitimate: If our politician's plans aren't working, the American people need to know, in order to make their decisions on the correct basis of fact. The positive can be ignored if the positive does less to change the situation than the negative.

The president makes things worse by continuing to deny there is a problem. The people's insight on Iraq, is that despite protests that the worse is over, the same state of affairs continues. Bias or no bias, there should be some way of definitively answering that charge. Instead we are told flatly something that is not true, and General Abizaid, the man in charge there, is telling us it's not true. The insurgency continues.

The Second answer is not legitimate. It revolves around a plain fact: When things get better in a story, the story is over. Liberal or Republican, that is the case. Far be it from the modern media to leave us in peace. They have to intrude into our homes with crimes that rarely intrude into our lives, instead of matters that often do.

In the quest to make everything turn a profit, the modern conglomerates that own the newsmedia have made a critical error: They have assumed they know what sells. Instead of taking advantage of twenty-four hours of news coverage to relate international and domestic events of importance, they have decided that they've got to turn the news into melodrama.

Frankly, we don't need this crap. We don't need to hear about some kid killing his family in Minnesota unless there's something truly important there. Use that space to inform people of what's happening in Darfur, or Syria, or whatever. Maybe more people would watch the news, if watching meant learning something.

People are turning to us, bloggers that we are, because we bring to them insightful information on a regular basis They hear things here that they aren't told about elsewhere. Unfortunately, here, bias is not held back by some professional code of ethics, nor a mass audience that would not tolerate offensive propaganda. We have the capacity to create bubbles where partisan knowledge is kept, and all other view and understandings are denied.

Television news does not need to bring balance where it doesn't exist, or report favorably, when actions don't merit it, but it does need to give us better traction, better integration with the real world out there, instead of isolating us in a bubble of what's considered to be of entertainment value. I know that's business, but I again speak of efficiency following purpose. The truly compelling, truly important news out there doesn't need to be dressed up and made up like a cheap hooker to interest people. It is interesting in its own right because it adds perspective lost without it.

In my studies of cognitive science, perhaps the best definition of meaning given to me is this one, gleaned from a book called The User Illusion, by Tor Norretranders: meaning is logical depth.

This came from an IBM scientist, talking about bandwidth on our telecommunications lines. It is defined as the trouble a piece of information saves the one receiving it of having to work out a problem, mathematical or otherwise, themselves.

In reporting the news, what we need is an "Ah!" factor, an understanding given to the audience that legitimately simplifies an apparently complex issue, and carries to us a more meaningful picture of the world.

I know what some may say. "Stephen, the world out there is a haze to them. Don't confuse them with what doesn't interest them." Well, the world can be a haze to folks, when they aren't told about it, and having kept good track of the entertainment side of the media for some time, I have found that there is great unpredictability to what people find interesting, and often it is just a matter of trying to figure out what's interesting yourself, and doing your best to convey that to people. That is what makes Frontline and 60 Minutes when it's working well such great television. They aren't deciding what leads on what bleeds, they are bringing people the world as they've rarely seen it, and never known it and that in my experience of both fictional and non-fictional media is a valuable thing to give to people.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at June 28, 2005 5:24 PM