MEDIA BIASBy Howard Karten
May 31, 2004
I wanted to make a few comments about media, and the notion of "biased media", that I hope you will find interesting and/or useful and/or informative.
For starters, think about lawyers who take on unsavory or unpopular clients. When a lawyer takes on such a client--one accused of mass murder, for example--that does not necessarily mean the lawyer is sympathetic to the client. Lawyers will tell you that one reason they take on unpopular or unsavory clients is that ours is an adversary system, and in taking on such a client "I help the system work". Another reason is ego: under our system everyone is entitled to a defense, and some lawyers have said they take on such clients out of ego, hoping they can win a case against big odds.
IOW, you cannot always understand what a person's thoughts, feelings, or attitudes are just by watching what the person does.
I know several journalists. I was one. And I can tell you that most of the ones I've known have been interested in fairness and in getting both sides heard, regardless of their personal views.
Even more important, journalists tend not to have broad educations. There are lots of areas of life in which they;'re quite ignorant--especially matters of politics, religion, and science.
You and others who are like you -- your friends, for example -- have often been critical of the Times for being "anti-Israel". I have not found that, and while I may not have your deeply passionate committment to Israel, I nevertheless also want to see the state of Israel thrive and be safe.
People who say "newspaper X hates Y" usually have not seen the many *positive* articles that the newspaper prints about Y. And those who say that are also primed to expect negative or "biased" articles. They expect them, so they see them. I vaguely recall some passages in both the Torah and the later revision/corruption of it that say that.
Conservatives who say "the media are biased against conservatives" are trying to totally undermine confidence in the media.
Just look at the way it's expressed--"the media hate conservatives". ALL media? Including the NY Post and the (very conservative) Washington Times and the NY Daily News and the infamous Manchester Union Leader and so on? Including Fox news?
I think there are several reasons why movement conservatives hate media. For one thing, the media print news that conservatives would rather not be known--such as news about the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib.
Another reason is that conservatives tend to be very judgemental folks, and in fact most media, especially the leading ("elite") media, try to present news *without* making any judgements. That lack of judgementalism and POV is exactly what leads people to suspect that there is in fact a bias! They are able to see it, because they don't see a clear condemnation of views or people they hate.
Years ago I did an interesting experiment with that fellow who was the son of Louise Hagen (was that her name? I think her son was nbamed Frank?) I gave him some news storiues that had been written by some liberal group, reporting on a meeting of conservatives, and asked him to find the bias. He couldn't. Maybe the reason he couldn't was that I told him that the stories came from a *conservative* source.
All this is FYI, and I hope will cause you to think more, and more clearly, about media.
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