Monday, September 18, 2006

Bias in journalism

There are so many things I would like to post about.

Everyday something happens that makes me think: I need to post about that.

The other day it was the frustration over articles in the newspaper. I was shocked at how subjective things are. Perhaps I am overly sensitive to certain things, but I found the wording in this paragraph about the WTC rebuilding efforts lacking in objectivity (you have to register to read the article):

The players who have helped shape that effort include family members of the victims: a governor, George Pataki, with an unblinking eye on the White House and his legacy; a shameless developer, Larry Silverstein; a master planner, Libeskind, with a remarkable talent for compromising self-preservation; and a giant bureaucracy, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Okay, the part that annoyed me? It was the “shameless developer” part.

There was no other mention of Silverstein in the whole paragraph explaining why the article’s author, Christopher Hawthorne, considers him “shameless”, just the declaration that he is. The other two in the paragraph came off a little better, and Hawthorne elaborated on them a little more either in that paragraph or in the rest of the article. But Silverstein was only mentioned once, and just remained the “shameless developer”. Why? Well perhaps Hawthorne was looking for a description for Silverstein, and just thought…hmmm, what adjective is most often associated with a developer? Ah, “capitalist scum”…hmmm, can’t write that. How about “shameless”? Yes, it’s like saying a “yellow banana” or “carefree child.”

This is just a tiny example of subjectivity in journalism, and it scares me how this author’s opinion might slant his reporting on other issues.

For all I know Silverstein is a shameless developer, and from what I know about the WTC rebuilding efforts, he probably is. However, it just seemed really out of place in the article, and it reminded me of how biased and irresponsible American journalism is becoming.


Blogger Teresa said...

Welcome to the world of the MSM... this is why bloggers get so annoyed by these so-called journalists. There is no such thing as reporting the news. Everything - every single thing - they present is full of opinion.

Read through the rest of the paper (if you can stomach it) you'll find all kinds of things like political barbs thrown out in an article on patio furniture. It's amazingly blatant and has been for so long now - I can barely read a regular newspaper. I'll stick with the WSJ - so far they haven't managed to go completely off the rails and they have good writers.

Oh yeah, the other thing to watch out for are "quotes" cited in an article to flesh out the reporter's viewpoint. If the person is a regular man-on-the-street... chances are that the quote was made up. The "man" exists, but never said those words. And yes, I know people this has happened to.

5:04 AM  
Blogger airforcewife said...

True confession time...

I totally slanted everything I wrote towards my opinion while I was a reporter. Subtly, of course.

Also, I refused to do stories that didn't jive with my bias.

And if that makes me sound like a bad person - you should have seen the REST of the people I worked with.

The copy editor was great, though. She came up with some awesome headlines. Like the one that said, "Purse thief strikes again with three snatches."

Sounds like that purse thief could make quite a living on the freak show circuit, doesn't it?

7:21 PM  

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