Bias

The modern journalist’s highest aspiration is to deliver news coverage that is what’s called “unbiased”. Opinions and personal viewpoints are to be eliminated at all costs so that what is produced is an untainted, objective reporting of events. Ironically, this attempted elimination of bias does not result in objective news, but rather, populist news, the reporter’s bias having been substituted for that of the readers’.

This substitution occurs when the journalist surrenders his right to an opinion, his right of judgement, giving away this role to the reader who they consider “knows best”. “Good” reporting – as suggested by the very word good – relies first and foremost on the selection of what to report, the criteria for this what being provided by the creator’s value system – i.e. their judgement of what is worth reporting and what is important rests wholly on their own values. When you surrender the power of your values over your work, you destroy the very foundation that makes the work good, by your own evaluation.

In the case of journalists, attempts to suppress their own bias substitutes their selection criteria for someone else’s. Whose? The readers’. News selection today is based not on what the journalist considers important, but what the reader, or the viewer, wants to see, what is watchable, what is sensational, what is popular. Journalists are scared of bias because they are afraid to make judgements – that is, they are afraid to be exposed to being wrong – but in attempting to eliminate their own they merely substitute it for something else, something worse – the impulse of the mob.

Published March 2013