Over the summer I attended the Network of Enlightened Women’s Young Women’s Leadership Retreat. There, I was taught how to argue my conservative beliefs without being rude or derogatory. I learned how to separate my opinions from my reporting. It made me wonder, why can’t national media personalities do the same?
Media bias is, quite obviously, prevalent in American society. It’s not possible to turn on the news without seeing bias in some form. This should be very concerning to the people who watch.
We should be able to turn on the news to see what is going on in the world in a fair, unbiased way. Personal opinions should never parade as fact (opinion shows like "The Five" is a different story.)
Unfortunately, this is not the way things are. Instead of turning on the television and hearing the news, television watchers instantly encounter someone personally attacking a politician, a fellow reporter, or group of people.
As a college freshman with plans to major in journalism, I feel driven to be fair and provide both sides of a story when reporting, giving people an opportunity to form their own opinions without creeping bias. Plain and simple, I feel driven to do reporting as it is meant to be.
I had the honor to hear a lecture by Emily Jashinsky, a writer for the Washington Examiner, who spoke about liberal bias and how to avoid it and counter with real arguments and facts. Jashinsky addressed three areas to look for when identifying bias: story selection, framing, and accuracy.
Oftentimes, reporters will change a story around or add "so-and-so did not comment” in order to manipulate the reader’s take away and cast a bad light on the person who failed to comment. Media figures also often interpret and report polls incorrectly, framing organizations, companies, and people with specific wording or by leaving out critical information.
Media outlets primarily lean either liberal or conservative. In Kirsten Powers’ book, The Silencing, she quotes an editor for the Washington Post, Marie Arana.
“The elephant in the newsroom is our narrowness. Too often, we wear liberalism on our sleeve and are intolerant of other lifestyles and opinions … We’re not very subtle about it at this paper: if you work here, you must be one of us. You must be liberal, progressive, a democrat.”
The bias comes through in what stories are reported on and how they are reported.
Powers writes, “By 2011, Media Matters was dedicating almost its entire $10 million annual budget to the destruction of Fox News.” Powers also quoted Ben Smith of Politico: “The liberal group Media Matters has quietly transformed itself in preparation for what its founder, David Brock, described in an interview as an all-out campaign of ‘guerilla warfare and sabotage’ aimed at the Fox News Channel.”
Why can’t news channels simply report the news, without being biased and without tearing down the other outlets? Seeing a news outlet spend that much to tear down another company makes viewers less likely to watch that station. They should spend their money on resources to send their reporters all over the world. They should spend it on anything else that can further the professionalism and credibility of their station.
At the retreat, I learned that some reporters have targets on their back because their beliefs break outside of the norm. Jashinsky stressed the importance of being fair and kind when reporting. She encouraged us to “be controversial, provocative, and present the other side fairly.” She also advised us “to have liberal friends to bounce ideas off of and not to be rude.” Jashinsky cautioned us to sit on emotional or possibly offensive arguments for a day before publishing. In other words, she taught us to be fair, level-headed, and professional journalists.
I got the point, but why can’t the mainstream media?
Brittany Slaughter is a member of the Network of Enlightened Women and is a freshman at Liberty University majoring in journalism.