Fingering the bias

By Barry Tucker                    1 March, 2013

If I had the energy and focus I could spend all day and half the night (for months) carefully categorising perceived news media bias, or even the lack of it. Only a few people have attempted it; it’s a daunting task.

However, I believe it’s something that should be done because it is important. Like it or not, the Fourth Estate is an acknowledged and vital part of the free world’s democratic system. Without it, the emerging Fifth Estate (citizen journos operating on the digital network) would be scratching around for material.

The first difficulty lies in accurately fingering the bias. Those paying close attention will have noticed that the Left think the mainstream news media (MNM) is biased against them, and the Right think it’s the other way around. I think it comes down to a matter of “If you’re only 97 per cent with us, you must be biased.”

I don’t think the consumer of news can accurately determine bias over the long term, unless they have kept an accurate and fair record for reference. Sometimes what appears to be bias turns out to be the only reasonable way to handle that story at that time. Balance may be restored by a subsequent story. You have to be paying very close attention.

The journalist will not admit to being biased. That leaves us with the source or subject of the news item — the only person who can say whether or not they were accurately and fairly dealt with.

Departmental managers, complaints handlers and regulatory authorities struggle with rules, guidelines, perceptions, definitions of fact, opinion, comment and finally allegations. No doubt it’s sometimes in their interest to make a particular finding.

I’m constantly looking for a definitive article on the question of whether Australia’s MNM is biased, which part of it, to what extent and why. I thought the article linked to below came close, until I read it a second time. Ben Eltham, newmatilda.com online magazine’s National Affairs Correspondent, begins by wrestling with the definition of mainstream media (MSM), expresses his own view, but, I think, only demonstrates how difficult it is to identify, quantify and explain why one medium might appear to be biased.

Finally, in the only new information in his story, Mr Eltham introduces us (well, me) to what political scientists call the “Overton window” — the lens through which journalists and politicians view matters.

The article’s worth reading for that and for the comments that follow. Read all about it: The truth about media bias

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One thought on “Fingering the bias

  1. Bias can be difficult to judge, depending on our perceptions, but when I hear a TV news presenter calling asylum seekers, who are legally living in our communities on bridging visas, “illegals” I believe that to be blatant bias.

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