Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Illusion of Unbiased Journalism

The title is not a misprint. There is no such thing as unbiased journalism, just like the term "political science" is an oxymoron. There is no quantitative scientific formula for winning an election, for the variable of the voter's mind is too inconsistent, and thus there is no such thing as unbiased journalism because of that same human factor.

People perceived things differently and they process that information as uniquely. What actually happens or what someone actually says is only documented by a higher power. Even the disciples of Jesus that wrote down their accounts of the Gospels have a different angle than any of the others, each account unique and biased toward their theological focus.

So if the disciples of Jesus were biased in their accounts, then why would we think that modern day journalists would elevate themselves higher than that? It would be nice but it is unattainable because it is unrealistic. The histories of newspapers in America have always been about shaping public opinion, leading Thomas Jefferson to equate the press as the "fourth estate of Government".

Now in this era when everyone has the capacity to be a journalist, thanks to the Internet and blogging, bias in telling the story is more an accepted practice than ever. It is also profitable, can we say Fox News and MSNBC? People create newspapers and magazines to make money and to make their voices heard, period. For those journalists that are offended by this analysis, get over it. It is what it is. Everyone has an opinion, even those that contend that they are unbiased, because they are biased in thinking that they are not so.

Objectivity is a more realistic goal but that just means that you give both sides the chance to tell their side of the story. To actually get an accurate detail of the facts is totally elusive, primarily because the human attention span cannot maintain that intense level of detail orientation. Some folks reading this article have already moved on before reaching this point.

So when you hear any news organization state that they are unbiased, they are as trustworthy as a carny trying to get you play a game at the state fair. It is a hustle to sell newspapers or boost Nielsen ratings, it is not the truth. This is not a phenomenon that one should get angry about. Again, it is what it is. Since man is not perfect, why should we expect the way man communicates to reach perfection?

Fair and balanced reporting, defined as objectivity, is not unbiased journalism. It is just an illusion of such. There is an old saying that "the pen is mightier than the sword." Why would we think that one who possesses such a weapon would wield it with just dispensation? Even I am not that altruistic.