Understanding The Biased Nature of News Media Today

Is media biased? Well, yes and no. Or yes, all of it is, with biases differing only in degree and conspicuousness.

First, you have to understand the concept of the great divide between news and opinion and how ne’er the twain should supposedly (your mileage may vary) meet.

The news portion of the media should be objective, fair and unbiased. Note that I said “should be.” Traditionalist editors like me do our best to make sure that this is so, according to journalistic practice.

This includes giving the other side the right of reply in the same story, the non-use of adjectives (except irrefutable descriptive ones like “black car” or “yellow shirt”; in the phrase “brutal war on drugs,” the adjective is not irrefutable and should not be in a news story), the writing of clear, un-slanted headlines that are supported by the actual story, the distrust of anonymous sources, restraint and clarity in the writing of photo captions and other basic rules that ensure fair play.

The rules apply to broadcast news, as well. But in addition, smirking, adding opinion to scripted news and the like are also verboten.

If your news outlet follows these rules, it is probably unbiased. If it plays fast and loose with them on a regular basis, beware.

The other side of the divide is opinion, where the rules regarding objectivity do not apply. That’s because opinion writers (whether they call themselves columnists, as I do, or the more uppity and pretentious “thought leaders”) have to take a stand.

Your opinion section should also have an “editorial,” which is the official position of the news outlet. This is where your news source sets down its own stand on current matters.

Since an editorial is really an opinion piece (see “Accountability for Duterte,” New York Times), it is also inherently biased. But it is the “official” bias, as opposed to the personal bias, say, of Jojo Robles in his own column.

Of course, a good news outlet also recruits and pays columnists that it feels will bring prestige and readership to it. But overall, it gets columnists who generally support its own editorial bases, throwing in a token opinion writer from the other side, as a nod to “fairness.”

This is what the executive editor of the Inquirer meant when he said that Martin Andanar also has a column there. (Tokenism, of course, is not to be equated with fairness. That’s like saying that the fig leaf on the Oblation means the statue is no longer that of a naked man.)

In broadcast, public affairs and commentary programs are the closest equivalent of columns in newspapers. The rules are similar, except that broadcast news is often read by people who also have commentary programs, thus blurring the boundaries of news and opinion even more.

Again, in practice, your mileage may vary depending on what news source you favor. In fact, your choice of news outlet says a lot about your own biases, which you seek to reaffirm by your choice.

Finally, you could also argue that all media is biased, since the people in a particular media outlet could have been chosen specifically for their adherence to the bias of the ownership and/or its top editors or executives.

This is the real world we’re talking about, after all, not journalism as it is taught in school.

As in everything, it’s always caveat emptor. If you think you know enough to recognize fake news from suspicious sources, I believe you can also tell a biased media report (or biased media outlet) from one that is not, as well.

By Jojo A Robles

Lance

Just a regular "Joe" who decided the rat-race in the states was getting to ridiculous for words, and made the move to the Asian side of life.

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