Bias in the Media



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Bias in the Media

Max Nielsen

Professor St. Germain

11/16/2007

Pols-150

It is often debated whether or not the media has any bias associated with it. Some people would argue that there isn’t, and the media is just portraying the news as it is, with no personal opinions involved. Others believe that the stories that are chosen, and the way the story is portrayed is greatly influenced by the personal views and opinions of the people producing or editing the story. It seems to be much easier for the general public to say if there is a bias, than for the people who are portraying the story. Although the media does not want to admit it, the articles that are chosen and how they are portrayed to the public does have a bias reflecting the views of the reporters and editors of the story.

In today’s society, Americans turn to the television, internet, radio, and paper sources of the news on a daily basis to follow stories and events currently happening in the world. “77% of Americans read their daily local papers on average 5 days a week” (Kuypers 1). The individual looking at these articles could be looking for information on current events, daily stock quotes, sports information, or articles on politics. “The media can influence public opinion” (Choices 262). The media has to portray to a large audience, so they often simplify stories and their messages are often stereotyped and predictable (Choices 260). Often when these articles are simplified, there is critical information, or opposing information to the article that is taken out. Depending on how the author of the article wants to portray the story, they could take out information that would make the article more neutral therefore making an article have a certain bias towards it. “Possible bias flows from the fact that reporters and editors become to friendly with the people and organizations they write about” (Choices 273).

According to a study, 41% of viewers of FOX News were Republican, and 29% were Democrats, while 44% of viewers of CNN are Democrats and 25% are Republican (Choices 271). The success of news channels depend on the ratings and the amount of viewers they have. Therefore CNN may portray more articles and stories that are about or in favor of the Democratic party to increase their ratings and ensure they have many viewers. If CNN starts showing more stories in favor of the Republican Party, then the typical democrats that watch may stop watching because of the lack of interest in the Republican Party.

According to David Broder of the Washington Post, many members of the print and television media have crossed the line that should divide objective journalism from partisan politics (Choices 273). According to the textbook Choices, “Most reports are liberal” (273), showing that there is some sort of bias in the media. Conservatives claim that even though many reporters and editors try to be impartial their personal political preferences influence the topics they cover and how they cover them (Choices 274).

In an article written by Meg Sullivan on bias in the media the author says, “While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left” (www.newsroom.ucla.edu). This was from a political scientist of the University of California during one of the first official studies on the subject of bias in the media.

David Niven, author of TILT? The Search for Media Bias, says in his opening page of the book, “We simultaneously believe the process and participants that bring us the news are so inherently flawed that they can only be regarded as biased” (Niven 1). He also a person who believes that people are influenced heavily on what they hear and read. “The messages elites send us can have tremendous influence over our opinions on such unwieldy subjects” (Niven 2). David Niven has done a lot of research on the subject of media bias. He and a group of colleagues did a study from September 1st 2000 – August 31st 2001 on 637 different newspaper articles trying to find if there was a certain bias in the articles. Of these articles examined, 81% proved to have a conservative/Republican bias, while 5% had a liberal/Democratic bias and 14% did not show any bias. “According to these figures, the American news consumer gets 16 times as many messages that the media have a liberal bias…and six times as many messages that the media are biased as it does that the media are fair” (Niven 4). The study also went on to show that 35% of liberal bias stories show the opposition in the article while 95% of conservative bias stories showed the oppositions thoughts and ideas. “Thus not only are there more stories that allege liberal bias, those stories are more likely to present the situation in absolute terms” (Niven 5). Niven is a very knowledgeable person in the idea of bias in the media and has done much research to defend his own ideas.

Bernard Goldberg was a person who worked for CBS for many years, and wrote a book titled BIAS a CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. The book is a story of Goldberg’s experiences while working with the ‘elites’ of the media world and how one statement he made changed the rest of his life. His statement was in the Wall Street Journal talking about the bias associated with the media. Since this comment was coming from the inside of a media company, CBS felt threatened and affected the way Dan Rather reacted to the article was heightened greatly due to the fact that the comment was made by someone who worked with them. Goldberg says in his book, “the old argument that the networks and other ‘media elites’ have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it’s hardly worth discussing anymore” (Goldberg 19). This is a very bold statement and is very strong for the argument that the media has bias in it. Later in the book Goldberg tells a story of a reporter going to Alabama to do a story on “chain-gangs”. These “chain-gangs” were groups of prisoners who had multiple charges, and were sentenced to the gangs to do work on farms. A reporter went to create a story that could be shown on national TV. After all the film was shot and edited, it was sent to the news station and was viewed by publishers of CBS. The author of the story got a call from the New York publishers saying that the article portrayed too many black men and not enough white men, when the chain gang consisted of 13 black men and 1 white man. The author was frustrated because he was just showing the story how it was, not trying to portray any racism, but just the story that he was assigned to. Television producers from New York had said about the story “let’s not make it look like it really is”. This is done all throughout the media, and can easily take a story and turn it into something that it was not originally intended to portray.

The debate of whether the media has any bias will be an ongoing debate for as long as there will be newspapers or news websites. When an article is written, it is often written by someone with their own personal opinion, that is the beauty of the United States of America, everyone can have their own opinion. When portraying a story on a topic like politics, it is very easy to take a quote out of context and turn it around making it sound like something it was never intended to imply. Stories are often written in a way to show someone’s own personal ideas, and a newspaper can have a bias only covering one side of a story or follow only one particular politic over another creating a bias in the media that is seen quite often.

Works Cited

Goldberg, Bernard. BIAS a CBS Insider Exposes how the Media Distort the News. New York NY: Harper Collins Publishers Inc, 2003

Kuypers, Jim A. Press Bias and Politics. Westport CT: Praeger Publishers, 2002

Niven, David. TILT? The Search for Media Bias. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2002.

St. Germain, Amos. Choices. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2007.



Sullivan, Meg. “Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist.” 12/14/2005. 11/14/2007



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