By S. MOLLY DOMINICK
One of the primary tenets of journalism is impartiality. In an ideal world, all news sources would be perfectly objective and never speak a word out of turn. But this is the real world, with news sources run by real people, so remaining completely impartial is easier said than done.
Some news sources seemed to have abandoned this notion of impartiality. From what I’ve heard from most people, the first examples of this that come to mind are MSNBC and Fox News. These news organizations have been known to report news containing obvious biases.
But I don’t have a problem with them.
As stated, the biases are obvious. Although the company motto of Fox may be “fair and balanced”—granted—no one there is hiding anything when they publish and broadcast stories about the Benghazi panel when others have moved on. Similarly, no one at the Drudge Report is keeping any secrets when “IRS PAYS ILLEGALS FOR BABIES” is a teaser headline on their homepage.
When you come to news sources like these, you should know what you’re getting. No one is trying to fool you; the bias is too open for that.
What I personally find more conniving is when bias is existent, but less apparent. This kind of bias is more sly, attempting to subconsciously sway readers without tipping them off about those intentions. This is underhanded, in my opinion, and thus more reprehensible.
Take CNN, for example. An informal survey of my friends will tell you that many people my age consider CNN to be a reliable source of unbiased information. At face value, I might agree with them — but a closer inspection of headlines reveals something different.
Consider this screenshot at the left from the CNN iPhone application.
That headline regarding vaccines technically says nothing wrong. No journalistic principles were violated.
But the request posed by CNN is worded in a way that psychologists would compare to a leading question. It draws readers’ attention to parents who do not vaccinate their children, pointing the finger at a group that has recently received a lot of flack and inviting messages from their opposition, because opponents of an issue are more likely to respond voluntarily to requests like these than sympathizers, who expect attack, and much more than those who are simply ambivalent.
To gauge an honest reflection of the public’s views, the website could impartially ask readers to state their opinion about the issue of vaccinations in general, very easily. But it did not.
I understand that the sly nature of the bias is strategic from a business standpoint; no currently respected news source wants to become the household name of bias like Fox News or MSNBC. But in that case, you might as well honor the journalistic code and remove your biases altogether.