On Media Bias: Surely It Can’t Be

From Wikipedia

Media bias is a term used to describe a real or perceived bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media, in the selection of which events will be reported and how they are covered.

The political election season seems to bring media bias into question more than ever. I have a friend who says President-elect Obama won the election because of favorable media coverage, another says Senator McCain lost the election because of the media, and another who refuses to watch a particular network news proclaiming the anchor is a communist. Then there’s a fourth friend who buys into the Fox News “fair and balanced” slogan.

I asked the same questions to each of these four friends and anyone else who says the media is biased: Does the media determine the questions asked? Does the media determine the sound byte they use from a speech? Does the media develop an abstract of any event? Since the answer is YES to all questions, ALL media is biased by their very nature. Of course many of the same people complaining about media bias surely don’t label their favorite talk-show host as biased.

In the spirit of wondering how people determine their preferred television news, I ask this the following. What if one didn’t know any newscasters or any networks, how would they determine their news of choice?

I believe that it’s not so much what the newscaster says, but it’s more how they say it. In other words, the first factor is their vocal cadence and tone. All news watchers have voices they prefer and know voices they find unpleasant.

Personally, Wolf Blitzer’s (CNN) and Nancy Grace’s (CNN HL) voices are too grating to me; therefore I don’t enjoy his shows and have a tendency to change the channel because of that ─ not because of what they say or don’t say.

Charles Gibson (ABC) and Brian Williams (NBC) (my evening anchor preference) have an even-flowing cadence. Bob Schaeffer (CBS) was successful as an evening anchor because of his cadence seemed to be talking to the viewers. Charles Osgood’s (CBS) voice is perfect for Sunday Morning, meanwhile Robin Meade’s (CNN HL) cadence and tone helps start one’s workday.

The news networks also know that besides cadence and tone, appearance is importance. Let’s face it, news departments are filled with many attractive people who have good voices and cadences. Alright, here’s my bias. I find many of the CNN staff very attractive.

Then there’s Katie Couric (CBS). Why isn’t she as popular as a news anchor as she was as a morning show host? Although she’s an attractive lady, her anchor cadence is different from the one she successfully used in the morning. Plus personality is a natural component on a morning show and less so on newscast. Then again, Robin Meade successfully uses her personality into her timeslot.

Alright; all media is biased, but I cannot believe that most people determine their news preference by the content they present. It’s voice cadence first, then appearance ─ and content will be somewhere else down the line.

Prologue
Going back to the recent election, I found two reports: Scientific American and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Because this is print media, I guess the degree of perceived bias is determined by the degree they meet what the reader believes. Alas! ─ A bias in its own right!

Bias is naturally part of the human experience. Let’s not forget the bias that the audience brings to the table.

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12 thoughts on “On Media Bias: Surely It Can’t Be

  1. i prefer MSNBC, i like rachel maddow & keith oberman

    why? because i like they way they report & the way they make me laugh! laugh in a good way…….they are totally left, i’m totally right…..funny how that works for us all!

  2. I try to watch/read a little of everything, and then figure out what’s BS and what’s not….I have become a fan MSNBC…But I’ll watch Hannity just to see him fight with people…I want to punch Wolf Blitzer in the face…But I like angry old Jack Cafferty.

    • Yep BEEZE, figure it out on your own as the ‘talking heads’ will have A viewpoint, but not THE view.

      I like Jack Cafferty too as he asks good questions.
      Thanks!

  3. I tend to watch Chris Mathews, Morning Joe Program, Some of Wolf Blitzer for Jack Cafferty and of course Keith Olbermann and I do watch some Lou Dobbs.
    (Funny thing about Dobbs, Olbermann thinks he is a Right Wing Wacko and O’Rielly thinks Dobbs is a Commie)

    • Larry & BEEZE,
      I enjoy Lou Dobbs as I see him some as an independent slant (not a party line). Don’t always agree, but do more often than not. By the way, Independent Nation is a good book to read.

      Whether Mathews, Dobbs, Hannity, or whomever, and no matter whether on radio or TV, talk-oriented hosts are more biased because they promote a particular view. Of course one’s opinion of any of these depends on the listener’s bias.

      As BEEZE said earlier, he listens to varioius points, and then cuts through as much BS as possible.

      On the other hand, the news reporting bias is another story, and actually the aim in my post.

      Great comments … and as always, thanks for your thoughts!

  4. Having been in the advertising agency business since the late 70’s, I believe my observations are tempered with at least a modicum of reality.

    In the early stages of the campaign, there is no question in my mind that the Obama campaign was getting the lion’s share of coverage. When you surf news channels and scan newstands and see a continuous stream of the same story, it does not take a Rhodes scholar to figure it out.

    From a corporate level, it’s a ratings thing. If one organization is grabbing viewers/listeners/readers, the other is compelled to seek the same story. In days gone by, there was line in the sand between the newsroom and the business office. It may still be there, but it has become nearly transparent as of late.

    Journalists, who are trained properly are natural cynics. Given that, they tend to rail against whomsoever they perceive to be the establishment. In this case it was the Donkey people. Since they are wordsmiths, and students of literature, the reality is, they tend to skew to the liberal side. Some things never change.

    I’m not sure bias is the correct word, but in total minutes and lineage, my bet is the elephant beat the donkeys.

    That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
    Joe

    • Good points Joe. The minutes thing may be right, but I haven’t seen the numbers.

      My points is simple: all media is bias by their very natural, as are viewers. Outside of their own bias, viewers select news channel based on preferences based on voice.

      By the way, I think you intended to flip the order on the political animal symbols. That’s ok … I know what you meant.

  5. Pingback: Flashbacks: On Perspectives | A Frank Angle

  6. Great post, Frank. I tend to be a news junky. If I had it my way, I’d watch MSNBC. Love Rachael Maddow. However, here in Ecuador, I can only stream CNN for free, which I enjoy as well.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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