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.

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.