As the manager for his high school newspaper and a journalism student at the University of Oregon, Ken Steers has maintained his interest in this field throughout his adult life. It’s clear to him and all news junkies that journalism certainly isn’t what it used to be.
Internet and cable news services are not bound to the same standards of objectivity expected from more traditional news outlets. That means that the information provided by these sources may not be considered as reliable or unbiased as network newscasts once were. Online websites may be pushing a particular viewpoint or may be sponsored by political or issue-based groups; in some cases, even the advertising presented on these sites may be directed toward a specific end. By selecting some stories for broadcast on television or top billing on Internet sites, the owners and general managers of these news services can significantly influence public opinion and shape the discussion of current events.
How Bias Is Communicated
The political viewpoint of some media outlets can be quickly identified based on their expressed opinions or their financial backers. For instance, information from the Democratic National Committee will naturally reflect their own biases; this is similarly true for Republican news releases and for other political parties. In other cases, however, the bias inherent in a particular piece may not be so obvious. This is especially true for issue pieces that address a specific event or phenomenon. By focusing narrowly on one aspect of a situation, journalists can slant public opinion and can promote their own beliefs in the larger community. Presenting only one side of an issue or paying mere lip service to the alternate viewpoint can be evidence of a biased news report or informative piece.
Achieving a Balanced Viewpoint
One way to sift the objective facts from subjective reporting is to obtain information from a variety of sources. Although the individual news reports may focus on specific aspects and elements of the story, the facts contained in these sources can be combined to provide a more complete picture of the situation or issue. Additionally, the slant taken by various journalists and news agencies can become more obvious when contrasted with the pieces presented by their counterparts. By juxtaposing the opinions and news reports of several different media outlets, consumers can acquire a clearer picture of world events and can even obtain a better perspective on local news as well.
Considering the Motives
The motives of certain news releases can be clearly identified. Political parties have a vested interest in presenting their cases effectively in the public arena. Activists for various causes can also have strong motivation for painting issues in a specific light. In reality, there are usually at least two sides to the story. Looking at the probable motives of the reporters and agencies can provide valuable insights into the slant that may appear in news articles and broadcasts.
Seeking out Reliable Sources
Peer-reviewed scientific reports and scholarly articles have been vetted by members of the academic community and are generally regarded as reliable sources of information on various topics. Government agencies are held to a high standard of accuracy as well and can provide statistics and data to support or refute statements made by other news outlets. These sources may take a narrow approach to the subject in question; as a result, it may be necessary to look at several online resources to derive a full picture of the situation and to ensure accurate and complete information on a particular topic. As a former student of journalism, Ken Steers clearly understands how news can be skewed to reflect a certain viewpoint. By seeking out alternative viewpoints and assessing news sources objectively, consumers can often achieve a more balanced picture of ongoing events in their local communities and beyond.