We seem to hear allegations of media bias on a regular basis these days. Anytime an interest group isn’t getting the glowing coverage they feel that they so richly deserve we hear the shout ‘media bias!’ The thing is, I don’t see much media bias at work.
What does Media Bias look like?
In the eyes of those that shout about media bias it seems to take these forms:
- Negative coverage of what their leader or candidate has said
- Coverage of the opposing point of view
- Questions about their stance on issues that show flaws in their thinking
- Coverage that goes beyond the agenda that the interest group wants to set
In these cases I’m using interest group to cover more than just political parties, but mainly it’s political groups that seem to make these allegations.
If you believe in a free press then all of these are things that ought to happen. I want to see real journalists ask questions, apply sscepticism and break open the flaws in arguments put forward by every candidate for political office. I want people to be helped to think critically about the choices they’re offered. Let’s face it, recent events show that this is needed.
Things I would be worried about if someone complained about media bias.
- No coverage at all of what a political group stood for
- Negative coverage not based on that political groups actions or words (i.e. smearing without basis in fact)
- Other political groups not also getting the same treatment
Note that my idea of fair and unbiased political reporting involves sticking it to all of the political groups. The volume of criticism is controlled by the sensibility of the platform in relation to the Overton Window. Political groups that spout nonsense deserve all the negative coverage they receive. That’s not bias, it’s critical thinking in action.
Every person involved in political activism needs to understand how the press works. It might not be perfect, but it must be free to poke holes in politicians’ platitudes. Most voters never get to speak directly to candidates, so the media are our proxy. That means that they need to ask the questions people want answered. It also means that they need to exploit flaws and gaps in reasoning. They also need to press the non-answers.
Politicians need to remember that the media is not their friend. It never should be their friend. It should be on the side of the public.