Friday, March 7, 2008

I never know what to do when people refer to the liberal bias of respected papers like the New York Times and Washington Post, assuming that it is accepted and common knowledge.

Do I sigh and roll my eyes? Do I fall into an awkward silence?

Do I try to give a history of news media and objectivity in the United States, comparing today's newspapers with the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers and with today's European newspapers?

Do I go on to explain that the first amendment arose from the free market theory of journalism (which is alive and well in England and at The Washington Times and The New York Sun) which assumes that each paper reports with clear biases and the truth will emerge, and contrast it to the newer, slightly more paternalistic form of journalism, to which the New York Times and Washington Post subscribe, which demands that you get as close to objectivity and the most balanced version of the story as possible? (Do I run out of breath reciting that long sentence)?

Do I explain, that "objective" and "unbiased" does not always mean giving both sides equal time if one side is in a clear minority?

Do I launch into an explanation of Chinese walls, and quote Bill Keller, who wrote:

"Except that they sometimes ride the same elevators, the reporters and editors of the news report work in a different orbit from those who write opinion," and more poetically:
"There are some critics who propose that, because pure objectivity is elusive, the press should give up any pretense of impartiality, that individual reporters should declare their views and write polemically. To me, that is like saying that because much of our children's future is ordained by genetics, we should abandon the business of being parents. Impartial journalism, like child-rearing, is an aspiration, but it is a worthy one. And, unlike your children, a daily newspaper affords you the chance to start all over the next day, and this time get it right."

Or, do I just send them a link to this amazing, amazing Huffington Post creation, which mocks the whole premise.

The possibilities are endless, but I highly recommend spending some time with that Conservative Times reader, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum.

Title image from the Huffington Post's conservative Times.

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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

I have left my real name off of the blog so as not to imply that the blog is somehow linked with the journalism I get paid to do. (Still, I never write about my beat on this blog, and rarely express opinions about the day's news regardless of its relationship to my beat).

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Books pyramid image originally from the British website, Explore Writing.