Monday, June 28, 2004

Fair & Balanced Bias

In a great article out this week in Newsweek, Robert J. Samuelson lays out a sad and compelling story about the evolution of the news media.

In a nutshell: people increasingly gravitate towards news that is presented with their own personal bias. A liberal tends to enjoy NPR. A conservative tends to watch FOX News. It makes sense: after all, why spend one's time yelling at the newscasters, when one can nod in smug agreement as our viewpoints are being echoed nationally (even if skewed demographically)? This becomes a self-fulfilling cycle of cynical spin. The news nets are rewarded for catering to viewer bias.

This is bad and it is wrong. In the Cronkite Days, as they are remembered, there was more of a "Just The Facts" mentality in journalism. The national dialogue was based on a one-size-fits-all vocabulary. Now we are spoon-fed "interpreted journalism" and let's face it, once we've been "given" our point-of-view, few among us have the luxury of time or excess brainpower to further analyze the news of the day. Thus we are charged up and good-to-go to the water cooler with each partisan side's talking-points for the day. We parrot the newscasters and radio jocks' viewpoints with precious little original thought or texture.

Not good.

For the record, according to research cited by Samuelson, CNN tacks most closely to a "national average" sentiment.

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