There's some lively discussion in the comments section of the "Rover on the Media" post that's worth browsing, if at least, to see what works and what doesn't. I threw the past two posts up with the intent of sparking something, and was pleasantly surprised to see those comments brew. Initially I thought the post full of Drezner links had more to run with, and I put Rove up there mostly because it seemed amusing that this political operator could sound so apolitical (i.e. reasonable).

Of course there's a good chance the quotes tone was entirely the point. As with so many of the administration sound bites, Karl's no doubt had a hand in, it seemed designed to put him just above the fray. Rove is no less shrewd than Clinton (in fact, I'd say he's more), and put into that context, his statment became more interesting. It felt like he was goading me (or you, but mostly the press) into giving that blurb some strained meaning. The actual topic of Media Bias drifted away and became irrelevant (though you probably found some in that very article).

Maybe that's just because I'm biased.

Blogs have drastically changed my outlook on the Mainstream Media (MSM). The tendencies of poorly written material, which poses as news but oozes it's author's opinion, to survive and thrive in certain markets is pretty appalling. When I started looking, I couldn't help but find it everywhere. I don't have any examples, so don't take my word for it. Read your newspapers with a healthy dose of skepticism, then follow up on it. Read stories on the same subject from other publications, take in some undisguised editorial opinion, and think about where you stand.

Blogs make it infinitely easier to do that. On a personal scale, bias has turned into an annoyance, though on a broad, societal scale its presence will always be troubling no matter which side it comes from. In the end, I rarely dwell on it anymore as it hardly seems worth my time. If I'm reading a shitty article, once I become aware of it's shitiness, I know it's time to move on.

This seems as good a point as any to give a question of Joe's some air, and let it breathe:

"It occurs to me that all of the newspapers that Andrew cited as liberal are from liberal areas (new york, chicago, washington). What about the Indianapolis Star, and all of the thousands of newspapers from smaller markets all over the country. The Star's editorial page is much more conservative than it is liberal, and I at least detect a slight conservative edge to its reporting. I wonder if other smaller market papers, particularly in the midwest, are similar?"

It doesn't have to do with bias, but hopefully this article by Andrew Sullivan on "the fundamentalist threat to the conservative coalition" will stir up more conversation. I found the article terribly well done, so please, don't be put off by registering at The New Republic (if you even have to register it will be free) or the article's length. It's worth the while.


Mark said...
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Mark said...

I'm kind of a political idot and am embarassed to admit that I don't keep a close enough watch on the political state of the world. If I tried to jump in on some of the recent discussions, I'd be in way over my head. That said, I do have a thought on bias.

I'm curious if all the recent complaints about media bias are themselves unbiased. The selectiveness of links and lack of (even minor) concessions is enough to make me suspicious. And why yield to a conclusion warning against bias if it was derived with bias?

Joe said...

I think Mark raises a good point...what constitutes objectivity? A straight account of the facts? Well, which facts exactly? In any situation, the amount of interesting information will almost surely exceed the amount of space or time that a given paper/news segment has, not to mention the amount of time that someone has to learn about a given topic. If a reporter, an editor, has limited space and limited resources, they must select the information they present using some criteria. This criteria will be based on extra-factual calculations, i.e., interest, relevance, marketability....factors that invoke the newpeoples' personal opinions and beliefs.
Moreover, "just the facts" is itself a distortion, or at least a limitation, on truth. Describing someone by listing a series of facts will portray a stilted, truncated version of that person, one that, though factually accurate, fails to capture the essence of that person.
Other sources of bias might be the definition of news. As Andrew mentioned, extreme poverty does not get covered well, at least in part because it doesn't meet some peoples' definition of news. If so, perhaps the definition needs some tweeking.
I'm not against facts or anything, but I agree that bias is going to pop up no matter whay.
On being a political idiot, I'm really starting to wonder how much it really matters. If you're not involved directly in policy or politics, how important is it really to know what's going on? Unless it inspires you to action, following politics is no more noble than following sports, or more similarly, a soap opera. At first I felt that the fact that it actually affects people means it's somehow morally justified, but now I'm not so sure.