Bias in Journalism … Truth Decay

Ever had one of those ‘eureka moments’ where you come across a previously unknown, or perhaps once known but now forgotten, piece of information that explains one of those ‘how on earth did we get here’ observations?

Example: how did we (and I can only speak for Canada and the USA) get to a place where balanced, unopinionated news is now (often) very biased journalism? Part of the answer, according to the video below (and numerous stories on the internet) was the introduction, in 2008, of Accountability Journalism.

Accountability Journalism was the brainchild (or perhaps given a voice by) Associated Press Bureau Chief, Ron Fournier. Mr. Fournier believed that the conventional press model – where both sides of an argument are entitled to equal weight – was no longer needed in journalism. In it’s place, he gave free reign to first-person emotive language in news reporting. Previously, this had been reserved for opinion editorials. He gave the journalist the power to decide what was factual and fair and whether or not to include an opposing opinion.

Is this a slippery slope where journalism becomes not an outlet for news, but becomes an interpretation of said news?
– Susan Duclos, Digital Journal, July 2008 –

Ten years later, the answer to the slippery slope question is ‘yes’:

Journalism in the U.S. has become more subjective and consists less of the detailed event- or context-based reporting that used to characterize news coverage.
– ‘Truth Decay,’ RAND –

Of course, the situation seems worse than it is if you consider there are roughly 12000 journalists in Canada and 33000 in the United States. The wackadoodle reporters are just the most visible.

Who tops your list of Journalists you trust the least? Who do you trust the most?

11 thoughts on “Bias in Journalism … Truth Decay

  1. I’m not sure I “trust” any of today’s journalists or the news outlets they work for. I scan headlines, select articles that are from “reliable sources” (e.g., the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star vs. the National Post or Toronto Sun) and filter what I read through my own bs meter. It’s obvious to anyone who is half-way intelligent that a significant amount of what we read as “news” is biased opinion or rhetoric, so its up to individuals to “separate the wheat from the chaff”. Unfortunately, far too many people don’t know how to do that (and even more are inclined to believe whatever garbage their “friends” pass along via social media). I don’t think ANY reporting mechanism these days is untainted by personal bias, which is both unfortunate and frightening because its impossible to know what is “true” and what is merely opinion.


    1. Yes, reader beware! I think understanding the consistency of a news outlet is important. Some are quite neutral, some will generally lean left and others right. If we all read the same story from three sources that put a small to moderate slant on things, we’d probably come closer to knowing what was going on!


  2. The TV news reporters are the worst. It seems to me that if you don’t have long blonde hair and blue eyes you can’t make it on TV. OK: there is an occasional brunette with the same hairstyle. They’re interchangeable.


    1. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I wonder if looks are a requirement for female reporters but not so much for males.


  3. I tend to read and watch the news with curiosity. However, I do believe what is said from the horses’ mouth. For instance, “I am a stable genious” and “ the budget will balance itself”.


  4. Wait, are you telling me there are journalists left? I thought they are now all pundits.

    You know, because people cannot be trusted to think for themselves . . . a notion that, sadly, hasa lot of evidence to support it.

    By the way, I’m not sure why my subscription doesn’t stick. I’ve not been getting notices of new posts so I’ll try subscribing again.


    1. I think it goes beyond thinking for themselves. I think it is reading past the headlines. The headline often isn’t supported by the content of the article. I’m going to start using a hashtag on twitter that says something like #ReadtheDamnArticle.

      You show up on my follower’s list as having been added 2 days ago. If your subscription keeps getting ‘unstuck’ then maybe some powers that be simply don’t want you to read views that are contrary to their agenda… ha ha! – as if any power cares what I say…


    2. No, I’ll stick with not thinking for themselves.

      Whenever I get into a discussion with anyone about any number of things (something I generally avoid these days) I’m usually confronted with talking points used as if they were arguments of fact.

      When I ask them to explain stuff, rarely does anyone have anything beyond the superficiality of the talking points themselves. On the rare occasions when they do, it’s limited to incomplete and often erroneous stuff they obviously heard from some pundit or other. That’s because people tend to only look for arguments in support of what they want to believe.

      The fun part is when I ask them if (the argument they’re making) would work in any other context. The usual answer is “that’s different!” . . . but they can’t explain how.

      Again; people like simple answers precisely because more complex answers require engaging their brain and working things out and making tough compromises . . . and that be too hard for most people.

      Here’s a rule of thumb: if one can summarize an opinion about a complex subject in a simple sentence, then one is most certainly misinformed and likely wrong.

      Here’s another rule of thumb: one should be most critical of one’s own position before expressing it to anyone else. It’s equivalent to a cook tasting what they made before serving it to anyone else. As a cook, you don’t want to be told you forgot to add salt or left out an important ingredient of the recipe you’re making.

      Same with opinions; if one holds an opinion, one should know all the counterarguments backward and forward and have arrived at said opinion honestly and with a critical eye. If someone presents a challenge one can’t refute with facts or at least offer a reasoned counterargument, then said opinion is pretty much worthless.

      Uncharitably (because I’m old and tired), I also hold that worthless opinions are expressions of one’s worth.

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