Media bias? Maybe there’s a reason for it.
Originally Published on NevadaNewsmakers.com, 7/10/2007 2:46:02 PM
Conservatives complain frequently about media bias. The news offers a liberal view of the world. Reporters tell stories reflecting their own left-leaning predispositions. Republicans and other right-of-center players are characterized by the media as stupid, evil, or comically unsophisticated.
It’s time for a closer look at the relationship between the media and the political right, in order to sort out fact from fantasy, and cause from effect.
Conservative politicians and talk show hosts have gleefully seized on surveys confirming that journalists tend to be more liberal than the population at large, without noting that a more liberal outlook on life doesn’t, in and of itself, produce “biased” reporting. For the purpose of this conversation, we’ll define a biased report as one that features or leads with a point-of-view not embraced by conservatives, and leaves the premise of the story uncontested, or relegates the opposing comments to paragraph 23.
Reporters are influenced by many things, including their actual experience with the subjects of their reports. It is simply a fact that Democrats and left-of-center political activists are more savvy at romancing the media, and seem to understand our professional imperatives better than their conservative counterparts. Not 100 percent of the time, but mostly, and it may account for some perception of bias in the finished media product.
Professional Imperative number one, for working reporters: I must turn in a story. On time, and as nearly perfect as I can make it. Although the Reasonable Reporter is loathe to admit it, the perfection imperative takes an unfortunate, but very concrete backseat to the turn-in-a-story imperative. The guy who talks first and most gets primacy. Seems basic, but half the political population fails to grasp the primacy principle.
Want good coverage? Communicate with reporters regularly. This does not mean bombarding our email boxes with meaningless daily statements. “Regularly” isn’t necessarily daily or weekly, but whenever there is significant reason to comment. That includes major announcements or initiatives by your opponents, which are frequent, if not regular.
Return phone calls and email inquiries, even if you have nothing to say. Acknowledgment is good for a relationship. You understand this well for business and political relationships, but mystifyingly enough, not for media relationships.
Instruct your staff not to repeat your nasty comments about reporters. You are not well-served when they share with us the fact that you hate the media, or they gloat about how well you manage to avoid us. Worse yet is an assistant so certain that she will be validated by the boss for alienating reporters that she emulates your disdain, right to our faces, even as the moments until our deadline are ticking away.
Press conferences are an art and a science. Calling together the media for a badly executed event is worse than having no event at all. (See comically unsophisticated, above, first paragraph.)
Unfair portrayals cut both ways. Conservatives tend also to characterize reporters as stupid, or agenda-driven, or comically unsophisticated. In truth, reporters are people with an inexplicable affinity for a daily regimen that forces us to wade waist-deep into largely unfamiliar information, quickly absorb it, interpret it, clarify it, and then explain it to others. All within severe time and space constraints, every single day, like clockwork, with scant forgiveness for error. Few lightweights can keep the pace.
If you don’t think we understand the economics or other underlying reasons for a political position, then offer to teach us something we don’t know. We are also creatures with an affinity for research, facts, and new info.
Most of us don’t have the luxury of launching a full-scale research effort every time we write a story. That’s not laziness, that’s business reality. Most of us don’t claim to be geniuses. But most of us are bright enough. If no compelling explanation is given, none will be mentioned in the story. That’s not bias, that’s failure to communicate.Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.