While between 65 and 85 percent of thepublic reports that they believe that the news media slant the news in onedirection or another, the nature and impact of bias is actually quitecomplicated. On the one hand, news coverage can be politicallybiased, that is, specific media outlets could favor one political agendaover another. A popular claim, usually from the political right, is thatthe media are liberally biased.
Former CBS News reporter Bernard Goldberg,who claims that he is in dependent, argues in his best- selling book,Bias, that most reporters are liberal and therefore slant the news (evenunknowingly) to favor liberal positions on issues. In fact, President Bushfamously carried a copy of Goldberg’s book when it first appeared on themarket! Media critic, and self- professed liberal, Eric Alterman’s WhatLiberal Media? is a response of sorts to Goldberg’s book as it debunkssome of the claims Goldberg makes and offers an argument that the mediaare mostly conservatively biased (especially when it comes to theideological persuasions of radio hosts and television political pundits).
Of course, political/ideological bias is butone way that the media can slant coverage. News and entertainmentprogramming can be corporately biased. Corporate bias is news coverage thatfavors large corporations such as advertisers and media conglomerates. Forexample, if bad news befell General Electric (which owns NBC) or Disney(which owns ABC) and NBC failed to report on GE’s troubles or ABC put apositive spin on Disney’s problems, we could label their coverage ascorporately biased. By the same token, if a prominent newspaper advertiserlaid off workers, was indicted, or had a bad fiscal quarter that thenewspaper either failed to cover or covered in a way that made theadvertiser look good, we could once again conclude that the coveragewas corporately biased.
Another kind of bias is concerned with theactual value of media programming itself. Commercial bias is bias that isdesigned to titillate readers, listeners, or viewers even if theinformation is not all that useful. For instance, a television news programsfocus on the latest scandals involving Paris Hilton might encourage peopleto watch even though a story on which technology jobs are growing at thefastest rate might be more useful to news consumers.
Commercial bias is often called“infotainment,” a slightly derogatory term for news coverage that is moreflash than substance.
DISCUSSION 1:Which kind of bias do you think is the most dangerous? Why?
DISCUSSION2: Which kind of bias do you see the most when you are watching,reading, or surfing for information? Does the most prominent bias vary bywhether you are consuming news or entertainment information?