Media Bias

The media, like everything, and everybody, else (including me), is biased. Here’s an example of media bias from the Chicago Tribune, 9/28/14. On page 8 there’s a short, maybe 1/10th page article, titled “Gunman in barbershop kills 1”. The much more significant point concerning shootings and killings in Chicago is made in the 2nd paragraph: “The shooting [“killing” is the accurate, consistent-with-the-headline, but less-nice word] was part of a violent 16-hour period  when 15 people were shot, three of them fatally, across the city’s South Side from about 2 p.m. Friday to Saturday morning police said”.  “[P]olice said” means there probably were more killings and sho0tings during this 16-hour period, almost certainly if West Side statistics were taken in to account. But the 5 Tribune reporters the newspaper’s publisher gives credit for this approximately 130-word article do not have, or do not use, data from the West Side, and they do not have, or do not use, data from the South Side other than what “police said”.  Police, like everything, and everybody, else (including me), are biased and present information/data that’s in in their best interest.

Media bias is also evident by placing  the account of 15 shootings in a 16-hour period (that’s about 1 per hour) in the 2nd paragraph of an incompletely, and essentially sdeceptively, titled brief article on p. 8.  To reflect my bias, the article should have been on the front page, extensive, and headlined: 15 SHOT IN 16-HOURS.  But, hey, that’s bad news for those biased for tourism, election and re-election, conventions, and commerce.

Bias is ALWAYS the reality.  Identify the bias and deal with it.  I deal with media bias is by obtaining information from multiple sources; all of them biased, of course!–but often in different directions.  Then, from the sometime conflicting, and sometimes agreeing, information/data provided by these multiple sources, I develop my understanding, my bias, of the topic or issue at hand.  I view RT as well as WTTW (The News Hour), local 5:30pm TV news, and Aljazeera America.  I  read the New York Review of Books, as well as the London Review of Books, Vanity Fair, Quality Progress, and National Review blog posts.  I read poetry as well as prose.

Multiple sources of information/data is the best way to get closest to the ways things actually are; to what’s really going on.  See my posts on Multiple Sources and Triangulation; “Multiple Sources” in my book, The Problem with Survey Research, and “Multiple Sources” in the syllabus of my Public Administration 544 course: Qualitative Research Methods.

For an excellent example of research demonstrating media bias, see Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent.


About georgebeam

George Beam is an educator and author. The perspectives that inform his interpretations of the topics of this blog–-as well as his other writings and university courses -–are system analysis, behaviorism, and Internet effects. Specific interests include quality management, methodology, and politics. He is Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Public Administration; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Political Science; and, previously, Head, Department of Public Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago
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