What’s Wrong with the News
Analysis and entertainment from the Fringe
When NPR fired conservative Black journalist Juan Williams the justification cited NPR’s high journalistic standards. Later NPR apologists said that Williams, and programs like Glenn Beck and The O’Reilly Factor lacked “objectivity” in their work.
The kind of objectivity referred to as a value in their news is a worthy value, but the process of “objectifying” the news is itself, a kind of bias. Certainly news analysis should account for all perspectives, but not necessarily give them equal weight. It’s the “all voices are equal” bias, the bias of good manners, of turn-taking, or speaking politely. This has the effect of making all points in an argument the same size.
Sizing the News Views
When ideas and viewpoints are presented as equal size on the stage of news, that is a kind of distortion itself. When one viewpoint is an analysis, and a second viewpoint merely an opinion, only the most critical reader or viewer will distinguish their actual values to the discussion.
This has the effect of making thoughtful analysis no more important than a position argued from affiliation or personal gain.
This does not suggest that conservative journalist/entertainers like O’Reilly or Glenn Beck (or Rush) are clear of this bias; indeed, they seem to often prefer opinion to careful analysis.
But it does suggest that NPR could stand to do what Beck and O’Reilly do: own their voice. Don’t pretend that everyone with an opinion has a point, or work so hard to find “balance” when there is no balance in the issue.
Wacko right wing newsertainment have a kind of honesty to their work that NPR loses in decorum, leaving, perhaps, Beck’s audience better informed at the end of the day.
NPR copyright prevents us from using examples from NPR reporting.