What do we gain when we confine ourselves to watching only a certain newscast, such as only FOX News or MSNBC? For many of us, our political bias has led us to choosing our network of choice. “A survey by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE, 1999) revealed that 78% of the public believed there was bias in news reporting (Baron, 2).” I’m not going to lie; I am very guilty of this. You would have to chain me down before you could get me to watch FOX. Yet there is a fundamental issue here – if we are to have an educated society, how does media bias allow for this? More importantly, isn’t it our jobs as journalists to deliver objective, informative, and unbiased news?
The first question to address is why there is media bias in the first place. “Individuals have a demand for news as entertainment and may have a demand for stories that are consistent with their political or social viewpoints. This may provide an incentive for a news organization to bias stories to cater to particular clientele (Baron, 2).” We have, with our strong ideologies and hunger for media, in a way asked for biased coverage. Not only that, but journalists may to be to blame as well. Biased stories may be published more thus making the journalist and their unique viewpoints more well known. A news organization’s owner could also be to blame – their news preferences could come through as bias (Baron).
Regardless of the reason, media bias has become an ever-increasing problem, especially when it comes to politics. According to Baron, “Public politics is considered in a simple median voter model of regulation, and the expected stringency of regulation is shown to be increasing in media bias (Baron, 4).” Politics is a partisan issue and can take the form of media bias. Journalists can write stories that support the causes of a particular interest group or political party. Bias can show up in the form of distorted information from sources, the fabrication of information, or bias can simply come “from the personal preferences of journalists, who may prefer not only that GMO foods be labeled but also that individuals take precautions against such food (Baron, 4).” It has also been shown that journalists, in comparison with the general public, are younger, more liberal, and better educated. Interestingly enough, it has also been shown that Republicans are more likely to consider news coverage as having democratic bias than Democrats perceiving news coverage to have Republican bias (Baron).
How does this translate to the general public? In our small world here at UNC, we are an educated community, aware of media bias and generally very knowledgeable about politics. We know the kind of news that FOX delivers and what kind of news MSNBC delivers, and some of us are okay with this sort of bias. But for the general public, a survey “revealed that those who were more knowledgeable about a story were more critical of media coverage. This suggests that if the public were generally more knowledgeable about stories, they would be even more critical of the news media (Baron, 5).” There is a fundamental problem here – a lack of knowledge in our society. Media bias can translate to political bias, and if the general public received more unbiased news, it would be interesting to see how it would affect American politics as a whole. But as long as this finding remains true, “journalists surveyed overwhelmingly rejected the notion that the media is biased (Baron, 6).” media bias will remain and the general public will continue to accept this bias and lack truly unbiased knowledge about news and politics.
Baron, David. “Persistent Media Bias.” Journal of Public Economics . (2006): 1-36. Web. 8 Nov. 2013.