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An Assessment of Bias and Objectivity in the News Media

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An Assessment of Bias and Objectivity in the News Media 1.0 - Introduction Bias and objectivity are frequently used as ideological standards to assess the news media. The media has a duty to provide the citizenry with impartial information on public events and they have a positive, and even democratising function in regard to public enlightenment. However, if they fail to factually mirror reality, they place a certain slant or bias on the news. The inordinate power and authority of the news media enables it to influence the views of the public. If the public are not aware of certain biases, they may accept journalistic opinion as reality. In a survey, 60 per cent of respondents found it difficult to distinguish between fact and opinion in a selection of news articles.1 This reveals that bias could easily sneak in to articles without public knowledge. If the media fail to adequately inform the citizenry, they are not only failing to fulfil their duty, but have the potential to thwart the democratic process. Since bias and objectivity are frequently used as instruments to evaluate the performance of the media, this essay will first define these two terms. Secondly, we must question whether it is in fact possible for the news media to achieve objectivity and be genuinely unbiased. The answers to these questions will determine whether the standards of bias and objectivity are appropriate in evaluating the news media. 2.0 - What is meant by 'bias'? Bias is favouring a certain interpretation or belief over others.2 To be bias, an individual or collective entity permits certain interests or causes to influence their views.3 Wissner-Gross ...read more.


However, a corresponding problem would arise - these terms would fail to improve our understanding of objectivity because they are just as elusive and abstruse. News professionals rightfully insist that those who accuse them of bias must be able to define and locate objective truth in a definitive manner.26 I do not claim that ability. Rather, I present the boundaries in which one may locate bias and objectivity within an article. To provide one single universal definition and method for detecting bias and objectivity is near impossible. This is because each definition and method will differ depending on the individual. One may perceive a certain article as bias, whilst another may view it as objective and impartial. Definitions of such elusive terms are thus subjective and its detection is prone to personal prejudices. In recognition of such difficulty, or even impossibility, the clearest and most unambiguous definition is McQuail's four types of bias and Entman's requirements of depersonalisation and balance in the existence of objectivity. Despite their criticisms, they provide a clear and reasonable definition of the elusive terms; bias and objectivity. 3.0 - Is it possible to unbiased or objective? The particular biases embedded within an individual are dependent on their milieu and background.27 Every human being has a history, and has grown up with certain beliefs and values.28 They have certain views towards other races, sexes and ethnicities; and they have been educated according to what is right and wrong. Every person has varying biases and views towards particular political parties and policies, and there is not one individual who does not have an embedded value system. ...read more.


Provided the articles are based on truth, and precautions are taken to detect and eliminate bias, news organisations can be objective. 4.0 - Conclusion The opposing terms; bias and objectivity are utilised as ideological standards to evaluate news organisations. Despite the elusiveness of such terms, it is possible to define the terms bias and objectivity. Bias is favouring certain interpretations over others, while to be objective is to be uninfluenced by personal prejudices. However, it is imperative to recognise that every individual will vary in what they perceive as bias and objective. An individual may consider an article to be bias, while another may deem it objective. Despite these varying interpretations, it is possible for the media to be unbiased and objective. The news media have a duty to impartially inform the public, and they need to do everything possible to ensure they fulfil this duty. In order for an individual journalist to eliminate bias from their writing, they must first recognise that have embedded prejudices. Similarly, the news organisation as a collective entity must also put in place effective precautions for detecting all types of bias. It is necessary to have a diverse copy desk that will detect even the most subtle biases. The staff should reflect the diversity of society, and comprise of varying ethnicities, religions and political views. In order to disseminate information factually and impartially; journalists must clear their minds of social mores and try to perceive the situation as it exists. Truth needs to be the crux of any article. Provided journalists base their stories on the whole truth, and take precautions to eliminate bias -the news media can be completely unbiased and objective. ...read more.

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