The Mainstream Media and media bias

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Peshmerga
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Postby Peshmerga » Fri Apr 13, 2007 3:22 am UTC

Not to mention there already is publicly broadcasted news.

National Public Radio and C-SPAN, probably a few more for the UK and Aus.
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Postby Phenriz » Fri Apr 13, 2007 4:06 pm UTC

NPR is biased, no doubt about it. I still listen to it on the weekends though, as they still play damn good music after that morning stuff on saturday before noon.

C-Span is probably the closest thing america has to unbiased news.

Not that i expect an unbiased report because you can't expect news stations to be unbiased, if you do, well you're naive and deserve to be taken into "the flock".

As parents have bias towards their children so e-news (entertainment) will have a bias to what brings in more ratings. Their sponors generally don't care so long as their products are selling. Sponsors are what drives that industry. NOT reporting facts.

1) Sponsors
2) Ratings
3) Sensationalism
4) News Topics
...
...
...
16) Facts

i don't care if you're watching MSNBC, CNN, FOX, or The Po-Dunk Report starring Cletus, never take anything reported at face value, always do your own research if you genuinely care to know what's going on. If you get your "facts" from some pinstripe suit wearing a power tie on TV (or radio), well...... i hope your kids are smarter.


moral of this post, always be skeptical.
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Postby raca » Fri Apr 13, 2007 11:09 pm UTC

If you say bias like giving news with point of view... yes all news stations are biased.
If you say bias like bad point of view... yes there are a lot.
One bad point of view is sensationalism.

In my country we have all of it.
We have 4 public channels on UHF (by airwaves) and some cable channels that a lot have access to.
Two are public, two are private.
One public has a general programming the other has a alternative programming which is for me the only channel that is worth watching.
One private channel is kind of good, but the other follows the ratings only, news are all sensational, bad programs and stuff.
The only channel that has a functional news program is the second public channel because, is short, has experts on subjects to talk about it, and don't sensationalize, but is also the one with lower rates.

This to say that my country is ok, if want good news you can have access to it (in news papers too), if you want low brain activity you have that too.

For what I know (documentaries and stuff that I read on the net) in USA, there is low number of views that people can easy access, and the big news stations give a biased views all the time.
This because, there are political links between parties and governments with news stations, because some advertisers don't want some news to be published...

But this isn't the only problem, the worst problem now, is that news stations are ruled like a business forgetting there purpose that is give news (notice the word new). The net gives a extra-help to the problem. News stations cut money on resource by grabbing news on the net. This creates the problem that no one creates news and because of bad resources checks, rumours, bad news, are spread in the speed of the electron.

(I just to you know... some news are really censored globally... don't know how... but I saw it once.)

Some time ago I saw on some video (don't remember) that news media is a essential mechanism of democracy, and that is true, maybe is for that democracy is on crisis.

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Postby JoshuaZ » Tue May 08, 2007 7:09 pm UTC

People frequently argue that the media should "only report the facts" or something similar. However, in order to do, one must decide which facts are most relevant. For example, if one has an article about say an incident in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one presumably will have some background material reported in the article? But which background material? One could present thousands of uncontested facts that are arguably relevant.

Thus, the notion that it is even possible for a single source to be unbiased is inaccurate. Asolution is to not rely on any single source; instead, read a few sources on a topic and try to triangulate from there.

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Postby fjafjan » Tue May 08, 2007 8:06 pm UTC

Yes, relevant information is often left out of reporting, like the fact that before Hezbollah captured Israeli soldiers, Israel captured two palestinian civilians, and the Hezbollah capturing was partly a responce to that.
And ofcourse this also shows that News have an agenda.
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Postby JoshuaZ » Wed May 09, 2007 3:26 am UTC

fjafjan wrote:Yes, relevant information is often left out of reporting, like the fact that before Hezbollah captured Israeli soldiers, Israel captured two palestinian civilians, and the Hezbollah capturing was partly a responce to that.
And ofcourse this also shows that News have an agenda.


Missing the point. Even without the "News" (love the caps) having an agenda, not all the relevant facts will occur in any one news piece. Why? Becuase it isn't possible to cram all relevant information in. One doesn't need any strong "agenda" to have that problem. (I'm always fascinated how people on both sides of many conflicts (such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)) are always convinced that the media is biased against their side. There have actually be some studies done (I don't have the reference unfortunately) showing that partisans can easily come away from reading the same item and both be convinced that the item was biased against their viewpoint. Ah well, one more reason to doubt the capability of humans to have reasoned dialogue.

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Postby FiddleMath » Wed May 09, 2007 3:54 am UTC

JoshuaZ wrote:Becuase it isn't possible to cram all relevant information in. One doesn't need any strong "agenda" to have that problem. (I'm always fascinated how people on both sides of many conflicts (such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)) are always convinced that the media is biased against their side. There have actually be some studies done (I don't have the reference unfortunately) showing that partisans can easily come away from reading the same item and both be convinced that the item was biased against their viewpoint. Ah well, one more reason to doubt the capability of humans to have reasoned dialogue.


Perhaps we can have reasoned dialogue, we just have to learn, as a society, to be patient for it. In particular, you will not find much of the facts of an issue on the television, the commercial-interruption-driven format will not permit it.

In fact, written discussion seems to me an excellent way to have reasoned dialogue. Too bad no one does that anymore, eh? ;)

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Re: The Mainstream Media and media bias

Postby Blokey » Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:59 pm UTC

Sorry for the two-year bump, but I couldn't find a more recent relevant thread. Feel free to move my post if there is one, though.

Anyway, for the past few years I've been saying much the same as everyone else in this thread, but I've not done anything about it. Recently, we were discussing bias in the media at another forum, and someone made an off-hand remark about having a truth-meter at the bottom of the screen.

So: Why not have a news show (say, something from Fox) be streamed online with, perhaps, a 5-10 minute delay, and have half a dozen or so well-organised people checking Reuters and relevant places for information. Then have something at the top of the screen with BULLSHIT (that would be red, but that's reserved for mods, right?) or % TRUTH, while a ticker at the bottom of the screen adds relevant facts and sociopolitical/historical context? Additionally, seeing as in any given week/month we know roughly the kind of stories that are gonna be showing up, I don't see why you can't have very well-read people who genuinely know about said fields giving honest intellectual input, maybe even adding links to reliable primary sources and such.

I'm serious. Why not? Do some test screenings for some kind of focus group or something and refine it. Have a bit of online advertising and hype, and then start it up. At first, people will probably tune in for the humour value of seeing a big red BULLSHIT sign at the top of Fox news, but the context and relevant facts should hopefully work to spread the word, as well as expanding the scale of resolution/perspective people watch news programmes on. I know I'm being fairly naïve here, but lately I've become fed up of talking the talk, but not walking the walk.

I know there's a faeces-load of tech savvy people here, and people from all kinds of fields, so, would anyone else take this suggestion seriously? No one commented on it on the other forum, but I have higher hopes for xkcdites.
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Re: The Mainstream Media and media bias

Postby guenther » Thu Apr 16, 2009 7:43 pm UTC

I haven't read the rest of the thread, so I don't know what was covered. But my opinion is that fact-checking is easy and is probably done by bloggers and such right now. If a major news outlet blatantly misreports some piece of information, they'll be held accountable.

The real issues is how is the data between the fact points being interpolated. This is where spin happens. You create an opinion-based narrative that includes factual data points. That narrative is what paints the picture how you want it to be. This is much harder to fact check.

Also, major news networks can only present a limited amount of facts to their audience each day. They must have some sort of selection criteria for which facts to report. If MSNBC rails against every minor Republican infraction but ignores any Democrat wrong doings, they haven't lied, but they have created a very distorted world-view. This is also not catchable by fact-checking. (We can do statistics gathering, but we can't provide real-time feedback with this.)

Filling in the gaps and omitting certain facts has to happen. People get angry when they think there's a hidden agenda driving this process. There's no right procedure that everyone can follow. The best we can hope for is that the media is as fair as possible when doing their job. Or if they have a bias, admit it. And they get evaluated in the market based on their viewership. Unfortunately people don't care about bias, they care about bias that isn't slanted their way.

Personally I'd like to see a culture shift away from sensationalism in the media. I think this is where most of the distortion happens. We gauge risk based on examples we see or hear about. If we witness 99 people swimming in the ocean without incident and 1 person get bit by a shark, we get a sense of how much threat there is. When shark attacks show up in everything you hear about the oceans, we get a very warped sense of the threat.
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Re: The Mainstream Media and media bias

Postby drunken » Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:29 am UTC

Blokey, I like your idea a lot. Thankyou. I also had an idea of my own, to fill a niche in the media marketplace. My main problem witht he media is not what they say or how they say it but what they omit. There are so many issues which the public has no idea about that they really need to be aware of. My suggestion was for metric news. This is how it would work:

Ideally as an online newspaper, you would start by working out a set of metrics or mathematical ways of measuring the importance of news. This means you cant report politics, and a number of other unmeasurable story types, hence this filling a niche. It would never replace normal media. Things that you can report are death and poverty. Both of these can be measured and you lay down a system for measuring which is on the site in plane english. A simple example is someone dying gives a story 1 point of importance. A more complicated one would be that exceptionally unpleasant painful deaths (requiring a metric for unpleasantness of death), 1/2 for natural causes and severe injuries, and 1 for everything else. Once you have a system of metrics you can go collecting stories like any other media company. the difference is that when you get a story you immediately rate it's importance mathematically. So your front page headline is always a more horrific event than your page 3 (I know websites dont have page numbers). It is likely that stories would stay the headline for a long time, but that also means that really important issues would get continuous attention until they were resolved, rather than until people are bored of hearing about it. I realise this idea needs more explanation than this but hopefully you get the basic premise.
Last edited by drunken on Sun Apr 19, 2009 2:22 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Mainstream Media and media bias

Postby boneasaurus » Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:21 am UTC

Personally I'd like to see a culture shift away from sensationalism in the media. I think this is where most of the distortion happens. We gauge risk based on examples we see or hear about. If we witness 99 people swimming in the ocean without incident and 1 person get bit by a shark, we get a sense of how much threat there is. When shark attacks show up in everything you hear about the oceans, we get a very warped sense of the threat.


Relating this as well as what the original thread was about (didn't see it was 2 years old!), I think the creation of 24 hour news networks has a lot to do with the quality and type of news, as well as the sensationalism that goes along with it. These stations run on advertising, as most media does, so they need to cover what sells, and sensationalize what may not be as important as they portray. It's sad that Lindsay Lohan's coke addiction is all we see, but if you take a look at the most viewed articles on a given day on a site like CNN.com, what's number 1? Lindsay. It's a sad consequence of what people want the most of, which contributes to the amount of viewers/readers, which rakes in ad money. It's a vicious cycle. The 24 hour news networks are forced to sensationalize anything for the goal of viewers, which increases their ad revenue.

Ideally, with the shift in media to an online, on demand system, those of us who choose to fill our heads with relevant details about world occurrences instead of Britney's V hanging out of the limo, will have options for the stories that truly influence the world. We may have to pay a few bucks for it though, as my generation (I'm 23) has gotten used to advertising and strategically avoids it.

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Re: The Mainstream Media and media bias

Postby DarkKnightJared » Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:37 am UTC

I think the "sensationalist" bit is a very important thing to pin down, because from what I've seen, when most people complain about the MSM, it's because of them having a "liberal" or "conservative" bias--when it's really just presenting which side will give them more people to watch. It isn't so much that there's a massive political bias, people just tend to ignore the bias for the side they like.

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Re: The Mainstream Media and media bias

Postby Sarstan » Mon May 11, 2009 8:14 am UTC

I think many of you fail to realize a simple fact: "Media" is another business. News that grabs people's attention is what makes the money.
That by itself should more than put a few pieces of the puzzle in place.
For example, how many of you have heard "pit bull attacks 12 year old" or similar? Only to find the pit bull was really a Golden Shepard or Labrador. Pit bull easily puts in mind the image of vicious, muscular dogs that will turn on humans and attack without warning (I might add that after growing up and watching four generations of pit bulls myself, they're just as loving and well behaved as any other dog can be). It sells far better than otherwise as a headline.

Just like Bones said, Lindsay is what everyone wants to hear about.

That reminds me of our last California election. I was so sick of hearing about prop 8 when there were so many other issues that had far more weight. Prop 1a for instance (which passed) has this state shelling out nearly 10 billion dollars for a train that won't be done for 30 years, much less make up it's cost in tickets for centuries. This while we watch unemployment shoot to well over 10%. Anyone else see the problem there with what people want to focus their attention on?

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Re: The Mainstream Media and media bias

Postby Emily St Aubert » Mon May 11, 2009 12:33 pm UTC

boneasaurus wrote I think the creation of 24 hour news networks has a lot to do with the quality and type of news, as well as the sensationalism that goes along with it. These stations run on advertising, as most media does, so they need to cover what sells, and sensationalize what may not be as important as they portray. It's sad that Lindsay Lohan's coke addiction is all we see, but if you take a look at the most viewed articles on a given day on a site like CNN.com, what's number 1? Lindsay. It's a sad consequence of what people want the most of, which contributes to the amount of viewers/readers, which rakes in ad money. It's a vicious cycle. The 24 hour news networks are forced to sensationalize anything for the goal of viewers, which increases their ad revenue.


My experience is with UK and Swiss/other European media, primarily, but naturally a lot of content covers US news and gossip too. I think sometimes the sensationalism is explicable purely because, as you say, everyone likes to read about Li-Lo getting dumped by her girlfriend and what her dad has to say about it, but sometimes it feels more like we are being steered towards the trivial to distract us from the important.

For example, the recent UK media fuss over a scandalous incident involving Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand being rude to Andrew Sachs on BBC radio. To read the papers and their websites would give the impression that the country was not only gripped by the 'scandal' but also obsessed by the wider social/cultural/political implications. (The Wikipedia article on the row gives an outline of what happened). What's interesting to me is that the Mail newspaper kickstarted the complaints, prompting endless replays of the prank phone calls and acres of debate about the role of publicly funded broadcasting, and the whole thing degenerated very quickly after that; these are not irrelevant questions, and should be talked about, but the media hysteria was so ridiculously over the top, and gave way so quickly to self-referential 'analysis' of the 'how ridiculous all this coverage is' articles that themselves took up miles of columns... (here's a piece by Peter Tatchell in the Guardian, for example).
This is nothing new; but while all this was happening, terrible events in Pakistan and the DRC were going almost uncommented on, at least, by the mainstream news media. This is not to say that there's a deliberate conspiracy here as such; but more to suggest that there are political reasons why some stories get blown up out of all proportion as well as social ones. See also, for example, the fuss over the Prince Harry racism video that emerged in January...after three years hidden. I think the chances that it was revealed the minute it was found are minuscule; it's much more likely that someone orchestrated the timing, whether it be the Royal Family's press keeping it hidden till Harry had seen active service, or the News of the World wishing to, or being told to, splash this one at that moment to distract attention from something else. Politicians have been using the media to 'spin' stories for a long time, that's nothing new, although the current UK administration has been heavily criticised for doing this so intensively (see here for an example from 2002 and here for a very recent example, to name but two of many) and the theory I'm suggesting is an extension of this fact, really.

Of course blogging and the freedom to post commentary anywhere and everywhere has a lot to do with the promulgation of repetitive and reductive debate. But it's hard not to feel that this is still steered, on the whole, by those in charge at the big media organisations that host blogs, message boards, own TV stations, and so on. Are we actively manipulated by the media? I would say sometimes, we are. And we have to try hard not to be.

What can you do? Personally, I would strongly recommend Al Jazeera's English news service. It's refreshingly free of nonsense, it has comprehensive and wide ranging worldwide coverage, and also in-depth commentary and analysis. It's been a revelation since it was launched, and I think it's excellent. (I don't work for them or have anything to do with them, I must add!)


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