Two-Way Street

Discussing and Allowing for Journalistic Bias

Allen Wastler

There was an interesting discussion about bias on "Squawk Box" this morning.

It started with comments about the relative sizes of candidate cut-outs they have on set. Then Joe Kernan went on to note some eyebrow raising comments at the Republican convention from a competing network (and a former employer of mine). Then he and John Harwood starting ribbing each other about bias.

Harwood made an observation that journalism, as a career field, tends to draw more liberal leaning people. I guess that's true. The school training is called "liberal arts" after all. But business, the frontline of money and taxes, tends to draw more conservative types.

So then business journalism must be the intersection of neutrality ... totally unbiased, right?

Well, probably not. You can look at recent debates about glass half-full/half-empty economic numbers to see some examples.

I tend to think there's going to be some amount of bias in any sort of journalistic endeavor. Sometimes it's due to form. After all in any sort of report ... text or TV ... something has to come first. And whatever goes first typically gets the most attention.

Of course, other types of bias — word selection, phraseology, imagery — are a little more substance oriented and directed, either consciously or unconsciously. I honestly think most types of bias are unintentional ... a characteristically human assumption that the people you are talking to share your point of view.

The trick for good journalism is recognizing your own perspective and understanding there exist other points of view. Not every journalist does that. That's unfortunate. Anyway, check out the video. A good step toward offsetting bias is discussing it.