Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Brick Wall of Bias

Many of you know that I'm originally from the Utahiest location in Utah.  Did you also know that Utah is predominantly a red state?  As in, the preferred flavored of Kool-Aid is juicy red Republican?

Most of my friends and some of my family and a hell of a lot of my acquaintances hail from Utah which means that at some point the interactions turn to politics.  More so because people know that I tend to lean  Democrat.  Gasp.  Yeah, I know.  I voted for Harry Reid but only because his last opponent was so crazypants.  Her party affiliation is not what made her terrifying.  They say a defensive vote never wins the election but this time it sure did.

Face to face it's easy to "bean dip" political conversation.  As in, "Mitt Romney wouldn't have stood for this NSA spying stuff!" and the response would be, "That's certainly something to think about...wow, have you tried this bean dip?  It's really spicy!"

Or this:  "Are you going to attend Glenn Beck's stage show?  I hear it's educational!" and the response would be, "I don't think I can make it...Do you know who made that pasta salad.  It's fabulous!"

Acknowledge, dodge the bullet, redirect.  Most of the time it works pretty well.

Face to face interaction never includes a hyperlink.

You have to be careful with those hyperlinks.  Online, folks LOVE to post stuff that confirms their confirmation biases.  You click on something that seems totally reasonable on it's face and when you get to the site, it's an editorial soup of run on sentences, inflammatory rhetoric and mental masturbation.  It's not journalism.  It's gossip.

Then you feel abused and mislead.  You could go on and enter into the ever so popular Facebook debate full of red herrings and strawmen in trying to prove the article wrong...or you could write a kick-ass blog post and then clog their feeds with link backs here.

But Becky, you say, don't you libs love to watch MSNBC every single moment of the day?  Have you heard what the liberal media has been saying?  They can't be serious!  They spew all kinds of stuff that I don't like and you can't like and no one should like it and I'm indignant and you should ponder all that in your heart!  If they can say all that stuff, we can too, darn tootin!

No need to bean this dip question.  I don't know about my juicy blue Democrat Kool-Aid drinking brothers and sisters, but I don't watch MSNBC.   My husband doesn't spend any time watching MSNBC.  Some of my liberal friends post baloney that confirms their confirmation biases but many of them don't.  Those that do post baloney do it at the same rate as the conservative folks if you compared equal parts conservatives and liberals.  My news feed is very much not equal parts, hence the awesome graphic I made above.

There are a lot of sources I get my news from and it's important to me that they espouse a standard in their journalism.  If they post editorials and opinion pieces, they are clearly marked as such.  They allow dissenting opinions in their editorials and opinion pieces.  The language of their reporting is tempered and thorough.  They openly post retractions when they are wrong.  They consider themselves a news source and not entertainment, and are legally registered as such.

Most importantly, they go by the old standard of answering who, what, where, how, when and why, without appealing to more base emotions.

Let's compare.  Last week, a makeshift 9/11 memorial on a New York City courthouse bulletin board was ordered removed by a judge because of a complaint of offensive material.  The event was covered by several news sources.

The exclusive article from the New York Post
The article from the Wall Street Journal
The story was not covered by either NBC or Huff Post, as far as I can tell.
I'm not finding the story on Fox News either.
The article from a grassroots conservative news site.

It's the last link I saw first, which got me thinking about the topic.  Why aren't these readers in the least bit interested in finding about this story in context?  Read the story, fume, and then move on to the next consumable "news" tidbit.  I read it and the first thing afterwards was Google it to see what really happened.

This sort of half-assed reporting was all over the Trayon Martin shooting and the  Zimmerman trial.  It was important to me when it came time to try Zimmerman that I didn't base my opinion on what's regurgitated through even the most "fair and balanced" news outlet.  I watched or listened to the trial on YouTube, recorded streaming directly from the courthouse.  No still photos of a funny expression on the defense or prosecution's face.  No gotcha headlines.  No commentary.  No scrolling tickers.  Just good old American trial by jury.  Testimony directly from the lion's mouth.

I'm humbled to say that I found Zimmerman's interview tapes very compelling.  I had doubts that I didn't have before.  It didn't change my mind completely, but it didn't confirm my biases at all and I expected it to.  This is exactly the experience I wanted...not to be told what to think but giving myself the opportunity to reason.  To maybe be wrong.

This is also why I've read many laws and bills which I'm passionate about.  The American Care Act isn't as long of a read as you'd think.

As for where I get my news and what standards I hold it to, this speech given by Rafael Olmeda at the 2007 World Journalism Institute conference covers it far better than I can.  It's an excellent read.

10 Qualities of a Good Journalist

Alright, acknowledge you thought about clicking the link, dodge the bullet, then redirect. 

Why yes, the bean dip is pretty good.

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