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Media bias

"Media bias" refers to a real or perceived tendency of a mass media to approach both the presentation of particular stories, and the selection of which stories to cover, with an unbalanced perspective. "Mass media" may include newspapers, television news programs, radio news programs, and Internet outlets. In essence, "media bias" refers to a slight form of propagandism on the part of particular news sources, where such content is framed in the light of a

Categories of bias are:

Bias has a long history in the mass media, from the early days of the printing press, where it would be used -- famously -- as a tool of advocacy. Not until very recent times did the notions of unbiased reporting and neutral point of view become an integral part of journalism. Even today, however, even journalism's most objective and balanced reporters cannot completely avoid bias.

The broadcast media (radio and television) has been used as a mechanism for propaganda from its earliest days. One early example occurred during the 1926 General Strike in the UK. The fledgling BBC Radio News attempted to sabotage this strike by broadcasting reports of the workers breaking the strike in many areas, reports which were largely fictitious.

Media bias is studied at schools of journalism, and by several independent watchdog groups from various parts of the political spectrum. These are generally focused on issues of a conservative/liberal balance in the media of the United States, but others carry a broader focus of international differences in reporting.

Mass media, despite its ability to project worldwide, is limited in its cross-ethnic compatibility by one simple attribute -- language. Ethnicity, being largely developed by a divergence in geography, language, culture, and similarly, point of view, has the potential to be countered by a common source of information.

Language differences represent to a large extent the only real barrier to a world community of opinion, similar to that within the US, as an example. The effect, however is not homogenizing; there still remain strong differences, but the overall trend is that the moderate views are bolstered, drawing a common view from the extremes. In the United States, the national news to a large extent contributes to a sense of cohesion within the society, that comes with similarly informed people. Most views within the free society are freely expressed, and the mass media tends to reflect the spectrum of opinion, with some accountability.

The accountability that tends to come with a responsible balancing of news to a wide spectrum is still limited to that local perspective: Mass media is rarely an international phenomenon. It is a product of the culture for which it is for; a mirror of and for the society, some say. Critical thinkers often point out that mass media is the single most powerful device for controlling and appeasing the masses, and it is naturally exploited in any number of ways for its persuasive power. Advertising, political persuasion, special interests, and avoidance of controversial issues, are several ways the media acts in biased ways, as part of its normal function.

International media organizations often despite being cosmopolitan, will still flavor their different presentations to fit different regions, and perceptions in that region. World political divisions often fall in line with a West and East duality. But the meaning of these terms is vague, and can refer to the duality in European and Asian cultures, or to American and former Soviet cultures - being different in socio-economic identity.

Liberal versus Conservative

A liberal media bias is said to exist mainly because most journalists are liberal in their political views. In the United States, one particular survey found that 89% of journalists voted for Bill Clinton in the 1996 election. Such a uniformity of political opinion among journalists may tend to give rise to a tendency to cover or not cover particular stories, or to cover them with a particular slant. Examples of liberal bias may include, for example, a tendency to inflame stories which suggest that guns are responsible for crime, or as some have argued, a tendency to portray Republican leaders as less intelligent, compared to their Democratic counterparts. The editorial pages of many large U.S. newspapers such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others, have editorial pages which usually argue about topics from a liberal point-of-view.

Conservative media bias is said to exist for two reasons. First, the owners of media corporations tend to be conservative, like many business owners. As owners, they can dictate editorial and hiring policies. The second reason traces media concentration. The mass media are owned by a small number of very large diversified media corporations. Such a uniformity of ownership means that stories which do not somehow benefit these large corporations may not be run. Examples of conservative media bias might include the media's failure to cover, for example, many of the early anti-globalisation demonstrations or to depict the protesters as troublemakers and prone to violence. Another would be the media failure to cover the massacres in Eastern Timor by the right-wing Indonesian government during the period of Oil extraction, contrasted to the heavy coverage given to massacres by the left-wing Pol Pot regime in Cambodia during the same period.

Other influences

We might also consider another form of media bias, which is not specifically political in nature. The news media tend to cover stories which give higher ratings, which means that stories that are important are neglected in favor of the latest sensational mass school shooting or similarly glamorous or shocking story. Millions of people can die at the hands of some African dictator with hardly a moment of notice by the news, but the shooting of 5 people with a handgun in a high school is analyzed endlessly. The reason may not be political, it is said, but simply a function of what the public wants to watch.

Nonetheless, this form of bias is a bias, if we regard the function of the media as the presentation of a relatively balanced and factual explanation of the state of the world.

Bias has also been claimed in instances referred to as conflict of interest, where the owners of media organs have vested interests in other commercial enterprise. In such a case, it has from time to time been observed that stories which favor the commercial interests of the media owners or are detrimental to their competitors and opponents have not only been favored, but even at times invented whole-cloth from manufactured evidence. The conflict of interest here is between the perceived interest of the media in impartially informing the public, and the hidden interest of someone who controls a media organ in misleading the public to his own benefit.

See also

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