Firstly, I know I am going to receive a lot of anti-media comments on this Mytake. I’m no longer addressing those people because, quite frankly, being in my field, I am completely jaded by it and I’m not going to defend my position against someone who wants to believe all media is false, evil and ill-intended.
You are free to have your opinions, I don’t care that you’re anti-media. Go write in your friggin' diary about it bud.
However, a long-time friend of mine @TonyBologna25 admitted to me that he has had some anti-press sentiments in his life and asked that I, a journalist, explain to this platform what things look like from my point of view. I’m specifically going to be addressing how the media handles politics and the existence of bias.
So, is all media 100 per cent unbiased? No. It’s virtually impossible to have humans operate in any business, whether its political, social, economics, retail, or press fields. Period. Where the media is supposed to draw the line in the sand is through representing both sides factually, no matter how it makes either party look. I’ll get more into that later.
Opinions and bias – where is the line?
As journalists, our jobs are to not outright express personal opinions or inject extremely obvious, harsh biases into our work without properly representing the opposition. The only exception to this rule is if you work on the features desk and write actual opinion pieces – something the misinformed often mistake for regular news stories. News stories are based solely on facts and information.
Opinion pieces are exactly that – opinions of the author.
What do you do when you find that one news institution is subtly or staunchly a clear supporter of the life or right movement? As a reader, that’s genuinely up to you. But if you want to think critically, there are a few things you have to understand how the media approaches politics.
For one: REAL news institutions cannot outright lie or spread misinformation that hasn’t been attributed to a particular source. We cannot simply fictionalize events that didn’t happen without losing our jobs.
It’s a simple fact that has been in place for years. Does that mean there are journalists who haven’t outright lied? Of course not. Historically, there have been scandals that have led to more stringent editing and fact-checking as a result.
For example, an experience I had with an editor went as follows: I wrote a profile piece on a woman who grew up with an extremely alcoholic mother and made reference to: “when she was just a little girl…” My editor refused to publish the story until I got the exact AGE she was when I referenced her: “just being a little girl.”
Why? Because not doing so was not 100 per cent completely factual – it was too general and open to misinterpretation. Being a little girl could mean she was three or even 10-years-old, which could completely change the narrative of the story.
Now, I will say not all media companies are made equal. Some may not include all of the details that could threaten their position when referencing another party, but usually, those institutions are either independent or much smaller companies that aren’t held to the same responsibility as others by their audience.
Fox News, of course, would be the exception – but Fox News is more of a tabloid than a news source, I’ll do a separate Mytake on that subject.
Yes, the audience actually has a responsibility when it comes to their readership. We need you to hold us just as responsible as we try to hold political leaders by pointing out inaccuracies and being critical. However, this doesn’t mean blind hatred of any news institution that doesn’t perfectly mirror your political preference.
You have to really READ and UNDERSTAND the material you’re bringing into question and try to see it from the journalist’s point of view. If say, someone from the Toronto Star writes a story about something super positive someone in the liberal party did for the community, like donating to an orphanage, it’s going to be their responsibility to see if the other parties have done something similar around the same time.
NOTE: this representation is a dramatization of the typical, over-played perspective of liberal versus conservatives in the media.
They don’t represent my opinions But, let’s say just for hypothetical sake that the conservative party instead did something like host a rally in support of your rights to bear arms. You can’t then be angry at the journalist for writing the story as: Liberal party donates to charity while conservatives oppose gun restriction– because it’s not wrong.
It’s current and that’s what happened. Yes, it doesn’t look good on the other party, but if the journalist reached out to that party to give them a chance to speak, and that’s what they had to say they were up to, that’s what we write.
Where the journalist has responsibility in that situation is to make sure they ask the other party what they feel about the country’s orphan issue and how their party would address that problem. They can’t just leave it at: What are you guys doing? They should bring up the focus of the story to give that party the opportunity to equally weigh in on the issue.
But, I know one person is going to say: BUT CHRONIC, WHAT IF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY DONATED TO A CHARITY LIKE, 10 YEARS AGO? DOESN’T THAT MATTER?
Not so much, because it’s no longer new and the current party leader isn’t going to be the one who did it. If it had been maybe a year or two prior and the current leader is the one who donated, it may be mentioned in that case to grant merit to the other side - something all logical journalists should do.
Who is responsible?
The responsibility of the media when addressing politics and the differences between fake news and reality As media, our job is to write and represent the facts of what is currently happening in our political climate while giving each side the opportunity to voice their opinion.
If we talk to one party, we will always reach out to talk to others. It isn’t our responsibility to make sure we represent everyone in the best possible light – it’s to address current issues and provide the genuine responses of those parties regardless of how it makes them look.
At the end of the day, people frustrated by those who point out the stupid shit politicians say should stop being so angry at journalists and rather turn that anger to their party leader for saying it in the first place.
However, on the flip side, we have a responsibility as the media to make sure we don’t take quotes out of context and provide the full, unfiltered truth behind what was said. True journalism is intended to hold the powerful responsible, which is why political leaders are the focus of criticism.
It isn’t just because we oppose their views, it’s to make sure you, as a member of our society, have the opportunity to see where the problems are and form your opinions based on the truth.
When it comes to fake news, however, we all have a responsibility in eradicating it.
We, as journalists, need to ensure our information is correct and to attribute anything given to us by word of mouth. As an audience, you need to look at where your news is coming from.
You have no idea how many times I saw fake news about celebrity suicides or other nonsense being shared on social media as a click scam because the person who saw it read the headline and assumed it was true.
Those sites are not news institutions – they’re cloute-chasing frauds. Be critical, think logically and remember that journalists aren’t all out to get you. But, also hold us responsible when you think we got it wrong or if you feel we should be representing one side or the other better. At the end of the day, we’re here to serve you, so those reality checks can be helpful.