While listening to an interview with a voter on my car radio, I thought I had excess ear wax that obstructed my hearing. The voter (whose name is Bruce) said this about one of the qualifications that a Senate or House candidate must have to earn his vote: “I don’t want anyone with ideas. We have enough of those already.”
I’m a journalist and have been one my entire working life. I have my own thoughts about the ever-present cries of “media bias,” cries that never seem to include media channels that the decrier regularly reads, listens to or watches.
Hearing Bruce the Voter’s benighted views on who he considers a worthy candidate stirred anew my thoughts on media bias.
Bruce’s comment was so faithful in its allegiance to ignorance, it made me wonder if the news channel that aired it was letting its own media bias shamelessly hang out.
Let me add some context: Bruce the Voter was attending a rally for Donald Trump. Bruce also said his candidate of choice, in addition to being anti-ideas, would have to support the president “unconditionally.”
My reaction to hearing this was to think that there must have been a sound bite from another voter, other than Bruce, that sounded more reasonable, more thoughtful, and, frankly, less insulting to the president. Is this news channel trying to imply, through its impish choice of sound bites, that Bruce the Voter the Idea Hater represents a typical Trump supporter?
Then, it hit me: If the news channel decided not to air Bruce the Voter’s comment because it sounded over the top, that also would be a judgment call, which is part of exercising bias. Every choice we make, every reaction we have are a result of bias.
The phrase “media bias” is entirely vague and a gross generalization. There is no monolithic, single-minded “media.” There are media. The word is plural, not singular.
There also is a misperception we entertain of the word “bias” when it is paired with “media.” Uncouple “bias” from “media” and consider the primary definition of “bias”: “A line diagonal to the grain of a fabric.”
If we equate fabric with a news story, each person whose reaction runs counter to the story is the diagonal line, or the bias.
If we equate the fabric with news consumers, any story that upsets a consumer is the diagonal line, or the bias.
In either case, the news story is the constant, because it doesn’t change regardless of who’s consuming it. The person who reacts to the story is the variable, because his or her reaction varies according to pre-existing views.
That explains why when we say, “media bias,” what we’re talking about is “a news channel that distributes news or opinions I don’t agree with and that are unflattering to my point of view or who I voted for.”
In other words, if you want to deliver a haymaker to “media bias,” wherever you think it exists, knock yourself out—literally. Because bias also, and always, is in the eye of the beholder, so if media bias exists, we all deserve black eyes.
P.S. A word about “fake news.” That word is an oxymoron, because “fake news” is a contradiction in terms: If it’s fake, it’s not news; if it’s news, it’s not fake.
Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.