Re: Screw “Fair and Balanced”? I don’t think so!

“How can we expect unbiased journalism when just deciding which news is worth covering is inherently biased?” – See more at: http://rare.us/story/screw-fair-and-balanced-give-me-biased-news-any-day/#sthash.q5zvKfBz.dpuf

I just read an article from Rare that made some solid points about biases in journalism, but drew a hasty conclusion I’d like to refute.  Bonnie Kristian (the author) is correct that even if journalists give “just the facts”, that doesn’t stop them from cherry-picking the facts.  Furthermore, even when they are trying to be objective, they are human.  They can try to be balanced, try to put things in context, and try to listen to all sides; but they will have a slant inevitably.  (As a college professor of political science, I can relate.)  So essentially, I agree completely with this article’s criticisms of objective journalism (AKA “Fair and Balanced”).

However, due to the inherent imperfection of objective journalism, the author Bonnie Kristian draws the conclusion that we should stop even trying.  I think the title says it all.  So essentially, because this isn’t perfect, we should tear it down.  My car recently had a dead battery.  I didn’t take it to the scrap yard.  I just replaced the battery.

For objective journalism, as with objective teaching, there’s a clear difference between journalists who try their best to be objective, and those who aren’t even trying.  Anderson Cooper has no problem calling out Republicans, Democrats, and whoever else when he catches them either lying or spinning half-truths  (Example posted below.)  Anderson Cooper is a human being, and certainly has issues that matter to him.  However, he’s perfectly capable of being objective.  Is he perfectly, 100% objective, 100% of the time?  Doubtful.  But if he’s objective 99% of the time, should he lose all credibility over that 1%?  There’s a big difference between that, and say, Sean Hannity, who is very clever at presenting factoids in ways that are purposefully misleading.  I’ve heard Sean Hannity claim that nearly half of Americans are paying “no taxes at all”, and then in the same segment, criticize the “tax” on cell phones.  The half he’s referring to are those Americans who don’t make enough money to fit into even the lowest tax bracket, so they aren’t paying INCOME TAXES.  They are, however, paying plenty of other taxes, including the tax on cell phones.  Does that stop halftruth Hannity?  Of course not.

I should hope that this Rare author Bonnie Kristian would not be so absurd as to claim that Hannity is on the same level as Cooper.  But if I follow his logic, I would draw that absurd conclusion.  None of them can be entirely objective, so I guess we should just let them all be openly biased?  No, I don’t give up on something just because it isn’t perfect.  Having an ongoing series of “infowars” between manipulative, shameless pundits is not going to help us draw better conclusions.  Kristian does make a compelling argument that journalists should be watchdogs who catch wrong doing and “shame the devil”.  Agreed.  But Kristian is implying that this is somehow in contrast to objective journalism.  Objective does not mean necessarily taking the middle of the road position every time.  I’m a centrist, and even I get that.

Objectivity is an imperfect, ongoing process when we’re searching for the truth.  We should always listen to reasonable, even if radical positions from different sides.  But those partisan pundits who aren’t even trying to be fair?  Don’t even listen to them.  Some might think that if they listen to “both sides”, they will get a better, more balanced perspective.  You aren’t getting any smarter by listening to both sides of stupid.

 

Anderson Cooper calling out Moveon.org for half-truth regarding “war on women”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFRNXBADEl0

Cooper calling out Debbie Wasserman Shultz for misrepresenting Romney’s position on abortion:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8k-KuYJraEg

 

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