Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Fair? Balanced? Does it matter?
I've mentioned before -- I'm sure I have -- that years ago, I used to do news for a small south Georgia radio station. Not that I was any good. But I did give it my best shot. That fact that I'm not doing that for a living today says something about just how good I was. Or wasn't. Still, I learned that you try to do the news straight. There's news. And there's opinion. Sports has a bit of both. Weather, too, to be honest. But news? Just the facts. Leave opinion out of it. And try to play it straight. You don't see that anymore. Not much, anyway. But is it fair to criticize a news reporter for his story? Or her story? After all, they're human. They have opinions. But, they shouldn't let their opinions interfere with their jobs. Do they? Yes, some do. Actually, a lot do. It's rare that reporters don't. At least, on the national level. But is the criticism fair? If a reporter files a story on a topic about which you have strong feelings, are you going to say the reporter is playing it straight if the reports seems to support your opinion? Or will you say the reporter is biased if the story contradicts your opinion? Is the bias in the eye of the beholder? I believe that sometimes it is. But, I also believe that often, the reporter isn't reporting, but editorializing. Let's conduct a little experiment, shall we? Look at my recent post on a DNC-sponsored rally in Columbus, Georgia. The rally was organized by a DNC-sponsored group that calls itself a grassroots organization. Yeah, I wrote my opinion of that earlier. But, take three minutes and look at my report. Ignore the poor quality of the video and the audio. I have an old, hand-held JVC camcorder, not some fancy camera like the local TV stations have. And, I have that south Georgia accent. Plus, built-in microphone on an overtaxed MacBook. The quality of the audio and video aside, look at the content. Did I report it straight? Heck, compare it against a report I did on a July 4th Tea Party rally. Did I favor one side or the other? If you've read anything I've written, you may have picked up how I personally feel. But, looking just at the reports, did I report it fairly? Was it balanced? If I didn't report it straight, then it shows just how hard it is to keep personal bias out. Keep that in mind when you watch a real reporter. (Here's an example of what I see as a fairly balanced report from an actual reporter.) But... if I did report it straight, that brings up the question: why can't others do it, if some old, fat, gray-haired loudmouth white guy (me, not Ted Kennedy) can? Then again, does it matter? At least, does it matter whether or not I report something fair and balanced? I mean, I'm a blogger. And if you read this blog for news, then something is seriously wrong with you. Or something is seriously wrong with the state of traditional news reporting. One or the other.