Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Where is the liberal bias in the media?

On Sunday, September 21st, there was a historic march in New York City. More than 400,000 people gathered to march in protest in favor of the earth, to protest the economic policies that have given rise to climate change. The story was plastered all over the internet. There is no way you could miss it in any social media or news on the internet. Yet, our Sunday morning talk shows had nothing to say about it.

Most conservative politicians would rather whine about liberal media bias than tell you about all the stuff that is missing from the news. From massive trade deals to gerrymandering, most politics is omitted from the news to avoid stirring up the vote every two years. Instead, the news brings you gory stories about violence between people or how a kitten was rescued from a tree by a fireman. Network news, even local news, is very unappealing compared to what I can get on the internet.

If anything, the media has a conservative bias in favor of stories about people rather than stories about what elected and unelected representatives are voting for. Over at the Daily KOS, they have a list of big news stories that would be front page news if there were a liberal bias in the media. But they're not news. Why?

Think about what you buy when you buy a newspaper. There is room for news and room for advertising. That space for advertising? That's called the "newshole". The rest of the real estate is for advertising. Your 50 cents isn't what pays for the newspaper. The advertisers pay for the newspaper. And if the advertisers aren't happy with a story that appears next to their ad, you can bet that the editor is going to hear about it.

Who are the advertisers? They are capitalists with businesses big and small. They've made an investment in advertising to draw you in to their store or website to buy something. They are making a bet that their products will have better sales when you see their ads. So if you run a paper, you better have nice, gushy stories about how great capitalists are while showing how bad those little people can be to other little people. Yeah, capitalists are different from the little people. I know one of them. He thinks he's immortal. Seriously.

This is just my take on the news. I look for the news I want to see. But I also know that if there is any concern about bias in the media, there is something I can do on the internet that I can't do on TV. I can cross check stories. That means I can search for stories in the news and then read about the same story from different regions of the country and the world.

Cross-checking a story allows me to corroborate facts about a story. I will read conservative and liberal sources, for and against, and I will look for any other way to contrast sources so that I can get two opposing views of the same topic. It's easy to do. When I search for a topic in Google News, there are often several hundred to several thousand hits that I can choose from. I can hopscotch around the country to read about one story to get a better sense of the fairness of narrative.

Remember, reading is not believing, it is thinking. Whether or not there is bias in the media, we all have our own biases. we have biases in what we choose to read, where we choose to find our sources and how we choose to interpret what we read. We can read with an uncritical eye or we can do some research on topics that are more important to us.

With every word, every sentence, every paragraph that we read in, we must find a way to make sense of it for ourselves. When we share that information, we can add our own narrative to the story, and so the next person does the same thing, and so on. That is how we've done it for thousands of years. That is the only way we know how. The internet, as far as I can tell, is the best resource for checking our sources, their biases and their facts. The internet has become a repository for all human knowledge, irrespective of bias.

But there is one thing that is incontrovertible: the climate is changing, people have noticed and they are asking their leaders to take action. That is front page news, top of the hour news on TV, but not in this country.

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