Sunday, January 07, 2007

News Or Opinion?

Fox News - All the news that fits the message.On the January 4 Scarborough Country show on NBC, Joe did a segment on Bill O'Reilly's ranting about bias at NBC. Bill claimed everybody at NBC hates President Bush. I don't think that's fair and balanced. I wonder what Bill would say about a claim that everybody at Fox loves President Bush.

Joe Scarborough had a guest, author Bob Kohn. Mr. Kohn claimed as proof of NBC's bias a statement by NBC's respected, veteran journalist and on-air reporter Richard Engel that Saddam Hussein's execution was a "PR disaster". Mr. Kohn asserted that this was clearly biased reporting.

According to Mr. Kohn, Richard Engel could have removed the bias by adding a phrase like "some people said the execution was a" in front of "PR disaster".

Now that would have really convinced me I was listening to objective reporting. Mr. Kohn clearly didn't convince me I should buy his book.

He inadvertently gave a better example of bias when he made the case that Saddam Hussein was a very bad person and history will remember how many people he killed, not how he died. Kohn's point was that the important story was the execution of a terrible dictator who killed many people. That statement clearly shows how Mr. Kohn would have added his bias to the story. I think news reports over many years have established that Saddam Hussein was a very bad person who killed many people and who deserved to die. That is no longer news. His execution and reactions to it was news.

Bias is always present in reporting. It is sometimes overt, but more often it is subtle. Which stories get covered? What angle and aspects of a story are covered? When you show a picture of a person, do you show one that is flattering or one that makes the person look malevolent? As an example, note which pictures of Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi are shown. Ask yourself if that picture might show a bias.

True news organizations and journalists work very hard to report accurately and objectively.

A respectable news paper clearly differentiates news from opinion. There is an opinion section and there are news sections. The cable news shows mix news and opinion into a witches brew that only the dedicated viewer can separate. I suggest that all media find ways to clearly identify which segments are news and should be held to high standards of objectivity and which are opinion.

It is current practice to clutter the edges of the screen with all kinds of "information". How about the word "Opinion" in big letters on the screen?

Today on Fox there was a segment where a guest commentator lambasted Nancy Pelosi for hypocrisy. She objected to Nancy Pelosi surrounding herself with children at the swearing in ceremony last week. How could Nancy Pelosi, a strong proponent of abortion rights, dare to act like she really cared about children? Obviously, people who support a woman's right to choose must hate all children. Only Fox would give such a lunatic air time.

As bad as that was, just prior to the segment was a full screen shot of the word "NEWS". You can only laugh when anyone at Fox complains about news media bias. I suggest that Fox indicate an objective news segment by replacing that annoying, rotating FOX News icon on the lower left of the screen with a yellow non-rotating icon that indicates that this segment is objective news.

Never mind. Now that I think about it I realize they've already done that. You've seen that yellow box haven't you?

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