Sunday, October 01, 2006

An appearance of neutrality

Baltimore's Urbanite magazine is generally a pretty bland affair; usually a collection of neighbourhood memoirs, community feel-good stories and loads of gushy dross about the newest vogue in home remodeling touches, all interspersed with advertisements for tony private schools and the latest in comestic dentistry. But this month's edition is surprising for its meaty content and discussions of democracy, with an excellent essay by William Evitts and an interview with former CBS foreign correspondent Tom Fenton on media bias, Mad as Hell.

I note this because of Mash's pointed criticism of an AP article about the IRS and its investigations of churches, wherein he rightly charges bias as it is introduced by the appearance of "neutrality." The AP article is an example of something Fenton touches on in the interview:
The problem is not fairness and balance,” he replies, to my first question about the challenges of reporting the news. “People talk about fairness and balance all the time. The problem is thinness. It’s the lack of news. That’s where you get bias.
Purposefully omitting pertinent facts can introduce enormous bias and it is far more insidious because, unless a reader/viewer is aware of the outlying facts, they won't even know that they have been swayed one way or another. This is truly the art of propaganda.

And bravo to Urbanite for this month's issue; a significant cut above the usual fair.


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