How Biased Should News Be?

Tagged:  •    •    •    •    •  

Here's a question. Should the news try to be objective? There is no doubt that Olbermann is a brilliant, articulate, analytic genius whose passion tends to agree with mine, and I love him. But, should we evolve toward a news environment that is totally composed of competing one-sided shows (like Olbermann and O'Reilly)? That seems to be the direction we are heading.

In general news should be unbiased, such as the bulk of any newspaper. But sometimes it's OK to be biased, such as in editorial portions of newspapers – maybe also on TV shows – it's so clear that most TV news is not really "news" anyhow, it's entertainment – except BBC, and Jim Lehrer.

In either case, what bothers me is not bias, but lack of facts and lack of a statement of the where (source) the facts came from. To me, journalism should be footnoted like crazy, just like scientific papers are.

What I absolutely love is when, for example, Tim Russert will play a video of what somebody said X years ago, then play what they said the other day, and put them on the spot. The facts are right there for all to see, along with the source of those facts - that is the ultimate.

But too often all of that is lacking. It's just a war of opinions, not facts. Listen to Rush Limbaugh sometime - nothing but opinion. O'Reilly and Olbermann throw in facts a bit, especially Olbermann, but not really enough.

We should all demand facts and pay no attention to anything that isn’t.

I love

Dan Gillmor at the Center for Citizen Media has written extensively about the need for traditional news outlets to open up to the "people formerly known as the audience." Online tools, like this one (the ACME website - my bias : ) provide opportunities for people who know a great deal on certain topics to share what they know with others interested in similar issues.

My hope is that more news organizations would open themselves up to similar online forums to provide more points of view, ultimately allowing people to decide for themselves after reviewing a wide range of perspectives on any given "news item".

The BBC News is a great example of a news organization that has embraced the potential of participatory media. However, I do think it's crucial that we continue to ask "who is participating?"