Freedom, Fairness, and Futility

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"In the 1930s, public skepticism about the press’s ability to cover politics fairly was very high. It reached a peak in the spring of 1939 when 61% said newspapers were unfair in their treatment of political news. That’s not much different from the result obtained by the Pew Research Center in 1997 when 67% said news organizations tend to favor one side in their reporting on political and social issues" (Haiman 65).

After reading this section of Haiman's book, I found the above quote to be extremely important in today's 21st century news reporting industry. I bet that each of you know what type of paper your hometown has - liberal or conservative?

It seems to be amazing that politics have been named for particular papers. I also believe that this is not a good thing because if someone is conservative, then they might not buy a paper that is deemed liberal. Fariness is the right thing to do, but it seems that a reporter may interview more conservative politicans than liberal or the other way around.

Why is the paper unfair when reporting politics?

Has the media influenced the way articles are reported?

In 1939, Haiman said that more than half (about 60%) of the surveryed people said the paper was unfair, but in 1997 more than half (about 70%) said that the paper seemed unfair.

Why has this number increased with the new types of technology that we have available to us?

If the paper seems so unfair, then why do people read it? Is it because if one is conservative, then they will buy a conservative paper and if one is liberal, then they will buy a liberal paper?

Click here for the course web page devoted to Haiman.

6 Comments

Honestly, Derek, the answer to your question about why people's approval rating is down is that I think that now more than ever people like to complain. Everyone is a critic. People always think they can do the job better than the person who's in charge. We all complain about things that are out of our hands because it gives us a sense of control. If we just suck it up and deal with it, it seems like we've lost a little more control and small parts of us die inside.

Now to the heart of your argument. Newspapers are extremely biased sometimes. I pointed out on my blog entry http://blogs.setonhill.edu/AngelaPalumbo/2009/11/can_somebody_say_amen.html how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette can be very unfair. So can the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. But, I do see a glimmer of hope every once in a while. I believe it was last Monday there was an article in the Post-Gazette talking about how Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl was trying to pass a bill that would tax college students attending the colleges in the city. The Post-Gazette is usually considered the Democrat paper yet here they are presenting a rather unbiased story about a fellow Democrat. They showed the story fairly and let the audience decide what they thought about the new tax.

Derek, I actually kind of disagree with you about declaring what position a newspaper takes. I do understand what you’re saying though. In some ways, by being open about what side your newspaper leans towards it encourages people to only report that side. However, at the same time, when the paper is upfront about what their official position is on issues, it is easier for the reader to be aware of what biases might be inherent in the paper. If I know that a paper’s official position on the death penalty is that it is good a thing, then when I read an article in that paper on the death penalty, I will pay more attention to who they talk to and how fair the reporting is. This way, I will be more aware of the possibility of biases in one direction or another and be able to read all the articles in that paper with that recognition. I think it’s better that papers be open about what positions they have, instead of trying to hide them. It is impossible for people not to have a position one way or the other; we all have opinions about everything. So if the paper is forthright and open about what their reporters and staff believe, we can be more critically aware and pensive about what we read. Now, on the other side of this, I think it is perfectly possible for a reporter who may personally disagree with something to write a perfectly good newspaper article about it. However, the fact that we as readers know the paper’s stance will both force the reporter to be more careful about being unbiased and allow the reader to consider the biases that might exist.

I liked how you questioned, an related you article in some way to fairness it sparked my reading and blogging. I wrote about fairness and the realtionship to the links that we look at and the investigative research that can be considered fair and unfair, and a few other little things.
Overall in my belief I think that the media has played a role in the way the the articles are reported. The talk about politics and the responses that reporters get makes them narrow there assumption if A is A then B has to be B.
And that is how we get to C. You know what I mean like reporters take their facts and role with it even if their not given the full story. If in the case there is no further investgation to dig deeper is done. Get what I mean?
An your reference to the percents and such I wonder if we could get more updated info for the 20th century and how this decade and the news is being portrayed between fair and unfair. I think that would be cool, but from my research it was hard to find.
Great post!

It would be really interesting to find out the facts for the 20th century and in relation to fairness and the news.

Greta- I agree that since people know what type of political stance a paper has, then the reporter is more likely to be more careful when writing an article. They will want to appeal to the readers and make their authorship have credibility.

It is interesting to consider the role technology may play in fairness. Perhaps since there is just so much information available and communication is much more readily available, it is harder than ever for journalists to sort through what is rumor, what deserves further investigation, and what is fact. While the internet provides a good source of information and it is easier than ever to get ideas and info, it’s also a lot harder to sort through the credibility. And in light of all the news stories posted on websites, it’s all the more important to be fair and get the facts straight, because even more people have access to the articles you may write.

I agree with you, Greta. If I know that a person has a specific position, it becomes a little easier to talk to her. The same goes with a newspaper. I know when to fact check or not. It is especially important, I think, to know a paper's opinion when they disagree with their own side. If a republican newspaper reports on a republican candidate saying that he is corrupt and should be taken out of office, it seems that this might be something to pay attention to (unless, of course, election time is coming up and the newspaper backs another candidate). I have seen this before and it really made me think about the situation I was reading about.

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This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on November 15, 2009 6:32 PM.

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