We hear a lot about bias in the media – particularly during election season. Every news report is parsed and examined, every news network scrutinized. There are some very obvious examples of bias (MSNBC and Fox News, in my mind) and others where the bias is more subtle (CNN?). And most of us continually search for that unbiased news source – that one place we can count on to tell us the truth. But as I have pondered this idea of “biased” sources versus “unbiased” sources, I have come to wonder – is there such a thing as an unbiased news source?
I have come to the (potentially temporary) conclusion that such a source does not exist. Why? Because each individual holds a particular worldview that is shaped not only by his or her own experiences, but also the values of society. This worldview allows each person to evaluate something as bad or good, constructive or destructive. Heck, I imagine that the worldview of journalists helps them even determine what a “newsworthy” story is to begin with!
But wait! you might say. I want an unbiased source! I want someone who doesn’t allow their worldview to influence what they report. Really? Are you sure? Can you imagine someone matter-of-factly delivering the news of a murder or horrible accident? Most of the time, reporters express some sort of sadness when they report on such tragic events – I can’t imagine them using some sort of robotic voice to do so. Or the same for a happy or inspiring event – those nice “human interest” stories we get to watch about a child who organized a fund drive to help the hurricane victims, or a goofy event that just looks like fun. Though I admit I often cringe at the seemingly forced banter between anchors and reporters that sometimes follows these reports, I also would be disappointed if they seemed completely detached.
And there’s one more catch: even if you would prefer robot-reported news, I sincerely doubt we could ever find a reporter with no bias whatsoever…who doesn’t allow at least every once in a while for his or her worldview to sneak in there and make a judgment call some of the viewers/readers don’t agree with. Admittedly, I’d like some of the bias to tone down quite a bit, but at the same time I’m really skeptical that news completely devoid of bias is possible.
What do you think? Do you think there is such a thing as an unbiased news source?