• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Beyond bias


In an article titled "Our American Pravda," Ron Unz, the businessman, writer, and publisher of The American Conservative, argues that there is good reason to be alarmed by the failures of the American media. Surveying stories as diverse as the Soviet spies that infiltrated the U.S. government during the Cold War, the bankruptcy of Enron, the anthrax attacks of 2001, the run-up to the Iraq War, and the Vioxx scandal, he points out that major news organizations have repeatedly missed or inexplicably ignored newsworthy facts and events of the utmost significance. "The realization that the world is often quite different from what is presented in our leading newspapers and magazines is not an easy conclusion for most educated Americans to accept," he writes. "For decades, I have closely read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and one or two other major newspapers every morning, supplemented by a wide variety of weekly or monthly opinion magazines. Their biases in certain areas had always been apparent to me. But I felt confident that by comparing and contrasting the claims of these different publications and applying some common sense, I could obtain a reasonably accurate version of reality. I was mistaken."

An interesting read, and important stuff (both the original article and Conor Friedersdorf's lengthy response to it) if you're someone who wants to be as informed as possible about what's going on in the world.

Conservatives tend to overstate the effect of bias on bad reporting, and liberals generally underappreciate it. Once we stop focusing so much of the debate on that aspect, we can identify plenty of other flaws in journalism, some of them fixable and some not. Many of us in the business have elegant beliefs about our work on "history's first draft," but too many of us treat our output as set in stone. "Current events" is a moving target, and sometimes those are simply too hard to hit.