Rhetorica – Media/Political Bias

27 05 2008

Rhetorica – Media/Political Bias

I. Opening Notes:
a. There is no such thing as an objective point of view.
b. Politicians are biased and overtly so.
c. Journalists are biased too.
d. The press is often thought of as a unified voice with a distinct bias.

II. Critical Questions for Detecting Bias
a. What is the author’s/speaker’s socio-political position? With what social, political, or professional groups is the speaker identified?
b. Does the speaker have anything to gain personally from delivering the message?
c. Who is paying for the message? Where does the message appear? What is the bias of the medium? Who stands to gain?
d. What sources does the speaker use, and how credible are they? Does the speaker cite statistics? If so, how were the data gathered, who gathered the data, and are the data being presented fully?
e. How does the speaker present arguments? Is the message one-sided, or does it include alternative points of view? Does the speaker fairly present alternative arguments? Does the speaker ignore obviously conflicting arguments?
f. If the message includes alternative points of view, how are those views organized? Does the speaker use positive words and images to describe his/her point of view and negative words and images to describe other points of view? Does the speaker ascribe positive motivations to his/her points of view and negative motivations to alternate points of view?

III. Bias in the news media
1. Inherent, or structural bias.
b. Commercial Bias: The news business is a money making business.
c. Temporal bias: The news media are biased toward the immediate.
d. Visual Bias: Television is biased toward visual depictions of news.
e. Bad news bias: Good news is boring, so news is biased toward bad news.
f. Narrative bias: The news media voer the news in terms of stories that must have a beginning, middle, and end.
g. Status Quo bias: The news media believe “the system works.”
h. Fairness bias: Ethical journalism relies on reporters and editors being fair.
i. Expediency bias: Journalism is a competitive, deadline-driven profession.
j. Glory bias: Journalists, especially television reporters, often assert themselves into the stories they cover.

IV. Structural Bias as Theory
a. Theories allow us to predict outcomes and behavior.
b. Since the press sometimes demonstrates a liberal bias, asserting that the press is conservative neither predicts or explains.

V. News media assumptions about language and discourse
a. Simply communicating by written or spoken words introduced bias to the message.
b. Language mediates our lived experiences.
c. Language can not be neutral, and to speak at all is to speak politically.

1. Moral Politics by George Lakeoff falsely asserts that:
a. Concepts are literal and nonpartisan
b. Language use is neutral
c. News can be reported in neutral terms
d. Mere use of language cannot put anyone at a disadvantage
e. All readers and viewers share the same conceptual system

2. Follow Up
a. These false assumptions by journalists help creae the political bias new consumers often detect in news reporting.
b. It is oftern pointed out that most news reporters are Democrats or vote Democratic.
c. There are conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans.
d. There is no sustained effort to slant the news.

VI. Anti-bias crusading as an elitist practice
a. The supporters of Accuracy in Media and Fairness & Accuracy in Media claims the news media is biased towards Liberal and Conservative opinions respectively. The both see each other as wrong.
b. At times, the media do seem to be biased one way or another.
c. A mistrust of the media is a mistrust of the people.
d. The average American is quite capable of identifying problems with news coverage, and crusading against political bias is an elitist practice.

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