Wednesday, September 29, 2004

What liberal bias?

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:22 PM |  

I don’t have a lot of interest in the debate over whether or not the mainstream media has a liberal bias. It’s kind of like debating whether or not the winter is cold in Minnesota. But just as there are sometimes unseasonably warm days in January, occasionally a journalist caught up in his cleverness leaves a liberal out in the cold.

That’s what happened to Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Writing in Tuesday’s Pioneer Press, Bill Salisbury leads his article on her St. Paul visit noting that the usually outspoken Heinz Kerry did not speak to reporters, “who were not allowed to ask questions during her 45-minute visit." He then follows with this paragraph --

"Perhaps her campaign handlers wanted to make sure the usually outspoken and opinionated multimillionaire philanthropist didn't spark another controversy, as she did when she told a conservative newspaper editorial writer to "shove it" or when she told a newspaper that "only an idiot" wouldn't support her husband's health care plan. "Of course, there are idiots," she added."
Not being a “journalist” by the standards of Nick Coleman and David Broder, I can’t make a positive judgment, but the word “perhaps” that begins that paragraph just might be a tad speculative for an “objective” news story, eh?

And you know what, that’s not all that bad. A political beat writer for the Pioneer Press, Salisbury ought to have the insight to make those kinds of speculations. And when he does, he’s providing a service to readers of the Pioneer Press. He’s letting us in on something we might otherwise not be privy to.

It’s the individual reader’s responsibility to test what he reads against his own knowledge and biases.

The point (which is lost on Nick Coleman) is that journalists and bloggers both have biases that we bring to stories. “Objectivity” is not writing without bias. An “objective journalist” is one that subjects his bias to the facts he’s presented with and looks for the truth, not some homogenized “balance” that is neither true nor false.

A “hack” is a writer that ignores the facts in favor of bias -- for example, ignoring the power of the blogosphere to alert the news media, to source experts, to consolidate knowledge from diverse sources and ultimately to accelerate the news cycle, just because he found a blogger speculating on the size of the president’s penis.

Bottom line -- Salisbury did readers a service by putting his knowledge into the story. Maybe tomorrow he’ll take a shot at one of my guys, but he’s earned that right, too. Just as I’ve earned the right to challenge his conclusions.

Read "Planes, trans and forges memos"


In a classic example of marketing myopia, Levitt describes how railroads, operating with a product focus, dismissed the airplane as an innovation to be embraced. They disastrously perceived themselves in the narrow "railroad" business, not the broader "transportation" business and consumers didn't necessarily need railroads — they needed transportation.

Already faced with a significantly functioning blogosphere, are there network executives, newspaper publishers and station managers asking themselves, "What business are we in?" Are they coming up with answers other than "television news," "newspaper publication" and "radio programming?" Have they considered the "information" business and what that recognition might mean for their relationship to bloggers, the Internet and their customers?