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The Forum > Article Comments > Is the media biased? > Comments

Is the media biased? : Comments

By Chris Lewis, published 7/10/2009

Measuring media bias can be problematic. It is probably best done on an issue by issue basis.

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As a working journalist who has spent more years than he really cares to remember in newsrooms my own take on media bias is that all too often the media reflects the interests of the journalists who write or produce the stories rather than the public who consume the material.
Journalists tend to come from quite a differnt social caste than the readers with the bulk leaning left and interested in social issues. Management of certain organisations may push that inherent bias back the other way, or simply let it go.
Another influence, and there are lots of them, is the inherent bias of news itself.
The struggles of a yong mum in Sydney or Melbourne's western suburbs bringing up two kids after abandonded by her husband, is likely to be more interesting to write about, and read, than those of an Eastern suburbs socialite.
There are yet more influences. The shift towards celebrity and lifestyle reporting, for example.
What about the bias in political reporting? There is a left bias - certainly if the journalists are left to themselves there is - but whether that really influences anyone I cannot say. Newspaper circulations have generally been declining for many years but most of those who now don't pick up a newspaper, I suspect, never looked at the political news anyway. They bought the paper for the car ads or the job ads and those are available online.
Posted by Curmudgeon, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 10:32:00 AM
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It seems to me that media bias could be examined better by looking at the bias of individual journalists and interviewers, rather than the amorphous "media." Who or what do they favour in their comment? Who gives the representatives of a certain point of view a hard time ( with interruptions, debating, counter-examples etc) in interviews?
Comparing the way Kerry O'Brien interviews government and opposition spokespeople will prove this point.
It will then be interesting to see if individual bias congregates on a newspaper or radio or TV station.
Posted by analyst, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 10:49:24 AM
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Surprisingly, Chris Lewis fails to include the ABC as a bias practitioner. Perhaps the most blatant example of ABC bias is its treatment of socalled 'climate change', an issue of universal interest. The ABC is the first to quote alarmist projections of the believers in anthropogenic climate change, and is busily politicking in favour of the CPRS legislation and the Copenhagen meeting. Yet it rigorously censors out any reports or interviews which oppose man-caused climate change, with very few exceptions.
The ABC deliberately ignores the fact that there is no irrefutable scientific evidence to support anthropogenic climate change. The greenhouse theory is just that – a theory. No scientist, nor anyone else for that matter, has been able to prove that it is the main driver of climate change, whether warming or cooling. The environmental-activist-dominated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been able to bluff politicians, the media and the misinformed with mere assertion, complemented by unvalidated alarmist computer modelling. What few seem to realise is that the climate computer models used by the IPCC to project the alarmist outcomes believed by the gullible masses, have not been validated with actual historic data, and never will be, because they are based on the false assumption that climate change is man-caused. The IPCC has failed to explain actual climate history. For example, it was unable to explain why there was a cooling trend from 1940 to 1975, and why there has been a cooling trend since 1998 despite increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and it has failed to predict the El Nino and La Nina effects.
By taking the pro-anthropogenic-climate-change position, tha ABC deliberately breaches its impartiality provisions.
Posted by Raycom, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 11:11:51 AM
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Interesting commnents from a journo.

My gut feeling agrees that most people who read newspapers do often for reasons besides policy stories. I remember in the building industry few workers actually read Andrewe Bolt for example when I aksed, preferring to look at stories of interest before moving on to sport or quiz questions or games.

Nevertheless, if the question of media bias was pursued by a researcher (such as myself), do you feel that a focus on the opinion pages will indicate the balance of a paper on key issues, even though only a small minority of the public and readers may be interested?
I was thinking of maybe examining sydney and melbourne and including the major tabloid, the SMH and the Age, OLO, and perhaps the major stories covered by the ABC that are made available via transcript.
Posted by Chris Lewis, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 3:12:30 PM
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Hi Chris

I have a sense of humour. Your article has given me a great ironic chuckle.

I think overall, the thrust of your article, that media bias is best assessed on an issue by issue basis is accurate.

Now here comes the irony, note not criticism, and smile.

In your article you refer to Health and particularly:

'... Labor and the Coalition may offer different policy versions of what is needed to fix Australia’s hospitals, yet neither party has prevented longer waiting lists and greater budgetary difficulties for public medical facilities'

Now I think here your bias or more probably your misunderstanding and communicating of such causes a perception of bias.

we all know health administration, hospital budgets and waiting lists are a states responsibility. The only Federal connect is overall health funding and medicare. So for you to infer the hospitals need fixing because neither party has prevented longer waiting lists is just not a reasoned assessment of the situation. The states have had Labor Governments responsible for hospital administration for most of the past 15-20 years during which time the waiting lists have exploded. It's essentially their mis-management and very little to do with any Federal Governments funding or administration.

Now, however, add to the equation Kevvy's election promise to take over the hospitals if the states cannot 'get it right' and well, there you go ... your expressed fact...that both parties are responsible for the 'non-fix' in hospital waiting lists looks altogether a bit silly.

Now some would yell bias but I think your article is like so many others on 'blame game' issues. ie a 'snowing' and/or reporting in a confused manner. Those inept efforts to many would suggest you and many others have a left labor leaning sympathy, and in this case you do appear, by omission, to be trying to hide Kevvy's rather explicit election promise.

I think it's a lack of professional investigation coupled with shallow and cursory understanding of our political system and it's everyday workings also leads to the perception of bias.
Posted by keith, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 4:41:37 PM
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I am glad you think issues is the way to go. I also think your comments are fair and help me understand what I am also doing wrong.

As far as using health as an issue, I probably put it the wrong way as an example and was not accurate with my summary of govt responsibility for different health responsibilities. I wanted to say that such an issue can be judged by articles urging more or less govt intervention at the federal level,and that media coverage may also force both parties to move one way or another as did with greater assistance by the Coalition towards Medicare.

As you rightfully suggest, I should try to remove my value judgments as much as possible, as I have tried to do with many of my past Quadrant and OLO pieces. I would be merely seeking to unravel the bias of stories towards issues any any qualitative analysis would probably have to set a different criteria for each issue.

I hope that sounds better. Let me know what you think.

As for my own views, I probably do have some bias to a centre-;eft perspective, but I am learning by the day (since 1998) that almost every policy idea or response to each issue has both strengths and weaknesses, as evident by the policy positions of both Labor and the Coalition. As i say to students, few (if any) can offer flawless summary of events or ideas.

However, every now and then I will drop my guard and offer a piece that will express my own conerns. This article on media bias was not meant to be one, so I thank you for your comments.

Posted by Chris Lewis, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 6:17:35 PM
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