Friday, July 29, 2005

The circle of bias

Dan Mitchell's brilliant letter to Romanesko nails down the truth about most bias accusations:

The whole bias-spotting industry, left and right -- operates on the assumption that everybody in the world is a rank, simpleminded ideologue. I am more convinced every day that rank, simpleminded ideologues assume that everybody else -- perceived friend or perceived foe alike -- is the same as them. I guess it helps them make sense of a complicated world -- ideologues don't do nuance. They can't tell one shade of gray from another -- all is black or white. They are binary creatures.

Here's the fact that should (but won't) make the bias industry finally quiet down: Most journalists-- and I have known hundreds -- aren't particularly political. Not even politics reporters. They have opinions -- just like regular humans do -- but generally, they are far more inquisitive than they are ideological.


It may be hard for some to believe, especially those who spend a lot of time slinging opinions online, but plenty of people don't stake their entire identity on their political beliefs. Someone might be an Episcopalian first, a computer programmer second, comic book reader third, soccer fan fourth ... and Democrat-leaning voter 40th.

Bias accusations are hurled at academia just as they are at the media, and they usually miss the mark for this reason -- journalists and professors are people who want to learn, then pass on what they've learned. Those who would try to do the latter without the former end up being pretty bad at the job. In the media, sadly, those people are rewarded with talk shows. In academia, they're generally shunned, which is why academia is so alluring for jealous journalists.

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