Twenty-five years ago, I got my first real education into the way that media bias can drastically transform a story. Being an eye witness to what took place and then seeing how those same events were portrayed in our evening news helped me to recognize that a story can be distorted just as easily through creative editing as it can by an outright lie. Tragically, objective and impartial news has become something that is almost extinct. Too often, news reporters today (right or left) are more interested in proving their narrative of the world than they are in objectively and unbiased reporting the news and we, who are the consumers of the news they report, need to compensate for this shortcoming. Impartiality is always difficult, but it is something we must strive for if we care about the truth at all. And when those who report the news no longer willing to strive for impartiality, then we need to work even harder to overcome their failings or we will end up being taken in by their lies.
How my education began
Our local school board had introduced material into the Jr. and HS curriculum that contained significant portions of text that were nothing short of pornographic. This curriculum was introduced under the guise of “multiculturalism” and our community was outraged when content of that material was revealed. At the school board meeting following that revelation, the room was overflowing with angry parents. During the portion of the meeting reserved for public comment, the normal rule of alternating speakers on each side of the issue had to be changed because those desiring to speak in opposition to the schools board’s decision so vastly outnumbered those who were supporting it. After a tally of all speakers was made, it was decided that for each person speaking in support of the school boards decision, five people would be permitted to speak against it. About half way through the public address, the principle from one of the schools spoke in support, her speech began as follows “You, board, should be ashamed of yourselves because you have already allowed parents to have far more input into the curriculum of our schools than is proper! These are not professional educators and they should not be influencing……” This is about as far as she got before the room full of angry parents erupted. It took several minutes for order to be restored, and one man, who would not calm down, was escorted from the meeting by the police.
What was presented on all of our local news channels that night
The news that evening showed excerpts from five speakers during the public address section. They chose excerpts from four speakers who had supported the school boards decision, and they chose the most well articulated portions of their speeches, even though these four speakers represented only a tiny fraction of the total number of speakers, and they choose one of the least educated and least articulate speakers to represent the views of the vast majority who had attended. Then they showed video of the irritate man being led away by the police, but did not air the portion of the school principle’s speech that led to the rooms eruption or make mention of the reaction of the rest of the room to her comments. Those who watched the news that night were left with the impression that almost everyone in attendance, with the exception of a few uneducated angry parents, supported the schools decision.
What I learned that night
- It is important to consider both what has been reported and what may have been left out.
- It is important to look for other sources to collaborate what is being said. For example, a review of the published school board minutes would have revealed a perspective that was contrary to the reports on the news that night.
- It is important to consider the biases of those who are reporting the news, and what story we believe that they would like to tell.
When we watch the news, we need to recognize that far too often the story we hear is the one the reporter wants to tell, even when it is very different from the actual events that took place. We need to do our do diligence and look for reliable source to collaborate the story we have been told. And we need to be even more careful to verify sources that appear to support our own perspectives, knowing that it far easier to blindly accept information that seems to support our perceptions.