Possibly since the rise of Rupert Murdoch, probably since long before that, the media establishment has been incessantly accused of bias. The left see the media establishment, overwhelming owned and operated by the rich upper crust, as skewing their stories to favour the rich and right wing politicians. The right see the media establishment, overwhelmingly staffed by highly educated city dwellers, as skewing their stories to attack traditional values and favour left wing politicians. Both sides see their ideological brethren as innocent, the sole honest men in a sea of propagandists. I used to share this idea, that there are some media outlets that are strictly objective while others are not. But having spent the last few weeks interning at a newspaper, I now realise there is no such thing as a truly objective journalist or newspaper.
There are of course many journalists who are ideologically biased, and this is the foundation of much of the criticism. One merely has to look at any of Rupert Murdoch’s media organizations, the Guardian in England, or any number of ideologically charged blogs and Internet newspapers, to realise that many media professionals are ideologically biased. But this is not the only bias that can strike journalists.
In the last three weeks I have written close to twenty articles on various subjects, many of which have been published in the newspaper. Each and every time I wrote an article, I got to decide what went in, and what got left out. Who got quoted, and what part of what they said got quoted. Not being a Sri Lankan resident, I have no ideological or philosophical ties to anyone here, I don’t have any real biases, and I am not rooting for any team. And yet there is of course some bias, for me the bias was largely interest. If I found something more interesting than something else, the interesting thing won. I wanted my articles to get published; I wanted people to read my work. I was not biased on ideological grounds, or motivated by tribalism or favouritism, I was motivated by interest.
No matter how hard they may try to remain neutral on the issues, there will always be some form of bias, in my case it was interest, in others it may be pre conceived notions or sensationalism. It is absolutely impossible to remove, and that is why we must stop thinking of some news outlets as good and some as bad. Sure, some are worse than others, Fox News is worse than CNN for example, but no media organization or journalist is completely without bias in some form or another. A truly objective media is a pipedream.