Journalistic Bias

opinion

I believe all reporters have a bias on the stories they cover. The same is true for the newspaper where they work. It’s a little more difficult to discern bias in a good newspaper, but it is there if you pay attention.

There was an article in yesterday’s Ledger. At first blush, it would appear to be news since it covered the CSX Project. It was actually the Ledger creating the news by polling some of those who had worked in the issue.

The “some” is more important than the fact the Ledger created news with the poll. Of course, the Ledger will claim they wanted to poll only the most vocal critics and proponents. That choice makes evident a bias. There were others in the process who were behind-the-scenes, but helped sway the project both pro and con. The Ledger wouldn’t have had trouble identifying those important but more moderate players.

Newspapers often take these kind of polls to gauge reactions among players or the public. However, reporters make lousy pollsters. Evidently, as lousy as some reporters believe do politicians.

I’m not sure who created the poll questions, Rousos, his Editor, or some combination of staff, but what greater bias could they have announced than with with the twelfth question:

Q. Lakeland, fearing its downtown would be divided in two by freight trains, screamed murder at the commuter-rail plan. Did that win the city any friends?

Seriously, “screamed murder?” I failed to note any person in Lakeland ever quoted as “screaming murder” in regard to the project. A few seconds, and a lack of an agenda, could rewrite the question:

Q. Lakeland residents mounted the only resident coordinated campaign against the project. How has that colored your opinion of the city or the group, if at all?

I don’t have the time this morning to respond to the poll, to ask why others against the project weren’t polled, or to call the questions further into question. I am sure we all could suggest additional questions — with and without bias — the Ledger could have asked. That might be a good project for later this week. What would you have asked those players?

8 thoughts on “Journalistic Bias

  1. I abhor polls (especially from a news organization) just about as much as a broadcast teaser. It is just wasted space.
    And I fear the average person never considers the most important question. The one that never gets asked. What is the purpose (or agenda) of a poll. No matter who asks the questions, there is an anticipated end result. Now whether they get it is all in the writing of the results. You can always get what you want according to your selection of the participants. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t believe in the un-biased poll.

    Do you get the feeling that management of the Ledger might be expecting a little payback from enemies of their CSX coverage?

  2. I abhor polls (especially from a news organization) just about as much as a broadcast teaser. It is just wasted space.
    And I fear the average person never considers the most important question. The one that never gets asked. What is the purpose (or agenda) of a poll. No matter who asks the questions, there is an anticipated end result. Now whether they get it is all in the writing of the results. You can always get what you want according to your selection of the participants. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t believe in the un-biased poll.

    Do you get the feeling that management of the Ledger might be expecting a little payback from enemies of their CSX coverage?

  3. Maybe hysteria would have been a better description.
    Maybe he could have taken a page from the late Hunter Thompson and called it “Fear And Loathing in Downtown Lakeland.”

  4. Maybe hysteria would have been a better description.
    Maybe he could have taken a page from the late Hunter Thompson and called it “Fear And Loathing in Downtown Lakeland.”

  5. I didn’t take offense to the article. I found it informative. If anything, I thought the “screamed murder at the commuter-rail plan” simply made the question more interesting, but your suggestion would have sufficed. I think we all know that no one literally “screamed murder,” but let’s face it, some people- Julie Townsend comes to mind- were quite vocal. And personally, I’m glad those people were vocal. Those were the people who made me change my ambivalent stance and actually give a crap about what was going on. Julie was saying aloud what many people were thinking, but were unable to articulate, perhaps.

  6. I didn’t take offense to the article. I found it informative. If anything, I thought the “screamed murder at the commuter-rail plan” simply made the question more interesting, but your suggestion would have sufficed. I think we all know that no one literally “screamed murder,” but let’s face it, some people- Julie Townsend comes to mind- were quite vocal. And personally, I’m glad those people were vocal. Those were the people who made me change my ambivalent stance and actually give a crap about what was going on. Julie was saying aloud what many people were thinking, but were unable to articulate, perhaps.

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