Our ban on bias

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2007 at 4:57 pm

I subscribe to a number of newspapers in the U.K. through my RSS feed; my favorites are The Telegraph and The Daily Mail. My foreign newspaper feeds are the only newspapers I read regularly, besides my local papers. Why is it that I eschew national news outlets like CNN and USA Today for stories written an ocean away?

They’re more interesting. American papers pretend to leave their biases at the door when they print stories. It lends to some boring story-telling.

Consider this story from The Daily Mail.

Even the headline is a grabber: Broken-hearted disabled husband dies after helplessly listening as his wife is murdered in Spain. The words an editor on this side of the pond would cut out I’ve put in bold. Disabled is a maybe, are we allowed to print the world disabled in these PC times? A more likely headline would go something like this: Spanish man dies two weeks after wife’s murder. I’d be less likely to spontaneously click on my version of the headline in a feed. The newspaper headline, if it was printed, would probably be even shorter to save space.

The big difference, from what I’ve seen, between journalism in the U.S. vs. journalism in Britain is the use of adjectives. Once I delved into the story, it was a basic obituary with descriptions like “tormented” and “brutally” peppered into the finished product. I read the entire article, down to the end and thought about all the time my own adjectives were deleted by editors who thought I put too much of myself into my work.

Is it a sign of weakness to hope for a time U.S. journalists can use similar modifiers? Or, is it a sign of the times as the internet changes the way we read, write and live our lives?

  1. Journalism’s not about storytelling. It’s about business. Despite the biases that influence a paper’s content — or the subtle biases that may surface in an article — I don’t think the people at the top of the food chain are willing to boast an open bias in fear of alienating those who support their organizations. And with more and more papers struggling, many decision-makers are more fearful of losing support than ever. Some are trying to adopt other technologies to distribute their product. But it’ll be interesting to see how many opt to go out on a ledge and adapt to the times through opening up their styles as well.

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