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Old 09-08-2004, 05:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Dispelling a common myth about journalists

I've seen references to it here over the years, and hear it ALL the time in "the real world." The myth that journalists have no opinion about anything, and that if they DO have an opinion, they're a bad journalist.


We DO have opinions - strong ones - about just about everything, and there's nothing wrong with that. We're not mindless automatons, blindly recording events to regurgitate them in the newspaper or on TV.

There's a difference between opinion and objectivity. You all know I'm rather anti-Bush, but when I do a story on Bush, the viewer would never know it. There's nothing wrong with me disliking Bush, as long as I don't let that opinion influence what I put on the air.

That's why we get so annoyed at the "liberal media / conservative puppet media" comments that get tossed around so much. We're not, and in fact we bend over backwards to make sure our opinions don't influence our coverage (note: I am not, in this post, referring to anyone from the Fox News Channel )

Since I make my living making people answer MY questions, it's only fair that I turn the tables on myself. I'm open to any questions you have about this or other aspects of the profession.
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Old 09-08-2004, 08:16 PM   #2 (permalink)
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[QUOTE=shakran]

There's a difference between opinion and objectivity. You all know I'm rather anti-Bush, but when I do a story on Bush, the viewer would never know it. There's nothing wrong with me disliking Bush, as long as I don't let that opinion influence what I put on the air.

That's why we get so annoyed at the "liberal media / conservative puppet media" comments that get tossed around so much. We're not, and in fact we bend over backwards to make sure our opinions don't influence our coverage,..

QUOTE]

I think that is great. You're one of the better ones then in a sea of mediocrity where subjectivity is oftened masqueraded as some sort of creative excellence in journalism.

Got a story and the facts, great. Wanna gives us your analysis, I don't want to hear it. And the reason is because of this phoney on-air "Panel of Experts" genre that most stations carry non-stop(CNN) and where the same people are the same experts on something different everyday of the week. Pablum. Spoon fed nonsense coming from a bunch of people who read their script while in make-up.

At least you're a good one. It becomes increasingly tiresome, especially opinion columns (yawn) in the paper that repeat the endless drivel regardless of context or fact. But you know, repeat something enough times, and it is true.

Maybe the higher on the ladder you climb the more jaded you will become. Maybe not. Hopefully your paycheques won't be agenda driven by your employer.
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Last edited by OFKU0; 09-08-2004 at 08:19 PM..
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Old 09-09-2004, 06:46 AM   #3 (permalink)
 
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interesting...it's hard to say much specific without knowing your work at all, shakran: could you either post a link or two or pm me with a link if you prefer to keep your selves seperate?
i have questions, but they operate at a kind of aggregate level (things that appear to be necessary causes of particular kinds of outcomes in general)--i woudl prefer to make them more particular. thanks....
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Old 09-09-2004, 03:09 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OFKU0
Maybe the higher on the ladder you climb the more jaded you will become. Maybe not. Hopefully your paycheques won't be agenda driven by your employer.

ROFL! Lemme put it this way. Not a single photojournalist got into this business because they were worried about the size of their paycheck. They're all universally small



Roachboy - I'd be glad to post links to my work if they existed All my stuff goes out on TV, and my station has chosen not to make any of our stories available online. I can tell you more about what I do, however. I'm a general-assignment photojournalist and the chief photographer for my station. That means I go shoot whatever the assignment editor tells me to shoot (in other words, I don't specialize in one specific area. I cover EVERY subject you can think of). As chief, I also "supervise" (I hate that word - we're a team, and none of my guys really needs "supervision") the other photojournalists, maintain all of our equipment/vehicles, and badger the news director on a daily basis for more money to buy more equipment.

Watch your local newscast. Just about any story you see there, I can almost guarantee I've done a similar one (with the exception of earthquake coverage - never been in one of those yet), so feel free to ask anything.
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Old 09-21-2004, 01:08 PM   #5 (permalink)
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sorry shakran, i'm not nearly as optimistic about the current state of journalism. i thinks its laudable that you are able to say unequivocally that journalists have personal opinions, but i think you're kidding yourself about the rest.

you may think that people can't tell your politics from your reporting... but i'd be interested to see if that were really true. and even if they can't tell from the words of your report... there is certainly room for bias by controlling what is reported as opposed to just worrying how it is reported.

your personal politics are undoubtedly liberal, yet you cite only fox news as an organization without the standard you would have us believe journalism (by and large) possesses. coincidence?

forgive my cynicism... but i don't really buy much of your original post. i'm not insulting you personally, or even your profession. i don't think i could give neutral reporting either. because of that, i believe it is fallacious and dangerous for anyone to believe reporters/news companies/editors don't inject their personal bias and opinions into everything they do.
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Old 10-10-2004, 05:08 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I sometimes don't think it is a matter of HOW you report something, i.e. the facts and commentary in the report, but it is what news programs and papers CHOOSE to report on. That is why republicans are always screaming over the liberal media, they choose to focus on certain partisan topics and fail to talk about opposite partisan topics.

I good example is John O'Neil from the Swift Boats for Truth and his book "Unfit for Commnad" Now this book brought up some really good questions about Kerrys military record and had accounts from hundreds of soldiers that served with Kerry.

O'Neil was never asked on one mainstream news program, or were there any stories done by them. But look at all the publicity Kitty Kelly got about her book accusing among other things, that Laura Bush used and sold cocaine. She had no real sources that backed it up, but she still got on the Today show and others.

There are many examples and I think this is why FoxNews, Rush, and internet sources have become so popular. It is because the other side has been dying for a differnt view, that may be correct or incorrect, but it is still a differnt view.
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Old 10-18-2004, 08:36 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by irateplatypus
you may think that people can't tell your politics from your reporting... but i'd be interested to see if that were really true.
Well let's see. So far this year, I've twice had the local democratic campaign HQ's stage bullshit "political rallys" (read: they sent my station an invite, and no one else, and then wanted me to only shoot certain camera angles so it'd look like there was a crowd of anti-bush protestors there). You know I lean toward Kerry so you might expect that I'd play along, but I didn't. I went straight for the shot that showed the speaker talking to an empty room. Why? Because it was political shenannigans and I don't care who the hell you are, you're not getting away with it on my watch.

I've also been a proponent of fact checks on all candidates. If Bush says something that's untrue, we call him on it. Same with Kerry.


As for the swiftboat thing, it's pretty much discredited. We're not paying any attention to that idiot because 1) he didn't serve with Kerry (saying "I was on a swiftboat too!" and claiming that means you know everything Kerry did on HIS swiftboat is like saying "I know how Germans live because I ate sauerkraut once.")

The guy's been after Kerry for decades. His facts aren't there.

If we put him on the air, we're giving him free advertising.

If we attack him on the air, we've just wasted airtime because:
1) everyone who pays attention already knows he's full of it, so we don't need to tell you that and
2) those who still don't know he's full of it, aren't gonna be convinced by a 40 second story on it.




If anything I've seen that the good journalists are harder on "their side" than on the other - it's easy to call Bush on the carpet if you don't like him. You have to work harder to find stuff to criticize Kerry for if you're rooting for him, but that's exactly what we must and should do.



And please understand I'm not defending all journalism outlets here. Are there bad journalism shops? Hell yes. There's bad in every profession, and there's nothing anyone can do to screen out ALL the bad eggs before they can do damage. I don't think journalism as a profession should be blamed for this, however. I mean, you don't automatically assume that all soldiers are bad because a few of them abused Iraqi prisoners do you?



I don't even have a problem with shops being liberal or conservative. Do it if you wanna, but be honest about it. Fox should not be calling themselves "fair and balanced" when their viewpoint is skewed so far to the right. This, more than the simple fact that they're obviously biased to the right, is why they're so sharply criticized.
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Old 10-18-2004, 08:48 PM   #8 (permalink)
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/

the BBC is a great news media organistation. In my opinion a bastion of fairness objectivity and non-bias.

They also do a nice RSS service, repackaged here for global news

http://fxfeeds.mozillazine.org/rss20.xml

Last edited by daking; 10-18-2004 at 08:50 PM..
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Old 10-18-2004, 08:53 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm with irate on this one, you bring up Fox but not CBS. You may well think you are unbiased in your reporting and maybe you are, but its pretty obvious that a great many don't follow this ideal.

A great many americans think Fox favors/helps Bush, thats fine and dandy, but an equal or greater number think that ABC, CBS, and NBC favor Kerry.

Quote:
At the same time, those who dismiss Fox as propaganda may be shocked that the other networks are viewed by voters in essentially the same light.
http://www.rasmussenreports.com/Broadcast%20Bias.htm
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Old 10-21-2004, 09:21 PM   #10 (permalink)
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CBS does not call themselves "fair and balanced" either. And if you'll watch their newscasts, they're far more balanced than Fox. When they do fact checks on the candidates, they nail Kerry in the same story that they nail Bush in.

The CBS letter problem was more of a "this is a really big story and we gotta get it out before the other networks do" than a "let's crucify Bush."

After all, he's done plenty of other stuff they could crucify him on, and they haven't. I've only seen a couple of journalists, none from CBS, go after Bush with a string of really tough questions. If anything, journalists are dropping the ball by NOT nailing Bush as often as they should. The President should have to answer to his decisions, and Bush is not being made to answer to his.

I also feel I must point out that when Clinton was being roasted in the media almost nightly during his presidency, I didn't hear anyone whining about the conservative media bias.

Quote:
You may well think you are unbiased in your reporting and maybe you are, but its pretty obvious that a great many don't follow this ideal.
I never said all of us follow that ideal. I think most do, or at least they try to.

My point in starting this thread was to dispel the myth that all journalists are flaming liberals who are foaming at the mouth for any opportunity to bash conservatives, and who skew their stories routinely in order to do it. That's simply not the case.

Plus I'm tired of the media getting bashed when it looks into Bush's actions. Some people out there are acting like the media is wrong to question the president. In fact, one of the most (if not THE most) important jobs the media has is to hold the powerful accountable. A press that fails to question the country's leadership has failed in its duty to be the watchdog of the government.

We cannot know if the government is doing things that are not in our best interest if no one is there to catch the government doing them.
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Old 10-31-2004, 12:57 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shakran
CBS does not call themselves "fair and balanced" either. And if you'll watch their newscasts, they're far more balanced than Fox. When they do fact checks on the candidates, they nail Kerry in the same story that they nail Bush in.
.
The fact that you believe this means you are far from unbaised.
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Old 11-05-2004, 05:26 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ustwo
The fact that you believe this means you are far from unbaised.

Why, because I've actually seen them make as many anti-bush points as anti-kerry points in their comparo stories?

I frankly have difficulty digesting a bias accusation from someone who makes Rush Limbaugh look liberal.
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Old 11-05-2004, 09:09 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shakran
[W]hen I do a story on Bush, the viewer would never know it.
Depends on what the viewer is viewing. If I wanted to figure out how you were biased, I'd pay attention to the angles you used relative to the subject and light source, what you chose to use as background. Assuming you get to make these choices.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ustwo
The fact that you believe this means you are far from unbiased
Fox News, for all it's claims of "fair and balanced" generally pulls out all the stops on low level manipulation. Pay attention to who has the sun in their eyes, who gets the lapel mic v. a dildo, or who reports from peaceful sylvan settings and who reports from the side of a road. Which talking heads get more continuous-shot coverage? Note when and how active and passive voice syntax is used in introducing pundits.

If you have all the "wrong" viewpoints expressed by squinty-eyed dildo-talkers who don't know better than to play in traffic, it doesn't really matter if you give them "equal time" with the guy in a suit in the park having a friendly conversation about all the "right" viewpoints.
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Old 11-06-2004, 09:05 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shakran
Since I make my living making people answer MY questions, it's only fair that I turn the tables on myself. I'm open to any questions you have about this or other aspects of the profession.
It's interesting to have the perspective of a professional television journalist to consider. I'm curious about whether as a journalist you have experienced media corporation bias that affects which stories get air time, and which ones don't. Maybe not politically overt stories, but more subtle effects like a failure to report on aspects of proposed legislation that might for example make VCR's illegal.

IMHO, most people don't believe that the problems with mainstream media come from biased journalists so much as it does from biased media barons. There seems to be an ever dwindling number of independant opinions in the media conglomerates, and I wonder whether we've let things go too far already. I've heard that people with differing opinions from certain media corporations can't even BUY airtime on their networks to get their issues heard. What are your thoughts on that?
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Old 11-06-2004, 03:34 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1010011010
Depends on what the viewer is viewing. If I wanted to figure out how you were biased, I'd pay attention to the angles you used relative to the subject and light source, what you chose to use as background. Assuming you get to make these choices.



Fox News, for all it's claims of "fair and balanced" generally pulls out all the stops on low level manipulation. Pay attention to who has the sun in their eyes, who gets the lapel mic v. a dildo, or who reports from peaceful sylvan settings and who reports from the side of a road. Which talking heads get more continuous-shot coverage? Note when and how active and passive voice syntax is used in introducing pundits.

If you have all the "wrong" viewpoints expressed by squinty-eyed dildo-talkers who don't know better than to play in traffic, it doesn't really matter if you give them "equal time" with the guy in a suit in the park having a friendly conversation about all the "right" viewpoints.
I'll look for the mic thing, but its a far cry from unverified forged documents.

I watched CBS on election night. The only time I saw a smile after the Bush win seemed likely was when Coors was defeated.
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Old 11-07-2004, 07:19 AM   #16 (permalink)
Tone.
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1010011010
Depends on what the viewer is viewing. If I wanted to figure out how you were biased, I'd pay attention to the angles you used relative to the subject and light source, what you chose to use as background. Assuming you get to make these choices.
And that's a good point, which is why if at all possible I shoot politicians at a neutral angle even though I tend to prefer mixing angles up for creativity. The only times I shoot from a low angle on a politician is when they're way up on a podium that I can't climb on - i.e. when the President's in town, the secret service won't always let me on the level of the president, and I have to shoot from below him.


Quote:
Fox News, for all it's claims of "fair and balanced" generally pulls out all the stops on low level manipulation. Pay attention to who has the sun in their eyes, who gets the lapel mic v. a dildo, or who reports from peaceful sylvan settings and who reports from the side of a road. Which talking heads get more continuous-shot coverage? Note when and how active and passive voice syntax is used in introducing pundits.
And in all fairness, the choice of mic isn't always up to the journalists - - if it's real windy you need to use a shotgun (er. . .dildo) mic because most lav (lapel) mics get their asses kicked in even a moderate breeze. I've always said microphones should be heard and not seen, so whenever possible my subject, no matter who it is, gets a lav mic tucked behind the clothing so you can barely see the little clip, then the wire gets run down inside the shirt so you can't see that either. My pet peeve is seeing some other station sticking a bigassed mic with their station-logo micflag on it into someone face. The station and the mic is not the story, so unless it's an extenuating circumstance we should NEVER see the mic.

Quote:
There seems to be an ever dwindling number of independant opinions in the media conglomerates, and I wonder whether we've let things go too far already.
(snip)
can't even BUY airtime on their networks to get their issues heard. What are your thoughts on that?
depends largely on the station. I've worked for stations that won't run bad stories on their advertisers. It sucked, I hated it, and made a HELL of a lot of noise about it. My current station wouldn't care if we lost our biggest advertiser due to a negative story about it, provided the story is 100% accurate. This is one of the reasons I will have to be dragged kicking and screaming from this station

This problem usually stems from the fact that news directors oftentimes aren't rising from the ranks of the journalist, but from the ranks of the advertising department. A lot of ND's are more worried about profit than news, which effects the product not only because of stories on advertisers, but also because they just won't buy the equipment needed to do a good job telling stories, and because they'll want nothing but tragedy, tragedy, tragedy, without paying much, if any, attention to the good stuff that's happening in the community. Good examples of this kind of programming can be found in pretty much the entire Albuquerque news market. KSTP over in Minneapolis is another example of the "if it bleeds it leads" "journalism" that most reporters and photojournalists hate with a passion.

Quote:
I watched CBS on election night. The only time I saw a smile after the Bush win seemed likely was when Coors was defeated.
I watched CBS that night too - we were live from one of the campaign HQ's that had it on our station and it was causing feedback so we had them change to a competitor, which happens to be CBS.

Rather is an embarassment and should not be held up as an example of good journalism. My reporter and I predict he'll be gone fairly soon, since he appeared to slowly go insane as the night wore on, and since he's been a distant third in the ratings behind Brokaw and Jennings for years now.

Last edited by shakran; 11-07-2004 at 07:22 AM..
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