Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Biased News

Bias in news reporting. This road to hell doesn't even have good intentions.

Maybe other cultures have different values on truthfullness in the media. Heck, maybe my culture has different values on truth in journalism. I believe that in the west there has long been this notion that reporting the news is some kind of sacred trust and the thought of fabricating the news is outrageous and that staging the news is just unthinkable. This is because a requirement for a healthy democracy is that the citizens have access to genuine, trustworthy unbiased information. This knowledge allows them to make informed decisions for their own good and the good of their democracy.

Enter Fox News. They have managed to not only get away with making up the news, they got the Supreme Court in the US to agree that there is nothing even wrong with disseminating this 'fiction' as long as it is for 'entertainment' purposes. Somehow it is still sold as 'truth' which is where fiction reverts to 'lies' but the Supreme Court doesn't seem to make this distinction. I never managed to get my head around that one. Just one more big lie on top of a bunch of other lies.

Thanks to Fox News, if one can thank that miserable cauldron of scum for anything, I now manage to accept that a news organization can not only twist the news to their unique bias, but to make it up. Recently I have been shown that an al-Jazeera journalist, Khaled Saleh, has been staging the news. A news reporter representing al-Jazeera being shown in various roles as a protester, rebel, wounded civilian, corpse, leader, – even a reporter. This isn't too far a stretch to believe if you have Fox News Fantasies as a stepping stone.

If a story appears about a news organization staging the news, then couldn't this story have in fact been fabricated as well? I did some checking and found that al-Jazeera has lost a number of top drawer reporters in the last year complaining of bias. Most of these reporters left since the news organization's Director General Wadah Khanfar unexpectedly resigned in September of 2011 and was replaced by Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani bringing al-Jazeera under tight control of the Qatari royal family.

Now the Qatari government is backing rebels of the Assad regime in Syria. Any news you get from al-Jazeera would then have to come through that colored lens. Serious allegations for an organization which has become the primary source of news for western media - a media which has reduced or eliminated their investigative reporting abilities in favor of cutbacks, perhaps in order to provide a greater bonus for their board of directors.

Which brings me back to my original thesis, I believe that truth in news reporting is fundamental to the health of a democracy. It is a crime against democratic principles to make-up, embellish or otherwise stage the news. This form of information is a sacred trust to empower the citizens of a democracy to make informed choices. The penalties for violating this trust should be as severe as any which endanger the democracy.

So let me introduce my gradient of truthful news reporting, hereafter know as Sheldon's gradient of grotty news reporting.

  1. First there are the news-organizations which attempt to give the facts without embellishment. A difficult and noble undertaking as news sources and personal biases are hard enough to remove.
  2. Second there are the biased news organizations which do not attempt or minimally attempt to remove bias from their content. They report the news from a personal or cultural bias. Most news organizations in the USA are biased in some form or another. To see this, all you have to do is look beyond the US borders.
  3. Third there are news organizations which make up news stories to fit their personal agenda or to gain rating through sensationalist reporting, e.g. FOX News. This gradient of news is generally reported with some pundit injecting their opinions into the news items.
  4. Fourth there are news organizations which stage the news. Apparently this now includes elements of al-Jazeera.

Note: I have followed al-Jazeera since their first attempts at an english language website. There are still many good people who work there. However, I suspect that some of them have lost their way.

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