Editor’s Note – An interesting read from the South Florida Sun Sentinel…that the editor even chose to address the topic put’s him a step up on most around the country. Keep in mind, as he states himself, “an individual’s viewpoint is colored by that person’s own bias”.
Sun Sentinel editor Earl Maucker discussed coverage of recent tea party protests, and politics in general, in his Sunday column.
In the current climate of volatility and even hostility, it’s not easy being a reporter on the politics beat. No matter what you write or how you cover a story, one side or the other in this polarized environment will claim bias.This is particularly true in coverage of the tea party movement. Every day we are bombarded with notices of rallies and meetings. If we choose not to cover a particular event, we are told by the conservative crowd that “you’re a bunch of press liberals.” Their claim is that we deliberately downplay or, worse, ignore the movement.
When we do give the tea party rallies coverage, the more liberal folks in our audience get just as upset. Their claim is we are pandering and playing to the right and exaggerating the impact of the movement.
Can we agree it’s a no-win for the political reporter?
“What began as a bunch of angry, bigoted, narrow-minded, mostly white protesters is now reported as a national movement thanks in large part to our mainstream media,” said one reader. “The Tea Baggers do not represent ‘a majority of America today,’ as Clay Shaw ridiculously says. There are more than 300 million people in this country. Polls are done that question at most a few hundred people and our pathetic media reports the results if they represent 300 million people. U.S. mainstream media sucks!”
That was one point expressed following the coverage of a recent tea party event in Fort Lauderdale.
We also got this response:
“The Sun Sentinel has ticked me off as again you show your bias. Fortunately, most people can see through this. You made a point of downplaying the tea party and playing a picture of a shouting match. You can and should have done better to be fair to all readers. Broward County will vote and you can try to influence unfairly and it will work for some. But for me, I lost respect for you and I lost respect for the paper a long time ago.”
Much to our surprise, we had a third perspective from an individual who said he was a conservative independent:
“Good coverage (and fair) of the recent tea party in Fort Lauderdale. It’s nice to see that we are getting proper coverage for our movement.”
It’s hard to imagine that each of these people was reacting to coverage of the same event.
It just confirms what we know intuitively — that an individual’s viewpoint is colored by that person’s own bias.
So what’s the perspective of the man in the middle of this firestorm, our political writer, Anthony Man? And, how does he approach a story or an item on his blog knowing that more often than not, he’ll be in the center of criticism?
The first thing Tony wants readers to understand is that he simply writes the story — provides the text. He does not write the headlines, select the photos or determine which page a story might be on or how it is displayed.
“I don’t go into a political event with an agenda or a preconceived notion about what the story is going to be,” he said. “My only interest is in putting together as accurate, complete and fair account as possible.”
Tony notes that he is registered to vote with no party affiliation. On his blog, he puts out a fact-checked report — not his opinion, which we all know is very common in the digital world.
“On television, where political food-fights are especially prized, I stick to what I’ve reported, not opinions” Tony said.
Tony and I do have this in common. After this column runs, the conservatives will call me a liberal jerk and the liberals will claim I’m owned by right-wing corporate interests.
Comes with the territory, for both of us.
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