The importance of understanding media bias
Jan 11, 2011

The importance of understanding media bias

For most of us, our knowledge of current events comes largely through the filter of the news media. All of the biases and influences that set the agenda, set the framing and set the content of the public discourse can be collectively termed the media filter. 

In order to truly understand the world, we need to be able to  either avoid the filter in our information gathering or we need to understand the filter well enough so we can reverse engineer it and understand the world as it is before passing through the filter. Either way, we need to understand the filter because bypassing requires knowing precisely where it is and where it is not being applied. 

Bypassing the filter (while still learning about events) is never entirely possible because by far the easiest way to access information is through the media and the biases on the media are so pervasive it is difficult to avoid. One can and should be able to partially get around this by consuming media from many types and biases, such as independent news like Democracy Now! which, despite having a distinct bias of its own, quite actively attempts to subvert the normal biases found so pervasively in the mainstream news. We will never escape bias (not even on my humble blog!), but we can escape the particularly homogenized bias of the mainstream news. 

Given the difficulty in bypassing the filter, our best hope is to understand the filter and be able to reverse engineer it. There certainly remains enormous value in reading the New York Times despite its distinct biases and the biases of its field, one just has to know what they are to avoid falling prey to them. Even if we were to individually consume sufficient independent media to get around the most egregious biases of the media filter, the majority will not and so we still need to understand the media if we wish to understand what is presented to the citizenry and how we can change it. 

It is for this reason that I devote a substantial portion of my blog to discussing the media and its biases. It is among the most important forces in our society and understanding the filter it applies is a precursor to understanding the world as it is. 

Thoughts on this post? Comment below!

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Anonymous said...

I agree with your point that it's better to get information from an array of sources, including Democracy Now!, rabble, the Dominion, This Magazine, Grist, Briarpatch, The Tyee, etc.

In fact, I would go even further and suggest that there are great opportunities to support all of these and other independent media sources by either donating cash or time to their efforts.

Again, I agree with your thoughts about the majority as well. How to get the Tim's crowd to stop picking up the Sun? How do you get the masses to ditch their hockey games in favour of intelligent discourse about the direction our country should take?

Solve that problem and I'll back you up 100%!

bazie said...

Ya I completely agree. Apathy of the masses is a huge problem. I think the best way to start is just to do as you said, grow the strength of independent media as a legitimate countervailing force to the mainstream. We might not be able to get people to think the elections are more interesting than the stanley cup. But we might get some people to switch from watching CTVnews for half an hour after the hockey game to watching Democracy now, or browsing the rabble the next morning opposed to the National Post.

I also think just having discussion with people about the role media plays and the biases in it is very important. Very few people are consciously aware of, say, the role access plays in creating a pro-establishment bias - but it isn't that hard of a concept to internalize as long as we are actively talking about it and informing people about it.

Anonymous said...

`thnxx it helped me in my holiday homework m in 7 god bless u........

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