I had an interesting conversation with a friend and freelance reporter for NPR last night. She will rename nameless here — interesting when a blogger has to protect the anonymity of a journalist source, isn’t it?
In any case, she told me she felt like to rise there she had to think and act like a 40-year-old white liberal male. Her view was enlightening, because I’ve considered myself an NPR listener and supporter. Her interest and connection to international issues had to be subdued because simply put, America was more important, by a lot. This really got me thinking about their reportage because I’ve listened to NPR on and off for many years. While it’s a markedly better mental diet than say CNN, Fox or other so-called ‘major’ American media outlets – it really is not very balanced globally. I’d like to look at this issue of media coverage, and explore whether it’s more informed by humanism versus Americanism further.
The Wikipedia entry on media bias in the US has a lot of great references as a start. It also makes the interesting point that professional journalism didn’t really exist before the early 1900s. Before that correspondents were often those who corresponded with the publisher, and newspapers were always understood to represent the interests of the publisher.
Professional journalism, it seems, suffers from the same illusion of objectivity as much of the rest of academia. This is a deep interest of mine when it comes to how science is practiced, and is the central life’s work of my friend and colleague of Professor Patrick Heelan, SJ, at Georgetown. The hermeneutics of science is something few scientists are taught to consider at all. They are trained into the seductive notion that there is an absolute scientific truth which they are revealing. Journalists, writers of all kinds, are not so different….
I don’t strive for that sort of objectivity, but for balance within myself, within the range of my own voice — I ask, am I speaking with compassion, appropriateness, integrity, and clarity? But what defines what that is for me? What’s my bias?