This article first appeared on the Better Angels website.
By Mel Harkrader Pine
What’s the news media’s biggest bias?
If you’re a Trump supporter, you might say it’s assuming collusion with Russia behind every presidential move.
For a non-Trump conservative, maybe you see the media giving a free pass to every failing of the Clinton and Obama administrations.
Moderate liberals might blame the media for giving so much coverage to every pronouncement in a Trump tweet or speech, before the 2016 election and during his administration.
And progressives might fault the money behind every media empire for creating a pro-business, or at least a pro-capitalist, bias.
There’s some truth in each of those observations, and plenty more reasons to fault the media. But we tend to miss the media’s biggest bias, and it’s equally strong in left-leaning and right-leaning publications.
The media’s biggest bias is contrived significance. You are not going to read, watch or listen to a news item unless it tells you something significant. And you are not going to subscribe to a media outlet unless it has news items you want to read, watch or listen to.
Read the full article: The Media’s Biggest Bias
When I was in grade school and just learning to follow the news, I recall the evening TV news broadcast beginning with Walter Cronkite looking into the camera and intoning “Tonight’s top story is….”
So the journalists were not only telling us about what had recently happened in the world, they were telling us which stories were the most important ones. It was many years later that I realized what a powerful editorial content they had built into their reporting, just by selecting which story would go first each evening.
It is only since the internet and the proliferation of easily accessible niche media that they have been losing their grip on how to direct our thinking. It is clear that old journalists miss the days when they could control our thoughts.
This is an issue that’s been bugging me in fiction writing lately too. People in writers’ groups want tension and suspense, which seems to boil down to contrived significance in many cases.