The secret behind news distortion

Blindspot Report, part of Ground News.Com, provides a very valuable service, one that illustrates an idea I have been pushing for decades: If you get all your information from a single news source, there is a ton you are missing.

Calling itself a detector of media bias — although blindness might be a better term — Blindspot Report selects a bunch of controversial stories, and researches the amount of play they got from outlets that are Left, Right, and Center. 

“Our vision is positive coexistence where cooperative, civil debate is the norm, media is accountable, and critical thought is the baseline of our information consumption,” it says of its mission. 

In reality, in big newsrooms that report on news, each story published probably passes the test of objectivity, and answers the basic journalistic questions of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. (People who write opinion, such as columnists, are not expected to be objective, nor complete. They are paid to be subjective.)

The medium’s slant comes from how editors view the news value of any story. (In some newsrooms, racial impact is included, but that is another story.) The discussions sometimes are on journalistic merit, nothing else. Other times editors’ personal tastes and values are rolled out. For non journalists, here’s a column I did on news values that might help you understand.

If editors feel the news values are consistent with their ideas and philosophy, it gets used. If they feel it is not consistent with their values, it is discarded.

Example: The Left was all over the Russian hoax story (because they hated Donald J. Trump) while the Right either ignored it, or denied it, because they loved him.

The sides reversed positions with the Hunter Biden lap top story, which the Right exploited ferociously, while the MSM largely ignored it, because it came from the conservative New York Post and potentially put Joe Biden in a bad light.

In these cases, each side was wrong. They let politics into their news judgment. The Golden Rule should apply — treat other stories as yours would be treated.

What Blindspot indicates is how deep is the divide between Right and Left and why news consumers have so much trouble figuring out who is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

A recent edition of Blindspot, please take a look:

It starts with pieces of the Jan. 6 hearing, abortion, Ilhan Omar, then presents earlier controversies, along with polling. I was frankly shocked by some of the results. It’s one thing to intuitively know there is bias, it’s quite another to be staring the beast in its red eye, with legitimate stories being ignored. And the bias is on both sides. 

It sadly illustrated the terrible effect of being locked in ideological silos — not just for the readers and viewers of news, but for the executives who make the calls. 

This dichotomy helps secure the low levels of trust Americans have in news reporting, down to 36%, according to Gallup. 34% report having no trust at all, and there are differences between Democrats and Republicans. No surprises there.

As long as editors make their choices through a partisan prism, things are not likely to change.

I think each newsroom could use a court jester, like the ones some wise kings employed to scoff at the ”wisdom” of the Royal Court and to present an alternative view. A contrarian, in other words. It might make each newspaper or broadcast more balanced and more meaningful to the largest group of citizens.

More balance, less bias.

Best thing since more taste, less filling.

14 thoughts on “The secret behind news distortion”

    I may ( probably ) be off a bit, but I never had complete confidence in news reporting. You just explained why. I think that not only does the editor have influence but I think it goes all the way up the ladder, especially today. Jeff Bezos probably has a lot to say about what appears in his paper and the slant that he wants it to follow.
    I think that prior to the electronic world, we were kept in the dark ( light ) by the power of ( fill in the blank. politics, money, etc ) An example would be the propaganda news reels for any war or ‘police action’. Again, fill in the blank. We are there because…….
    As for ground news. It’s a niece reference piece. It lends credence to a discussion on a current topic. You are not alone in your thoughts, right, left or middle.
    We do pretty good right here with my pal, STUBYKOFSKI.COM, llc, et al

    1. Thanks. I have no evidence that Bezos interferes with the reporting or opinions in WaPo. He probably agrees with it.
      I CAN tell you that excellent publishers — such as the late, great Knight-Ridder – hired professionals and let them do their job. Editorials were written by local journalists.
      In an operation like that, and this is hard for business people to believe, even the PUBLISHER did not have much input on the editorial side. He ran the business side.
      Conversely, Hearst papers were different and I believe CNN is different, as well as Fox, where there are daily talking points. But those are not really journalistic enterprises any more.

  2. “All warfare is based upon deception” and warfare is simply an extension of the political process. I don’t know if we have ever had objective reporting of the news. That is why I record different channels to see what is being reported and how it is being covered. The difference certainly suggests omnipresent bias, noisy channels of communication and some outright incompetence. It has been said a number of different ways like buyer beware or Mort Solomon’s admonishment: “If you mother says she loves you, check it out!” The motto of media political activists seems to be “If we can’t dazzle them with brilliance we baffle them with bullshit.” The media has on occasion reported falsehood to be true and ended up reporting truth to be false. The objective is to influence what people think and to hell with accurately reporting.

    1. You were OK until the last line. The objective is to get it first, but first get it right. That’s 98% of reporters. But, mistakes do happen, and in a tiny number of cases, reporters make shit up. And then get turned in by other reporters. I know, I was one of those who called BS on some of my peers — Philly mag in one case, a weekly being the other. Can’t recall if it was City Paper or Philadelphia Weekly.

      1. I agree. For the vast majority of reporters a presumption of bad faith is unwarranted. Back when I was kid, we had four newspapers in Chicago, two morning and two afternoon. The Sun-Times and the Daily News were “liberal” and the Chicago Tribune and Chicago American were “conservative.”

        My grandfather subscribed to all four newspapers. I used to spend some weekends at my grandparents, and my grandfather and I would sit and read the papers. (It was a great for a kid, ’cause I got to read all the “funnies” from Pogo to Peanuts to Prince Valiant to Dick Tracy).

        Anyway, I noticed that even when they all reported something as unpolitical as a traffic accident, each had a slightly different take. The core of the stories matched–when, where, what–but there were different details emphasized, different people quoted (maybe a cop, maybe a witness, maybe an observation that the road had a history of similar accidents). No one was trying to slant anything, but each story had a different perspective. Getting things right isn’t necessarily getting things the same way.

        Ever since then, I have read a variety of sources, which is why one of your readers who knows me recommended me to this site. Thank you for the Blindspot report. It will be useful.

        1. No two people see things the same way. Clearly, you are a lifelong reader. If we had more of you, there would be less discord in society.

  3. Great insight. And, yes, it answers my questions posed yesterday.

    It also reinforces why I’m here. To get straight news & let me decide where I fall.

    Have a great weekend! Thank you!

  4. Respectfully, the “Russia hoax story” was just that, a hoax. An utter hoax involving the FBI and Obama White House. Libel. Fake News personified. However, the “Hunter Biden laptop story” spoke for, and is still speaking for, itself. It, and Biden the son are what they are, the real deal. Respectfully, Stude.

    1. You don’t know a hoax is a hoax at first telling. I grant MSM wasn’t as tough as it should have been because they wanted it to be true. But there WAS an investigation going on, there were leaks, and that kept the story rolling.

  5. This is a great piece. I am a sort of “news junkie” and value learning more about what I’m addicted to. I do check out “the other side”, occasionally, looking at Fox News on-line , or reading a right leaning source on line when googling a particular topic. Blind spot seems like a valuable source, though I found the presentation a bit cumbersome.

    I do disagree on one point. You referred to the “Russia Hoax”. There was NO Russia Hoax. There was a highly coordinated, massive campaign from Russian to sway our U.S. Election in favor of Donald Trump. Well investigated and well documented in the Mueller report. The Trump campaign welcomed the interference. The investigation did not provide evidence of a conspiracy between Trump campaign and Russia. As President Trump did not take steps to hold Russia accountable or take preventative measures to secure future elections from Russian interference. Those that continue to refer to the “Russia Hoax” have a HUGE blind spot.

      1. No, I will not. There WAS most likely “collusion”, however this is not a crime. Using the word “hoax” ( which is an intentionally deception) in reference to the EXTENSIVE Mueller Investigation and much of the in-depth, FACTUAL reporting on the subject does a disservice to the dedicated professionals on the investigative team, the MANY journalists who strove to inform the public, or Nation, and the Truth. Using the word itself is a deliberate attempt to dupe the public.

Comments are closed.