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					                      Media Bias: An Overview.
Information from television, Internet, radio and printed materials, collectively termed
                                mass media, saturates modern society. Central to any
                                discussion of media and its effects is the issue of bias,
                                especially as it pertains to news coverage. Bias, a form of
                                propaganda, is an often subtle prejudice that can appear
                                in information that purports to be objective. Numerous
                                studies have examined the degree to which bias exists and
                                the groups who might benefit from the influence it exerts
                                on the shaping of public opinion.

According to some critics, the media is capable of employing an
elaborate and sophisticated array of techniques that allows it to slant
news stories in favor of particular groups or interests. At its most
blatant, intentional bias is similar to intentional lying and censorship, but
it is often subtler and thus less detectable. In contrast, many journalists
argue that true objectivity is impossible, and that while bias can indeed
influence the presentation of facts, it is not done with harmful intent.
Their aim is to limit rather than eliminate bias and to present as balanced
a view as possible.

Media bias is an important topic because of its potential effects on society. One is the
inability of the populace to make informed decisions about the issues which affect it the
most, and the inculcation of certain viewpoints which may in fact conflict with its own
welfare. Another is the widespread distrust of media outlets and resulting apathy for
matters of public concern.

Understanding the Discussion

Bias: A prejudice or leaning that may aim to influence judgments in an unfair manner;
slant; prejudice.

Inculcate: To teach through force and/or repetition.

Mass Media: Any medium of concentration through which information is disseminated to
large numbers of people.

Objective: Uninfluenced by bias; based on facts.

Propaganda: The systematic use of mass media to influence the opinions, knowledge, and
behavior of a population.

Public Opinion: A body of attitudes, beliefs, and views pertaining to specific issues held
by a significant proportion of a society.



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History

The invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century was the first step in the history
of mass media. At this early stage, the audience that could be reached was still limited,
and so were the effects of its potential biases. With technological advances and a
                  significant rise in literacy, the proliferation of media gained
                  unparalleled momentum as a social force. In the United States, the
                  steam printing press first allowed for mass distribution of newspapers in
                  1833. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, photography, the
                  telegraph, and motion pictures were invented; they were followed by
                  the invention of radio and television in the early twentieth century.

Attending this proliferation was a developing awareness that ostensibly objective news
accounts could be influenced by the biases of professional communicators. These
professionals began evolving a code of ethics by the mid-nineteenth century. The code
pledged them to a high degree of professional conduct that included impartiality and
serving the public good.

Over the course of the twentieth century, the persistence of media bias as a seminal issue
increased. It was especially marked in times of upheaval, such as war, and during
transitions of power, such as elections.

 Several characteristics underlie the different forms of
modern media. First, they rely on professional
communicators, such as journalists and editors, who are
responsible for deciding form and content. Second, they
disseminate information through technology and mass-
production. With the technological innovations of the
twentieth century, mass media was able to reach
increasingly wider audiences in an increasingly rapid
manner. Since most people can afford to receive
information from at least one medium, the influence of
mass media has been thorough.

                                Critics of the media have made studies of broad and
                               individual trends across various forms of media, and have
                               offered several models for how bias operates in modern
                               democratic societies. The subtler techniques include
                               omission of facts, emphasis of certain facts over others
                               that are equally valid, over-reporting and under-reporting
                               of news stories, placement of stories within newspapers
or on programs depending on the value assigned to them, and the use of a limited number
of sources for news coverage. Many critics have argued that professional communicators
need not be consciously biased; objectivity can also be compromised by the demands for
conformity made by society.




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They have also argued that rather than serving the public good, the media can be
detrimental to it. When the media is in the service of powerful interests in a society,
which often conflict with the public good, those interests are often placed before ethical
issues. Corporations, governments, and media conglomerates are three groups that are
frequently singled out for encouraging media bias in order to mold public opinion in their
favor and protect their power and economic standing. Media conglomerates have also
been accused of attempting a monopoly on services and blocking out independent outlets
with divergent viewpoints.

The relationship between money and media presents related problems. Most media
outlets, in addition to their role as information providers, operate as businesses. Objective
information may be one of the outlets' priorities, but the need to maximize profits can
compromise ethical considerations. Outlets will, for example, often steer away from
publishing information which may alienate their advertisers.

Professional communicators generally concede that there is great potential for bias in the
media. However, they also argue that total objectivity is humanly impossible. Individual
views as well as language and narrative ordering inevitably have subjective qualities; the
need for brevity combined with the complexity of many issues is also a problem of
representation. Rather than seeking to eliminate bias, professional communicators should
instead be aware of their biases.

Some critics argue that media bias is more the fault of the audience than professional
communicators. Audiences are more interested in entertainment than education, and their
preferences are reflected in media choices. In this model, professional communicators
also pander to their audience, which often perceives viewpoints that conform to its own
biases as objective. Media outlets that have a reputation for being bias-free are more
successful economically.

Bias is not restricted to politics, but in the United States, its role is often discussed in a
political context. Conservatives commonly note a liberal bias in the media, while liberals
note the opposite. Each side accuses the other of misrepresenting the truth as a means to
make political gains and inculcate the public with its viewpoint.

                   Numerous groups, some with biases of their own, have been appointed
                  media watchdogs and oversee the work of professional communicators,
                  much as professional communicators are intended to be watchdogs for
                  the public good. In this role, they analyze the media and point out
                  slanted reporting and editorial choices. One such group is Fairness and
                  Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

Media Bias Today

The same issues dominate the topic of media bias in the twenty-first century, though with
the advent, spread and increasing speed of the Internet, they have in some cases become
more pronounced. Some commentators argue that the Internet allows for a greater


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number of independent sources that have been shut out of other, more expensive media
such as television. The vast amount of unreliable information available on the Internet,
and its potential for misleading consumers, has also been noted.

With the increased political polarization that has occurred in the U.S. since 2000,
                     accusations of bias have been frequent from both sides of the
                     Democratic-Republican divide. The war in Iraq has engendered an
                     especially contentious debate. Those against the war have accused the
                     media of showing bias and deliberately falsifying information in order
                     to gather support in the lead-up to the war. Those supportive of the
                     war have accused the media of focusing on its negative aspects rather
                     than providing well-balanced coverage. Bias in reporting about Iraq
                     and weapons of mass destruction has also become a controversial
issue in Britain, and was the subject of a high-level inquiry known as the Hutton Report
(2004).

The omnipresence of media in modern societies will ensure that its use and misuse will
continue to be debated, and that it will remain a defining issue of the Information Age.




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