Sunday, November 26, 2006

Media Bias

Hi everybody. I hope you're having a nice weekend. Mine has been great so far. Except for the spiders. I'm being invaded here, people! I swear I feel like I'm in that movie "Arachnophobia" and I so did not audition for this role. I don't know what's going on. I guess it's because we're having freakishly warm weather right now for this time of year or something. But seriously, if any of my readers are spider experts I could use some tips because a few hours ago one of them literally just appeared on my keyboard as I was typing. Eeek! Okay, I actually didn't set out to make this post all about my battles with Charlotte and her friends. While I've got the time, I'd like to discuss media bias. A little while ago this quote from Anderson caught my eye:
No, I don't wear my beliefs on my sleeve. I like not taking sides. To me, the mark of success is when half of the e-mails I get [after a show] are telling me I'm a communist liberal bastard, and the other half are telling me I'm a stooge of the Bush administration.
Anderson is not the first reporter I've heard echo this kind of sentiment. In fact, it almost seems like some sort of memo went around because I'm pretty sure they all feel that way. However, to me the reasoning seems flawed. Someone who would write the phrase "communist liberal bastard" (or something similar) almost surely already has a preconceived notion about Anderson, CNN, or the media in general. It's no secret that many on the right refer to CNN as the Communist News Network. It's also no secret that there has a been deliberate campaign to get the public to believe the media has a liberal bias. Check out David Brock and Eric Alterman for more information.

The point I'm making is that Anderson could do a piece that undeniably slants right and people will still accuse him of liberal bias because it didn't slant far enough. Of course the reverse is also true. I'm on progressive blogs a lot and I see a lot of references to reporters being "shills" for their "corporate masters". Obviously the mainstream media is owned by corporations and I do think there is a certain kind of bias that goes along with that, but I find it frustrating that whenever any reporter really holds someone accountable, there are some on the left that brush it off as just a fluke in between shilling.

I think it's a big mistake for any journalist to judge how well they're doing by viewer criticism because, quite frankly, those people are never going to be happy. If a journalist is going to judge how they're doing based on who they tick off they should be looking at people in power, not viewers. Obviously journalists can't burn bridges so bad that they have no sources, but it's always a good sign to me when a politician, or executive, or some other powerful person is ticked off at a reporter because that means that reporter has been doing a good job holding people accountable. Extreme viewer opinions shouldn't have much to do with it.

It should also be pointed out that people who are okay with the content of a news program don't generally email to say they thought everything was fine. It's the people that are upset that make the noise. That's why I make a point to send in feedback of praise and not just criticism, especially when I know they're getting criticism from the other side. In the case of CNN and the sniper video, imagine if only those that had a problem with it sent in feedback. CNN might not be so brave next time around.

Sometimes I think we're all too hard on reporters. They're just people too. Everybody has bad days at work, but a bad day at work for a journalist can come off as having bias. And as much as they probably don't want to admit it, even to themselves, they do want to be liked. It's human nature. I'm not saying it will cause them to be biased in their work, but things get under their skin just like everybody else. Take for example the Angelina Jolie interview that Anderson did. They took some hits in the press for it and it obviously bugged Executive Producer David Doss so much that not only did he blog about it, but he also linked to one of the articles that ticked him off.

Another example is Anderson himself following the Sago Mine disaster. Poor Anderson, being the hardest working television reporter there is, was the last man standing on that horrible night and therefore took the brunt of the criticism. In this case he had absolutely nothing to apologize for, but that didn't stop him later from being so unbelievably careful with the information he was reporting that it bordered on the comical. You didn't need to be a genius to see that the criticism had gotten to him.

Bias is also a funny thing in that sometimes the reporter doesn't need to say anything and bias still comes through. Body language, voice inflection, and the questions asked in an interview go a long way. The secretive Mr. Cooper may think he's a blank slate, but the truth is he's giving away a lot more than he thinks. This is why I'm not sure it's even possible for a reporter to be completely objective. What do you think? I know this post has kind of been all over the place, but I'm really interested in this subject and would love to have a discussion on all this stuff. My next post will be Monday's review. Apparently Anderson will be in Turkey for the Pope's visit. Should be interesting. Even if things go well I'm guessing we're still going to see things on fire. Just a hunch.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eliza, I don't know if it is possible for reporters to be totally bias to what they are reporting. I agree with what you say that sometimes Anderson's looks or body movements come through on certain topics.

As for the Sago mind incident, I rememeber thinking back that those people sought him out, not the other way around. The gentleman came up to him and told him that they were alive, he was just standing there reporting. When the bad news arrived hours later, it was a lady that he had talked to earlier in the evening that came back to him. I feel like both of these people came to him because they trusted him with the news to be reported and when you had goverment officials. like the congress woman, confirming the same news, you had to believe that it was true.

I don't always like the way Anderson has done some of the celebrate interviews lately, but again, I think depending on the topic, they know a lot of people watch his show and it is there way of getting their message out. I think the best celebrate interview he has done was with Michael J. Fox, because Parkinson's is a disease that effects lots of people. My dad had it, so I was quite interested in it.

Anyway that is my two cents.

I can't wait to see his reporting from Turkey and what all it will entail.

10:42 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

With Sago it wasn't so much that he was being accused of being biased as it was he was being accused of being a bad reporter. But Sago wasn't his fault. Like you said, they sought him out and he was very careful to always ask where the info was coming from.

In regards to the celebrity interviews, I'm okay with it as long as there's a good reason. The Michael J. Fox one was very good and I thought the Angelina Jolie one was pretty good too, though perhaps a little fawning. However, the Dave Chappelle and Dan Ankroyd (sp?) ones left me with a total WTF? feeling. I actually like both of those guys, but I saw nothing CNN worthy in the interview. One thing's for sure, Anderson needs to drop the whole innocent, "I don't know what to say to celebrities" act. He talks to and hangs out with way too many of them to keep saying that.

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are correct about him needing to quit saying that he doens't know what to say to celebrates. He sure has been hanging around them a lot lately. I am afraid people will stop taking him serious and quit watching his show.

I just think his show is the best on CNN for getting all the news in the evening. I usally get home to late from work to catch the network news.

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the celebrity interviews, I agree that the Michael J. Fox interview was an important one. They shed light on symptoms of the disease, the side effect profile of anti-Parkinsonian medications ( dyskinesia ) and the stem cell research options available. The Angelina interview, I'd have to disagree, was a whole other matter. It left me scratching my head wondering if Anderson was thinking of applying for Mary Hart's job. When I heard he was interviwing Cher the next day, I nearly fell off my chair.
I'm sick and tired of seeing news programs injecting celebrity interviews to boost their ratings. Sadly, I realize that in this celebrity-focused realm,my way of thinking is not very popular.

8:05 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Jan-I agree that if he keeps saying that people might stop taking him seriously. It just sounds really insincere to say that and then interview a bunch of celebrities; not to mention being seen with them around town. Even for 60 Minutes his first piece is apprarently on Kenny Chesney. Kenny Chesney?!

@Gissou-Regarding the Angelina interview, in terms of the promotion of the special I think we agree that it was completely over-the-top and meant to ratings grab. However, I thought the fact that they used it to focus on refugees was good and actually the only thing that made it newsworthy. I'm not sure Anderson or even the show have all that much control over the fact that it was made into this big to-do.

I pretty much thought the same thing when I heard he was interviewing Cher, but I really liked that it brought awareness to her cause. I don't mind him interviewing celebrities if it's going to help something-he just shouldn't do it back-to-back like that. And CNN should also be careful they're not being used. I thought the interview with Faith Hill and her husband (Tim McGraw?) did more pimping of their music that it did helping Katrina victims.

I think the same way you do and you're right, it's not very popular.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We all have our opinions regarding "celebrity" interviews. No one mentioned the most recent one, the Comic Relief clan. Perhaps that is because it was about Katrina and keeping it in the minds of Americans will help it not be forgotten. I do believe that all CNN and Anderson are trying to do with these celebrity interviews is simply to get out all sides of the story so that us, the viewers, can make up our own minds as to what to follow, support, or simply ignore. I, personally, have no issues with Anderson's celebrity interviews. I have found every one of them to be quite interesting.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree about the celebrity interviews. Unfortunately, so many people put more stock into what a celeb says than in, say, what a professional scientist has to say about the same thing. It's sad. I personally roll my eyes every time I see one of those interviews (except MJF's). I have never thought that what THEY say is important, just because they're 'rich and famous'.


10:58 AM  
Blogger courtney01 said...

I think no matter what, eventually personal bias will reveal itself. We all have certain topics that get under our skin; it's just a matter of time before we are pushed to the brink and show our true feelings. With Anderson, there have been a couple of times where his normal collected self dissolved, or he made some snarky remarks that, given the circumstances, revealed more than he probably intended.

As far as celeb interviews go, I could do without most of the trash TV, but Anderson's recent interviews with Michael J. Fox and the Comic Relief trio were not only informative but for a good cause. Plus, Robin Williams makes me laugh 'til I cry, so that's always a good thing. ;-)

5:06 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Sharla-Isn't it sad how we glorify celebrities and not people like scientists? I don't know if you watch The Colbert Report, but they have on a lot of sciency people and others you don't see many other places.

@Courtney-I agree with your thoughts on bias and MJF interview. I'm going to have to disagree about the Comic Relief trio. Though it was entertaining to watch, I didn't think there was really anything of substance in the interview. However, as I said in my review, I'm glad they did it because anything to bring awareness is good. I never would have watched the show and donated if it wasn't for 360. Though I gotta say, the trio? Not funny in the show at all. And that's a shame because I generally like all three of them. Billy Crystal did do this cool monologue about New Orleans/Katrina though, so it was worth it to watch.

5:36 PM  

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