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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Joshua M. Patton
Joshua M. Patton is both a freelance writer and veteran of the US Army. He currently studies at the University of Pittsburgh where his writing won a creative writing... (READ ON)
Cover: Afghan Bombs Left Behind
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The Least-biased Network
Most Dangerous Bias is One Against Facts.
Sean Hannity
Sean Hannity
The second most listened to talk show host in America, Sean Hannity has over 500 affiliates nationwide and counting. Hannity has been the recipient of 2 Marconi Awards for Nationally Syndicated Radio Host of the Year and is a three-time consecutive winner of the Radio & Records National Talk Show Host of The Year Award. | Photo: Aaron Stipkovich
ALSO | FOX News | reporter
Alex Jones biography lists his credentials and among them is that he was an investigative journalist. Jones began his career as the host of a public access call-in show in Austin, Texas and has since staked his claim deep in the conspiracy/fringe segment of the media on the AM airwaves and the internet. Jones reports on secret prisons, mind control, and vast conspiracies that would be too complex for fiction. He's not a journalist, he's a carnival barker. There was a time when Jones would be recognized for what he was, but people like him and to a larger extent Rush Limbaugh attract listeners by creating doubt that the media is accurately reporting the facts.

Today, with Network News divisions competing with 24-hour cable news channels, the business of broadcast journalism has never been more concerned about ratings and demographic market-share. This is a situation Aaron Sorkin is dealing with in his new HBO Series The Newsroom. Sorkin's admittedly conservative main character, is appalled at the behavior of the "Tea Party candidates" and the other media outlets' willingness to give them credibility. While Sorkin's story has obviously progressive attitudes, the characters themselves are concerned with the facts and the idea that reporting the news is a duty not a shot at stardom.

When Fox News appeared in the nineties, it was during a time of peace and prosperity in the country, achieved seemingly under the stewardship of a Democratic President who knew how to work a Legislative Branch. They made the claim of a liberal bias in the media and true or not, their ratings skyrocketed, being watched by those that agreed with them and also those that disagreed. Today, the Network News struggles for relevance, while the cable networks appeal to a niche demographic. Fox News

Journalists are either too lazy or are willfully manipulating the content to obfuscate the facts.
is decidedly conservative, while MSNBC slants progressive. CNN makes a play for center, but their bias is a technological one depending on graphics or gimmickry.

Bias is not inherently a bad thing, especially if it isn't exactly "bias." This is a time where changing one's mind is often called flip-flopping, so some of this bias is mere analysis. In the fictional example in Sorkin's The Newsroom, the main character is a staunch Republican who is offended by what deems as irresponsible and dangerous statements made by the Tea Party candidates. It's his critical analysis of these candidates that is perceived by the viewers as a liberal bias. I use this example, simply because it is impossible to know if Bill O'Reilley or Ed Schultz actually believe the vitriol they are spewing or if in fact they are simply "in-character," for their shows.

Erin Burnett
Erin Burnett
Erin Isabelle Burnett, July 2, 1976, is the anchor of CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront. She was the co-anchor of CNBC's Squawk on the Street program and the host of CNBC's Street Signs program. She also appeared on NBC's Meet the Press, Today, MSNBC's Morning Joe, and NBC Nightly News. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. | Photo: Archives
It could easily be argued that Edward R. Murrow showed "liberal bias," when he filed his famous report about Senator Joseph McCarthy or that Walter Cronkite showed "liberal bias," when he said that the Vietnam War was "a stalemate," and that we would emerge "not as victors." Yet both of these moments are widely considered to exemplify the power of broadcast journalism to not only inform the electorate but affect change. If Hannity colors his analysis with red and Maddow colors her analysis with blue, more's the better. Unconventional journalist Hunter S. Thompson attributed an obsession with "objective journalism" as the reason that the Nixon Administration was able to effectively deceive the people. In short, he called a swine "a swine," and allowed the reader to make up his or her own mind.

Mixing bias in journalism, especially from trusted journalists, can be dangerous when they are either lazy or fast-and-loose with the facts. ABC Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross speculated on-air that the shooter in the recent Aurora, Colorado massacre was a member of the Tea Party, without confirming it. In 2009, the producers of the Sean Hannity program inflated the attendance of a rally held by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) by showing clips of the crowd from Glenn Beck's faith gathering held earlier in the year.

Whether the news is delivered with bias/analysis or objectively, the delightful challenge journalists face is finding the story. The above examples from ABC and the Hannity program are either journalists too lazy to find it or are willfully manipulating the content to obfuscate the facts. Regardless of one's politics, it is hard to deny that Sorkin's fictional Will McAvoy believes in the duty of the news to inform the populace about what is important and not chase ratings. It's why this example is only found in fiction or when speaking about those titans of broadcast that we've lost: Murrow, Cronkite, Peter Jennings, or Tim Russert. When the facts are not sacrosanct, in spite of any other ideology, that is when it gets at best silly and at worst dangerous.

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"The Least-biased Network | Most Dangerous Bias is One Against Facts."
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