Bias is all around us. It is human nature to try to make other people think the way you do. In fact, I am currently doing that right now by writing this article. Yet this is an opinion piece. This article was published in the opinion section and you, the reader, can probably conclude it is, in fact, opinionated. The issue news organizations and America as a whole face is when opinion pieces are published under the guise of factual news. Opinion pieces are great, especially when rooted in facts, but a true news story should attempt to present as many facts as possible, as unbiased as possible.
Of late, American news organizations have fallen into a politically-motivated trap. Partially for the increased revenue and headlines that come with publishing inflammatory articles, news organizations have become more and more polarizing over recent years, whether left or right. As proof of this concept, Shepard Smith, a long-time news anchor at the media giant that once billed themselves as ‘Fair and Balanced,’ Fox News, has been called to quit by many viewers after he offered facts that went against the claims other Fox News anchors made surrounding Hillary Clinton and the Uranium One deal.
While the accuracy of either side cannot be fully known, we as a country should not condemn facts because they do not follow an agenda. News is supposed to present multiple sides of the same issue and allow the viewer to make an informed decision, rather than a one-sided one.
The United Kingdom and its system of news reporting is a good example of a less biased news system. Major news organizations must have a Royal Charter and an agreement with the Secretary of State in order to operate independently from the government. In the British Broadcasting Company (BBC)’s official agreement, it states, according to the BBC’s official guidelines summarizing the agreement, that the company must “ensure controversial subjects are treated with due impartiality […] and other output dealing with matters of public policy or political or industrial controversy”.
Though impartiality is a gray area with no set definitions, the concept has worked well for the BBC, which regularly ranks among the most trusted news source in the world partially because of its widely unbiased reporting of world events.
I am not suggesting America should implement an impartiality law nor force companies to sign charters and agreements, as either would be unconstitutional, but I am suggesting news organizations hold impartiality as a goal to strive for and a motto to report by. News organizations used to be held to standards and anchors, at one point, strived to find the truth behind an issue. These precedents are gone now. News organizations are treated as jokes and memes by the general public and reporters are just searching for the ‘next big story’ no matter how inaccurate it may be.
It is not totally the reporter’s fault. Truth does not pay the bills for large companies and the more readers and watchers a company has, the more revenue is generated. This leads to greater pressure on employees from top executives to create headlines. The truth is painful and a reader is more likely to look at a segment calling a politician an awful person than a piece that details the pros and cons of a decision.
We are a culture that is in a rush. We like quick stories where only one possible conclusion can be drawn. We want to be told what to think. This should not be the standard and, as shown over the last year, this motto has drawn America apart along political lines. Gone are the days of compromise, when facts were thoughtfully considered and a middle ground was decided.
America must work to bring news organizations closer to the center. It is nearly impossible to write completely unbiased news, and that is okay. But we should at least try to.
David Csordas is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.