Bias in the Newsroom

Topics: Media bias, Mass media, Journalism ethics and standards Pages: 23 (7355 words) Published: December 17, 2012
Bias in the Newsroom: Newspaper Staff Describe the Personal, Organizational and Structural Influences on Coverage A secondary analysis of survey data collected by the Committee of Concerned Journalists from 896 journalists at 18 newspapers identifies six kinds of biases modern journalists believe influence their work. While some journalists said that the political biases the public perceives in the news do affect coverage, more responses indicated that inherent human biases, structural biases produced via the routines of news production, and the lack of staff diversity are a larger influence on the news.

AEJMC Newspaper Division Submission Please Consider for the MacDougall Student Paper Award April 1, 2007

Bias in the Newsroom: Newspaper Staff Describe the Personal, Organizational, and Structural Influences on Coverage

Public perceptions of news media bias are not new, and journalists of earlier centuries have also felt compelled to defend the believability and trustworthiness of their accounts . However, these perceptions have been steadily rising in recent decades. Research reported in the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s series of annual “State of the Media” reports showed tha the American public has increasingly come to believe that t the journalists are biased. For example, number of Americans who thought news organizations were biased politically rose from 45 percent in 1986 to 59 percent in 2002 (2005). More recently, the Project reported that among people who think that their daily newspaper has gotten worse, the percentage that blame bias, particularly political bias, has grown from 19 percent in 1996 to 28 percent in 2006 (2007). Bias in the news has also garnered considerable popular attention, particularly in recent years. Accusations of political bias, and especially of liberal bias, are amplified in American culture by cable and talk radio programs, blogs (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2007), and New York Times’ bestselling books such as Bernard Goldberg’s “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News,” which made it to number one on the New York Times’ bestseller list in 2002 . Given that perceived bias is a key component of audience judgments of an information source’s credibility , this issue carries considerable significance for journalists attempting to compete for attention and build a stronger relationship with their declining readership in this age of online competition and economic strife (PEJ, 2007). The popular and scholarly interest in bias also reflects the power and the important societal role journalism plays in giving citizens the information they need to make decisions and govern themselves in a democracy.


Bias in the Newsroom: Newspaper Staff Describe the Personal, Organizational, and Structural Influences on Coverage

The purpose of this study is to take an in-depth look at how journalists themselves perceive biases that affect news coverage. It seeks to look beyond political bias for some evidence of the more subtle biases created by modern news judgment and the daily routines of newspaper journalists, and to determine how aware journalists are of these biases and how they might be mitigated for a more complete and accurate report. To do so, this study utilizes survey data provided by the Committee of Concerned Journalists, a non-profit membership organization chaired by the authors of the book Elements of Journalism, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel.∗ The Committee runs a newsroom training program called Traveling Curriculum, which taps the skills of experienced journalists as facilitators to provide on-site workshops to newspapers of all sizes across the country. These workshops encourage newsroom discussion of the principles of quality journalism, including topics such as bias, accuracy, and verification. It also helps participants examine how their day-to-day routines can be changed to better fit these principles. The Committee conducted a...
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