Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Are the Media Biased?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Are the Media Biased?

Article excerpt

LAST month I spoke to a local organization on the problems of the United States in a disordered world. As is often the case, whether the subject be Bosnia, Somalia, Russia, or the Middle East, one series of questions inevitably arises:

What about the media? Do they have too much influence? Are they biased? Do they give us the truth? The answer is not simple; the media are not monolithic. In the US, the term covers nearly 2,000 daily newspapers, several news magazines, hundreds of radio stations, private newsletters, and a growing number of TV channels.

But certain aspects are common to all in coverage of international events. The rapid dissemination of vivid images through TV, augmented by fuller accounts in print, undoubtedly influences the foreign-policy process. Few believe that the US would have entered Somalia in 1992 had it not been for television coverage of the famine. Again, US policy toward Bosnia stiffened after pictures of the shelling of the market in Sarajevo were shown.

Are such pictures accurate? They show what the camera sees, but the presence of TV crews can stimulate crowds and actions that distort the total picture. And print reports are limited by the reporter's location, by access to sources, problems of language, local restrictions on the press, and danger. On a given day, news reports present only part of what is happening in the world. What news organizations cover may be based on what the competition is doing, access, and cost. Somalia was accessible; equally tragic circumstances in southern Sudan received little attention. In areas of bitter conflict, truly balanced accounts may be hard to find.

Opinions do enter into talk shows and the opinion pages. The free American society is awash with information and opinion. If the full picture does not emerge, it may be because interviewers, seeking the interesting answer rather than the informative one, fail to draw out what the experts do know. …

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