Posts Tagged ‘Media’

On news sources & bias

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 11.58 pm

Q. Are there any unbiased news websites you can suggest to me? — cynicalnature, from tumblr.

A. It’s a very common idea — in America, at least — that the news media should be unbiased. But what I want to suggest here is that this is not only impossible, but it’s also undesirable. So I can definitely suggest some websites for news consumption, but let me give a quick rundown of why they won’t be unbiased.

Impossible

Reporters are people, and people have opinions. People whose job it is to discover, read, digest, and share news are particularly likely to have opinions, in part because they may get paid to do it, and in part because the sheer volume of news to which they’re exposed will eventually trigger some reactions in them.

It is pretty inevitable that some of that perspective is going to leak into news reports, even if the reporter is trying to be “objective”! Whether in subtleties of word choice, or sources selected, or even the topics covered, it is simply not the case that a human reporter can function as a pure conveyor of information. I mean, they’re people, not video cameras.

This doesn’t mean that reporters are bad people, or that they’re trying to trick us into believing that their opinion is fact. It just means that despite any journalists’ best efforts to be objective, their own perspective will shape their reporting — and on a broader level, they may tend to group together with like-minded fellow journalists who share their convictions and interests…and thus we get news organizations which are generally characterizable by a certain identifiable perspective.

Undesirable

So I’ve suggested that unbiased news is, by and large, impossible; but I also want to suggested that it’s undesirable.

It’s a fact of life that journalists have their own viewpoints, and I’d like to have a decent idea of what those are going into a news story. Better “This is where I stand” than pretenses of “fair and balanced,” as far as I’m concerned. When the reporter acknowledges his or her own biases or works for an outlet with a relatively established “bias” (I don’t like that term because of its negative connotation, but we’ll roll with it), the reader is able to consume news content critically, aware of the author’s likely blind spots and peeves.

So that’s why “unbiased” news is undesirable: It doesn’t really exist, so anything claiming that label is actually news with the bias better hidden.

News Sources

Ok, all that said, let’s get to some actual recommendations.

Honestly, my top recommendation is Google News. The big advantage here is that you can search by a topic and access a wide range of outlets which you might not normally encounter. The combination of these different sources won’t give you unbiased news, but it will give you a wide variety of perspectives, which is even better. If there’s enough coverage, they might even label which articles are most popular and which are most in-depth, which can be very helpful.

Beyond that:

  • For stories relating to bizarre regulations, police militarization, and the nanny state, the Reason Blog is often a good aggregator.
  • Antiwar.com, of course, is fantastic for foreign policy news and opinion.
  • I always like to check out what Conor Friedersdorf has been up to lately.
  • The American Conservative is a good source for longer (and some shorter) reads which will make you think.
  • Subreddits like r/libertarianr/politics, or r/news can be good to scan to see a wide range of submitted stories. Ditto for the corresponding tumblr tags.
  • Here and here are two posts which together exemplify what I read on an average day.

30 Under 30!

Posted on July 3, 2013 at 12.37 am

Thanks to Red Alert Politics for featuring me in this year’s 30 Under 30 list!

Check out my profile here, and see the other 29 honorees at this link.

Washing feet, not waging political war

Posted on April 5, 2013 at 2.56 pm

Q. I am wondering how you think the republican party can fight the mass media on their anti church moves? Although I believe in science the Church is a pedestal from which many derive principles. — worstthatcouldhappen, from tumblr.

A. Here’s the thing: I don’t think it’s the job of the Republican Party to defend the church. And I’m not super interested in somehow fighting the “mass media” (an increasingly difficulty to define term in the internet age) because it says stuff we don’t like about the church.

Let’s start with the first point: Church and politics in many ways should not mix. Should our politics be informed by and congruent with our trust in Christ? Unquestionably.

But the church is not a political movement (remember, his “kingdom is not of this world”), and the very last thing I want to see happen is for the church to be wrapped up in or confused with or championed by any political party. It’s damaging to both sides, but especially to the mission and reputation of the church.

Greg Boyd says it well:

Kingdom people are called to pledge their allegiance to God alone, not to any nation, government, political party or ideology. Because Kingdom people are under the rule of God alone, they are not under any other rule. Kingdom people are thus called to be “anarchists” (meaning without [“an”] human authority [“archy”]). Not only this, but the main task of Kingdom people is to keep the Kingdom “holy” — meaning “set apart,” “separate” and “consecrated.” We are to take great care to live lives that are set apart from the ideals, values and methods of the world’s politics.

Now, on to the question of the mass media and stopping attacks on the church. My best suggestion: Let’s be more Christ-like.

Until the kingdom Jesus started with his death and resurrection is fully realized, there will always be people, both in and out of the media, who disagree with and even actively dislike Christianity. The Great Commission is designed to change this, of course, but realistically in our lifetimes this segment of the population is not going away.

What can we change? Our own behavior. As Christians, we’re supposed to be identifiable by our love, but here in America, frankly, we’re not. In fact, just the opposite is true:

When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics.”)

This question reminds me a lot of the discussion over how to get more women to be libertarians. Many people take the position that there’s something wrong with women; I suggest that we libertarians instead work on improving our own pitch (and manners).

So how can the church go about changing our own behavior? Most simply, we should above all prioritize loving God and loving people. Practically, I think this looks like the church doing a lot less politics and a lot less being afraid of people who aren’t or don’t like us—and a lot more focusing on how to serve any and everyone.

And while this might have the pleasant side effect of making more people in the media like us, more important, it’s the main thing we’re supposed to be doing as Christians:

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.[…] God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:8, 16b-18)

I too think the church is invaluable; that’s exactly why I don’t want to see her battling off the media with the support of the GOP. We’re called to wash feet, not wage political war.

And if it doesn’t work? Well, people said worse things about Jesus.