I come from an era of journalism which required reporters to investigate, interview and confirm their facts by the use of two or three corroborating sources before a story ever saw the light of day. Today’s reporting is a far cry from old school journalism. Bias does not just have a foot in the door. Often it is its entire body.
Bias is insidious. It creeps in with an editor’s conscious choice of what will be reported. A local TV station is notorious for this tactic. Rather than openly stating its position it reports almost exclusively on stories that are sympathetic to their point of view or advance their preference on an issue. Bias also shines forth in the choice of words, especially adjectives and adverbs, used to narrate a story. An example might be, “the subject hesitantly entered the room” or “the subject boldly entered the room.” Same statement of fact, isn’t it? But the choice of descriptors paints two entirely different pictures in your mind.
The only place within media where bias is legitimately used is in its Editorial. That is the only instance when a TV station or a newspaper has the freedom to take a position on an issue and openly announce that it is their position. The Glendale Star’s editorial of April 4, 2013 entitled “Glendale taxpayers can hope and dream” had me in a state alternating between utter disbelief and uncontrollable hysteria.
In its Editorial there are expressions of thought such as this, “So, how will the city manage to come out of its terrible deficit with a balance sheet that is less than depressing? That question can only be answered by those with knowledge of the public finance system. The keepers of the city’s books, who will be working with an independent auditor in the next few weeks, should be able to show where the money went, and possibly how it can be retrieved or replaced,” or this, “Why there could be hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around in one account or another. Perhaps all of this gloom and doom talk about the city’s financial condition is just a bad joke, and the auditors will find a pot of gold stashed away in a corner of City Hall.”
Maybe this Editorial was merely an April Fool’s joke. Either that or it was written by someone foolish enough to buy into Councilmember Alvarez’ paranoia that someone in City Hall hatched a nefarious plot to abscond with oodles of city money. Perhaps they think it was former City Manager Beasley who set up a secret stash in the Bahamas. I suggest that they check the undersides of the former City Manager’s desk drawers. Perhaps they’ll find the secret bank account access code.
There are two bills before the state legislature, HB2533 and HB2483 that would seriously weaken newspapers, especially small, local papers like the Glendale Star. I have always supported the notion that a variety of newspaper companies is to the benefit of the average citizen. But local papers do a disservice to themselves and the citizen support they must have, when I read an Editorial such as the one I’ve described.