Editorial: The goal to keep bias out of our reporting
We were discussing bias and the news media the other day, and it struck us that we get sidetracked into that shorthand sometimes when the topic really is objectivity.
In the 19th century, the press was blatantly partisan. There were Republican newspapers and Democratic newspapers, and they all poured their coverage through a political lens.
Toward the latter half of the 20th century, the tenets of journalism changed to instead embrace the concept of objectivity.
All of us are biased to one degree or another. It is an inescapable part of human nature. But those of us in the objective press strive to put our biases aside, sometimes with success, sometimes less so.
The underlying premise of objective coverage is that the job of our reporting is to provide information as even-handedly as possible so that the citizenry can be informed in order to make wise decisions.
Today, with the fragmentation and democratization of media, that objectivity is not universally practiced or understood.
Make no mistake about it. the premise of partisan news coverage is fundamentally different. Under it, the decisions already have been made and coverage is meant to support those decisions with information and arguments on their behalf.
You can be a fan of partisan media, but understand, you are not going to grow from them. They are not going to challenge your beliefs. They are only going to reinforce them.
That's fine to an extent, we guess. We all need to feel part of a community. But as an exclusive source, it's not necessarily good for the republic.
It leads to entrenchment, not dialogue. It leads to alienation rather than understanding. It doesn't help us learn from each other.
Ultimately, after all, the community we all need to feel part of is the same community -- the national union, one nation with a common purpose.
We're proudly a member of the objective press, and our goal here is to serve you and the community. Our goal is to help equip you to decide, not to decide for you. Even on the Opinion page where we editorialize, the goal is to help equip you, not to dictate to you.
How well do we succeed at that? Well, there are a lot of challenges to doing it perfectly, our own personal biases being among them.
But understand that the difference between us and the partisan, agenda-driven media isn't just that they wear their biases on their sleeves and we don't. The more important difference is that their mission is to promote their biases. And ours isn't.