'Facts Matter' series: How newspapers guard against bias
All media organizations have some level of bias, just as all consumers have biases that affect how they interpret the news.
Both have a democratic responsibility to recognize it and respond appropriately, Daily Herald editors said Wednesday night.
Identifying bias was the focus of the first of five "Facts Matter" presentations produced by the Daily Herald in conjunction with Northwest Suburban High School District 214. Hosted by Prospect High School journalism teacher Jason Block, the sessions aim to engage the audience in discussions centered around separating factual information from "fake news."
Daily Herald Editor John Lampinen and Jim Slusher, deputy managing editor for opinion, kicked off the series Wednesday by explaining how bias makes its way into the news and how most media outlets guard against it. They were joined by Senior Deputy Managing Editor Diane Dungey and Senior Staff Writer Madhu Krishnamurthy for a panel discussion that allowed members of the audience to ask questions about bias.
Reporters and editors have a checklist of safeguards to ensure fair and accurate reporting, Lampinen said, including eliminating loaded language, finding proper balance, choosing appropriate photos and being precise with word choice. Sometimes mistakes are made and bias unintentionally slips through, he said, but news organizations strive to seek and report factual, verified information.
"The most vital value that we hold in any newsroom is the value of the truth and getting it right," he said.
The Daily Herald takes extra precaution when covering particularly controversial or complex stories, Lampinen said, pointing to the newspaper's coverage of transgender issues at local high schools and the ouster of a community college president.
Even in the Opinion section, Slusher said, the Daily Herald aims to include columns and editorials that represent a wide range of voices and beliefs. That page also engages readers and encourages them to examine differing points of view.
"We believe democracy is better if we challenge people to think differently," Slusher said.
Still, some form of bias is inevitable in both those who report the news and those who consume it, Lampinen said. Bias is part of a person's DNA. It's learned from mentors and peers. It's developed from life experience.
Just as members of the press strive remain as objective as possible, he said, readers should aim to diversify their news sources and keep an open mind.
"Examine a bias in media, but also examine a bias in yourself," Lampinen said. "Ultimately the idea is to make better-informed citizens."
Presentations are scheduled for 7 p.m. each Wednesday for the next four weeks in the auditorium of the Forest View Educational Center, 2121 S. Goebbert Road, Arlington Heights. The upcoming sessions are:
• "How to Spot Fake News" on Oct. 3.
• "How Well Can You Trust Photos and Videos" on Oct. 10.
• "How Does a News Organization Work?" on Oct. 17.
• "The First Amendment as a Protector of Democracy" on Oct. 24.
Registration is required for the free presentations. To sign up online, visit https://d214.cr3.rschooltoday.com/public/getclass/category_id/9/program_id/1/subcategory_id/32.