Is there no limit to News Bias?
People in positions of power often try to use the media
to promote their positions or their "spin" on events. Sometimes, especially
in cases of national security, government officials have an interest in limiting
or eliminating debate. They hope that their interpretation of events is accepted,
rather than questioned, by the media. They would have us believe that their
view of events should be shared by all right-thinking people. Sometimes the
media, or at least some media, wittingly or unwittingly act as debate limitting
agents. They accept the official position without adequately scrutinizing the
assertions of those officials.
Key questions to keep in mind while reading the following examples of Limiting Debate:
- Is the claim made in the headline adequately substantiated in the text of the
- Does the reporter accept the official U.S. government position as fact or are
there indications that he sought independent confirmation of official claims?
- Do you think the reporter is susceptible to being used by government officials
to further their policies or do you think he demonstrates enough independent
thinking to make that unlikely?
- Journalistic codes of ethics urge journalists to use anonymous sources as sparingly
as possible. The writer of one of the articles below uses an anonymous source. Does it seem
justified in this case? Is it clear why the source wanted to remain unnamed?
- Do you get the sense from reading the article that their may be more than
one way to view the events?
In other words, does the article serve to limit or eliminate debate? Do you
think that's justified given the situation described?
The following article deals with the 2003 War with Iraq:
Limiting Debate Analysis:
It is often said that the "first casualty in war is the truth." While
to some it may seem unpatriotic to challenge what our government is telling
us in times of war, history should teach us that it is important to do so. If
you have any doubts about truth being the first casualty in time of war you
should read Philip Knightly's book, "The First Casualty." He provides
plenty of examples of governments in times of war abandoning the truth. All
too often journalists have been their willing instruments.
Top of Page
The following articles appeared on the same day in the New York Times. They
are not written by the same reporter: