Back when newsrooms were more impartial and candidly, more interested in reporting stories than offering their own opinions on stories inside stories disguised as “news,” we found it necessary to create a test for new writers, one that would expose bias.
“We do a lot of stories about landlord and tenant disputes here,” we ask a news writer recruit. If we give you that as an assignment, who’s right, and who’s wrong?” we’d ask.
Sadly, too many able writers who know better responded with a knee-jerk quickness that the landlord is the wrong party.
And then we’d point out that we hadn’t told the circumstances, and we proceeded to make up some crazy story to illustrate that the landlord was indeed in the right in this case, and the tenant was in the wrong.
There were one of two reactions: One, the writer realized, instantly, that they had goofed. For them, we pointed out that bias is always within us, and as a journalist, you must constantly practice your craft and have a self-awareness as the remedy. When the embarrassment was over, that writer often got the chance to work and usually proved to be a good hire.
The other reaction was a glimpse of what news and journalism would devolve to become here in the 21st Century. The candidate, upon realizing their error, would not be contrite, but would double down and talk about how a landlord “usually” is wrong. They didn’t get invited to work on our newsrooms. But they did end up in others, particularly cable news (both sides of the spectrum), and that is part of the reason why when there is a police officer-involved shooting as it’s now called, the media seems to deem the police officer wrong.
Only we haven’t told you the story yet.
That’s just one point Larry Mendte makes in this commentary about jumping to conclusions, and the sometimes not-so-clear vantage point our news is coming from. Watch what else he has to say, and then write him at @mendte and let him know if you agree or disagree.
And as always, thanks for watching RoseBud!