It’s not really possible for journalists to be unbiased. Everyone has a bias. The goal for journalists is to overcome their bias for their work. They can do it. And I’ll show you how.
Reading this Linked In article about overcoming a bias brought to mind my own method for working on my biases. As a talk show host, bias is important. A host needs a strong point of view in order to inspire discussion. But as a newscaster, personal bias isn’t appropriate. At 680 News, we were happy when we got an equal number of complaints from both sides of an issue. That told us we were getting it right down the middle.
Here’s my method for keeping my own bias out of a news story. I’d think about what a person with the totally opposite view to mine would say. Essentially, I developed a mental argument against my own bias! Then, I’d put myself in the position of moderator, and write the story. This would happen almost unconsciously and quickly, and it served me well. It didn’t mean I adopted another point of view, but I acknowledged that it had the right to exist.
I’ve worked with journalists who thought it was amusing to sneak in their own opinions. Admittedly, the line has blurred between news and editorializing. But there is supposed to be a difference. There’s a tale that’s been going around the London media world for ages. A legendary radio newscaster’s newsroom banter with an equally experienced colleague would make it into his news stories. He’d write, “Analysts say…”, and then add bits of their musings. That’s bias at its finest, not to mention misleading, incorrect, manipulative and an outright lie.
Imagine if everyone attempted to see things from the opposite point of view? Even if just for a minute. Far from a sign of weakness, it’s a show of strength. It puts value on the person, even if you don’t put any value on their opinion. Could political wounds heal with something as simple as that? Doubtful. But let me think about that for a while.