Argument Synthesis: Can Biased Media be 'Good'?

Essay by pjchungCollege, Undergraduate November 2008

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Bias, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary is “a preference or inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment.” Using this definition of bias as a lens for analysis, we will examine how bias affects the quality of media. The question that is the basis of the analysis is whether media that is biased can be “good,” or whether the presence of any bias within media makes that media “bad.” Solutions to this question can be split into two camps: Bill Moyers and hRobert McChesney see bias as inhibiting the ability of media to inform; Jeffrey Jones and Henrik Örnebring and Anna Maria Jönsson think biased media can be “good” because they informs the public about alternative issues in unconventional ways.

In Moyers’ article “Journalism and Democracy,” published in The Nation, Moyers is explicit with his own personal biases: such as which presidents he enjoyed working under, and his opinions on what journalism should be.

However, he does agree that biased media in the public sphere cannot be good as it is inherently damaging to society. Moyers’ view of media is best stated by this quote he uses from journalist Martha Gellhorn: “ ‘journalism is a means… the act of keeping the record straight…’ ”. This philosophy of ‘keeping the record straight’ or in other words, journalism as an unbiased and objective institution, is one that would not “inhibit impartial judgment”.

Like McChesney, Moyers also believes that the success and unchecked power of commercial media conglomerates has led to the harmful effect of biased news coverage in American society. This bias in contemporary commercial media derives from a political system wherein, according to McChesney, “elites make [the] most fundamental political decisions” (McChesney 3). Moyers provides the example of the late-nineties debate on the digital media spectrum; despite the nine...