Reporting and the Inevitable Bias

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Bias.

I’m fairly certain it’s the only universal constant.

Well, except for the theory of relativity.

And because bias is the only universal constant, I’m going to tell you mine right up front. I’m a Democrat. My favorite news site is National Public Radio. My least favorites include Breitbart and Fox News.

For this post, I’m going to focus on Breitbart…and compare it to NPR.

I clicked over to Breitbart to get some material for this post, and had a good laugh at the first thing I saw. (Or at least I would have, had it not been past midnight 😉 .)

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Okay, I just have to ask. Why exactly is Breitbart calling out CNN for being fake?

It doesn’t even matter if CNN is “fake” news or not. (Which it’s not.) Breitbart is a news site, not a news review agency. Its job is to report on current events, get quotes, and generally let people know what’s going on in the world.

Its job is not to bash its competition, regardless of fakeness.

Look, if Breitbart had bashed Fox News here, I’d still be complaining. It’s not a matter of who they’re attacking, it’s that they shouldn’t be attacking in the first place.

For me, this is the first red flag that Breitbart is not to be trusted.

Okay, next.

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Here’s another red flag. And yes, sorry, I’m pulling a global warming example. But I’m not speaking to you as an activist right now. It doesn’t matter that yes, I agree that global warming is a threat. Right now, I’m examining Breitbart’s credibility.

Let’s take a good, close look at this quote from their site. This article was published a few years back, when news of a sudden “pause” in global warming began to litter the Internet.

First of all, exactly who called the “pause” an urban myth?

Answer: Breitbart.

I’m serious. I checked. I’ll do more checking, too, but I spent a good thirty minutes clicking through search results for the “pause” and doing a page search for the words “urban myth.” I couldn’t find it.

Because Breitbart is not an authority on science, but is, rather, a news site, everything it “reports” is an opinion. That could include the opinion of a certified scientist, and then information such as this could be taken as fact.

But on a news site, the opinion should never originate from the site itself.

If Breitbart interviewed a global warming “skeptic” or “denier”—regardless of the proper term—and that person called the “pause” an urban myth, I’d be okay with that.

But Breitbart should not be the source of the opinion. It is not a personal blog, venting its opinion of life and the universe. It is a news reporting site and should report what others do and say.

Okay. What about the phrase “evil deniers”?

I can tell you right now that I am the daughter of a long-time climate change activist and have been living in that environment for some time. I know that activists have never called deniers “evil.”

I don’t want to argue about the reality of global warming in this post. But I will say that the debate has never been about the morals of the people involved, at least not as far as activists are concerned.

So if activists didn’t write that quote, who did?

Obviously not the deniers. I have trouble believing they’d call themselves evil. So it must be Breitbart, again.

What did I say about Breitbart being the source of the opinion…?

The last thing I want to address about Breitbart before I move on to the merits of NPR is the phrase “climate alarmist.”

This phrase is used solely among deniers. There is not a single scientist who considers activists alarmists, and activists obviously don’t think that way themselves. It’s like deniers calling themselves evil.

So, if only deniers use that phrase, then I wonder what sources Breitbart’s reporter consulted?

I’d be hard-pressed to believe reporter James Delingpole checked his facts against those presented on an actual scientific website. It’s also obvious that activists’ opinions weren’t factored in.

It does not bother me that Breitbart reported what the deniers were thinking. That’s its job, to report. It does bother me that the site’s article only considered one side of the issue, and even came up with some opinions of its own.

So it was Delingpole’s fault, you say? The site as a whole is not to be blamed?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but Breitbart is a website perfectly in control of its faculties, and its admins are sure to carefully vet the content they post. After all, my blog isn’t of national importance, and even I am careful what topics I put out on the Internet.

So yes, Breitbart is the problem here.

I’ve now spent over nine hundred words bashing Breitbart. How about we take a look at a news site I do like?

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In order to stay consistent, I chose an article that also talks about global warming.

Let’s examine this title first. “Urgent” is an action word, but it’s in quotes, implying that it did not originate from NPR itself. That makes it solely a word to help with search engine optimization.

“Urgent action against global warming needed to save coral reefs.” Who cares whether or not this is true? The article is about to cite its sources, hopefully, and express opinions only as quotes from outside sources.

This title addresses the issue. It explains what is in danger (coral reefs), why they’re in danger (global warming), and how we can help (stop global warming).

Yes. I know it sounds like a call to action. NPR likely has a bias towards global warming being real. Like I said, bias is the only universal constant. However, this title also doesn’t point fingers at anyone, and it contains no opinions that originate from NPR itself.

Hopefully.

And sure enough, the rest of the article embellishes on what the title can’t. The title, after all, is only there to draw attention to the actual article.

The article establishes the issue.

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Then it explains who the heck this information is coming from.

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As you can see, it links to the study. This way readers can check it out for themselves and decide if they trust the information. In no way does NPR shove any opinion down its readers’ throats. It simply reports a claim—one that happens to be accurate.

Throughout the article, NPR’s reporter Merrit Kennedy quotes scientists involved in the aforementioned study.

Whenever Kennedy cites a fact, she frames it around “so-and-so said”—always framing it as the scientist’s opinion, and not NPR’s.

For the purposes of this post, I don’t care whether you subscribe to global warming as a threat or not. What matters is the way these news sites word their articles and behave towards other news sites.

What matters is where the opinions originate from.

And if the opinion originates from the news site itself, it’s not trustworthy, regardless of truth.

The articles I consulted are:
Breitbart: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/02/28/study-the-pause-in-global-warming-is-real/
NPR: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/03/16/520450521/study-urgent-action-against-global-warming-needed-to-save-coral-reefs

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