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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Edward Malnar

< simple but incomplete routine: get up, grab your tea/coffee, and maybe glance at the news before starting your day. But how do often do you spend those drowsy moments graced with steam thinking about reporting bias? That’s right- to digest news takes more consideration than a sleepy glance. It makes sense that everyone writes for a reason, and that reason will inform the angle or approach of a piece. Up front, I wrote this because thinking about the writer, and not just the material, determines your effectiveness at being both a student and a citizen.

This summer, I became involved in an email-based political debate ruthlessly arguing the question, what happened at Ferguson? Reading emotionally charged pieces from a safe distance makes it all but impossible for me to what actually occurred. Conflicting reports either painted Brown as aggressor or victim, providing a spectrum of anecdotal details. Brown might have been assaulting Officer Wilson or surrendering when he was shot. The narratives told are biased; writers select details or choose words to fit a limited interpretation.

But if a reader holds a limited view, learning may be impossible. I left my debate when I understood this sentiment from another participant (and I paraphrase): ‘Any major media report intentionally misrepresents facts, so you can’t trust what any publication says.’ This individual relied on personal testimonies from residents on twitter and tmblr as Biblically irrefutable truth. Hopes for journals’ professionalism aside, why trust personal statements? Most residents never saw the events and probably approach the issue with a bias born in knowing a grieving family. I imagine that the testimonies cited in our debate held a private agenda (without necessarily consciously realizing it) like: ‘The civil rights movement never did enough to counteract racism.’ So when that biased person, even if the bias is sincerely justified, became involved in protests, what happened to anything this “person on the ground” wrote about it? Do you think you can guess?

The answer is always bias. The answer is always an attempt to bend a reader to view the world like the writer. The solution for you is to read twice, once to look at a story, the second to understand why the writer narrates it that way. But that story remains biased, a twisted way of conveying facts to you that generates an incomplete understanding. To be informed, you must store that thought and read another angle, perhaps many. The truth of any story never appears in just one telling of it but a synthesis of contrasting views. Newspapers mislead you by having only one section entitled “Opinions,” so if you wish to be a good student, I challenge you – try the following to read more conscientiously. Don’t regurgitate the first angle you encounter. Dig deeper to think about all sides with respect, break them down, and put them back together into one unified story. The consistencies are what you can start to trust and the rest, just fluff.

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