Over a year ago, I tried to answer the question: “Is it possible to be unbiased?” In the time between that post and now, I’ve been dealing with a new challenge in trying to define “unbiased.”
Without taking back anything that I said, I have a slightly different approach this time. In my quest to be unbiased and fair to both sides, I discovered that trying to remain “neutral” is also not always a good thing.
As a reporter, it is important that you have a clear understanding of what you consider to be fair, because it is not always as easy as just covering both sides equally. When I was reading for my Writing and Reporting I class, I came across this quote which goes along with what I have been learning about “fairness” and being “unbiased.”
“…while journalists strive to be fair, fairness doesn’t require all sides to be presented equally in a story. A dictator (or a school bully) can justify his or her behavior, but the journalist is not being unfair to say that behavior is wrong.”1
You see, I discovered (or am in the process of discovering) that if you try to be right in the middle, you’ll either end up being tossed by the wind, or by choosing not to take a side, you will end up taking a side. It’s just not in human nature to be without opinions and personal values.
I still hold to the fact that everyone, especially reporters, should strive to reveal the truth, but sometimes it’s a little more tricky than that. The quote above brought up a really good point. Does being unbiased mean that you have to report everything as being okay or acceptable?
I found this happening not only when it came to reporting or journalism related tasks, but in everyday life–especially when it came to my faith. (I feel like you can’t talk about bias without mentioning faith because what you do is influenced by what you believe in.) In an effort to “not offend” people who didn’t share my worldview, I found myself in a very dangerous area of compromise. That’s the problem when you don’t have a standard to go by, or, in journalism, that’s what happens when you don’t have a clear definition of what is considered unbiased.
I’m not advocating that we go in the opposite direction and be stubborn about what we think is right, ostracizing anyone who disagrees with us. That can be even more dangerous. There has to be a balance between being respectful and aware of others’ opinions without becoming too “wishy-washy” when you report. I don’t have all the answers and definitions but I just figured I’d just give you some food for thought.
- Wilkinson, Jeffrey S., August E. Grant, and Douglas J. Fisher. Principles of Convergent Journalism. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2013. Print.