Yes, media is biased

PEPE DON'T PREACH - Pepe Diokno () - May 8, 2010 - 12:00am

We’ve seen a lot of griping throughout the campaign season. We have politicians complaining that media isn’t giving them their fair due, while others have gone further, accusing journalists of creating the negativity that has filled the news of late.

This was the subject of a conversation I had online this week, when a series of tweets compelled me to write: “Blaming the media for ‘negative news’ is like blaming a mirror for that giant zit you have on your face.”

See, we forget that media reflects what is there. And that negativity in this country exists whether newspapers cover it or not. ABS-CBN news head Maria Ressa, who re-tweeted my message, chimed in, “I think the point is that the zit is there, and it has nothing to do with the mirror.”

Media Is Not A Mirror

But then I got an earnest tweet from Gabriel Jose (@theroadmix), an AB psychology major from Ateneo. He says, “The difference is, media is not a mirror.”

This is an interesting point. If our country is host to a million and one, it’s easy to venture a media that can distort fact and credit fiction is one of those problems.

Gabriel is right to point out that many journalists inject bias and prejudice into what they cover, and it is true: a number of news organizations have slants on certain issues.

I, myself, fault many writers and news anchors for placing primacy on personal affinities rather than hard research. And every day, I cringe at how unprofessional some in this industry are.

But I disagree with the notion that this is ruining our society.

Media Is Us

Let us not forget that in this day and age, media is us. Media is what we see, hear, and read, which means anybody with a voice — a blog, a cellphone, a Twitter account — is media.

So, if there’s anything ruining our society, it’s our lack of use of our own voices. And just because some scream louder than others, there is no excuse for not speaking up.

To illustrate the point: I think you’ll agree with me when I say that Twitter is an accurate reflection of the mood and sentiment of our time; that 100 years from now, our descendants can read our tweets and get a picture of what life was like in 2010. (That’s why the US Library of Congress is archiving our tweets, by the way.)

Now, within Twitter, you have voices on all extremes of the political spectrum. You have twitterers who only talk about Noynoy Aquino; you have twitterers who express liking for Gilbert Teodoro; and you have twitterers who talk about nothing but the alleged sins of Manny Villar.

Individually, these twitterers are biased, prejudiced, and extremely slanted.

But still, we consider Twitter an accurate reflection of our times.

Marketplace Of Ideas

That’s because an era is defined by the discussions that take place within it. We see the face of a civilization by looking at its “Marketplace of Ideas.”

The Marketplace of Ideas is a collection of concepts from all extremes, competing with each other for prominence. For example: the idea that the world is flat competes with the idea that the world is round; the belief that slavery is acceptable competes with the belief that it isn’t.

Now, in 1919, US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas. The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”

This means that any idea that is blasted into the world becomes subject to scrutiny. People use their god-given wits to weed out good ideas from bad ones; to discern truth from falsehood; and build upon concepts that show themselves to be most fruitful.

History shows us that the best ideas always come out on top. Even if all the newspapers in 1610 said that Galileo was a heretic — that there was no question that the Earth was at the center of the universe — today, we know that this is not the case. Even if, in Nazi-run Germany, all the radio stations said Hitler was the greatest man alive, we know today that he wasn’t.

Trial And Error

My grandfather, Sen. Jose W. Diokno, once said, “You have to go through the darkness of the night to see the brilliance of the stars.” The point is, we need bad ideas to compete with good ideas and falsehoods to compete with truths in order to find, test and strengthen valid principles.

So, is there room for biased, prejudiced, and slanted reporting in our society? Definitely. But what do they exist for? They exist for us to point them out and shoot them down.

Now that every single one of us has a voice — that by texting, Tweeting, or posting Facebook status, we have the power to influence people around us — comes the responsibility to speak about and defend what we believe in.

The only way to beat negativity is to raise our voices for positivity. And if media is biased for evil, let us be biased for good. We can never get rid of slant and prejudice, but if our slant is for truth, and our prejudice against falsehood, there is no doubt that we will win.

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Follow me at http://twitter.com/pepediokno.

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