The media are biased.
There, I said it.
This includes The Island Packet, The Beaufort Gazette, virtually all of what has come to be known as “mainstream media” and what is typically called “new media,” too.
This confession won’t surprise many of you. You accuse us of bias all the time — as reflexively as a rooster crowing at sunrise. Too reflexively, in fact. “Bias,” to much of the hackle-raised public, has become conflated with “stories I don’t like,” “facts I don’t want to hear” and “viewpoints that are not my own and which therefore must be squelched.” Whether it’s a story about a high school sports team you follow, a political party you vote for, or a business you own or patronize, if you find it unflattering it must also have been unfair and we must have ulterior motives.
Now, I’m not blaming this all on you folks. Sometimes we are unfair (or, more typically, so focused on the next day’s edition, we don’t see the forest for the trees and thus sometimes treat similar news items dissimilarly.) But if “bias” is the only stone you hold in your hand, pause before you hurl it at us and ask yourself a question: If you think bias explains something you’ve read, what explains that bias? If you cannot answer that question, perhaps you have a little more thinking to do.
An example from my days as sports editor: It was not unusual for people associated with Hilton Head Preparatory School who thought we were biased in favor of Hilton Head Christian Academy. Neither was it unusual for people associated with Hilton Head Christian to assert we’re biased in favor of Hilton Head Prep. But why would that be? In the nearly 20 years I’ve worked in Beaufort County, the Packet sports staff has never had someone who grew up here, let alone attended either school. No one on the sports staff — at least not that I can remember — has ever sent their kid to either school. Indeed, most have been young, single and childless. Nor have they had a significant other at either school.
So why would we possibly have it in for one school or the other?
Getting the drift?
So next week, I’m going to give you a long list of our biases — some of which, ahem, benefit you and make our product more useful, others of which work against our interests and yours. Before I do that, however, I’d like feedback — if you think we’re biased in any way, tell me here what you think that bias is. I have only one stipulation — if you cannot merely accuse, you must present evidence, or at least a plausible explanation for it.
You have the floor.