My papers: Why accusations of bias are wrong

34741796_10156458274894758_5969491533366296576_nIt’s all too easy to label a newspaper biased if you don’t like what you see.

I spent three years as a political reporter for our papers and in that time I dedicated the majority of my evenings to covering hundreds of council meetings. I was often the only one in the public gallery, press or public. Even when Albie was born, I went to as much as I was able to.

Countless articles were penned and, unsurprisingly, the odd accusation of bias came with the territory.

But as I racked up experience, I was surprised at the range of supposed biases our critics claimed we held over time. Some examples included:

  • A Liberal Democrat arguing we favoured the Tories
  • A Tory claiming we were ‘card-carrying Liberals’
  • A Tory arguing one paper repeatedly favoured UKIP
  • Labour sources expressing dismay over bias towards the Lib Dems
  • UKIP representative bemoaning ‘lack’ of quotes from the party after its victories, only to retract complaint after around half the article directly quoted UKIP sources!

I could go on all day and the examples over the years would certainly claim bias in nearly every possible combination.

I had to chuckle a few weeks ago, when BBC’s Question Time came to Worthing. Some readers angrily argued the Beeb was ‘right wing’, while others insisted it was ‘left wing’. Which is it? Maybe the Beeb is generally getting things spot on?

I sometimes wonder whether bias is just another buzzword like ‘fake news’. Both terms, in my opinion, are often lazy phrases for not agreeing with some of the points in an article, or the subject of the piece.

I can’t comment on the national press. I’ve never stepped outside my local news comfort zone – but I wonder if perceptions of local news are influenced by the stereotypical view of national newsrooms being influenced by those which finance them?

As I’ve said before, that certainly isn’t the reality in our newsrooms. No matter how many times I say that, though, there will always be those who argue until they’re a Tory shade of blue in the face that it’s not the case. We will go after the news story, regardless.

Show me an article which ‘proves’ a given bias and I’ll likely show you another which disproves it. Argue one side hasn’t had its say on a given issue and there will no-doubt be umpteen readers’ letters to show they have. Whatever this week’s bias is, either another one of our titles will be accused of a different bias at the same time, or next week the slant will have switched.

Please be assured that our small team has no reason to be biased – and if sometimes we don’t live up to our high expectations, we will endeavour to put things right.

There is no reason why we couldn’t be biased if we wished. There’s no rule governing that we must remain impartial. Why would we shy away from allegiances if we didn’t have to hide it? We strive to be balanced as we believe passionately about providing a platform to all corners of our society.

 

 

 

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