It is my opinion that the bias in articles and comments posted on the Digital Journal has become a problem. In fact, I believe the bias is so bad that it reduces the value of the Digital Journal as source of news and information. The bias has also reduced the potential for journalists to make money writing for the Digital Journal.
How does on judge the credibility of sources for news and opinion? Undoubtedly this question has plagued recipients of information since the beginning of the news industry. It has always been difficult to establish the veracity of the news and the intentions of those who provide the information to the masses. Due to the recent technological innovations that provide information instantaneously it has become even more difficult to determine if what we see or hear is true.
Bias in the news comes in many forms. Forms of bias include but are not limited to commission, omission, story selection, sources selection, spin, labeling, and endorsement or condemnation. All of these forms of bias violate the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Explanations of each of the forms of bias listed are explained below.
Commission is the act of presenting information that supports a specific view. Many of the talking heads on FOX News, CNN or MSNBC and other networks regularly commit this act. FOX News regularly does this when discussing political polls. If the polls favor the conservative candidate the reporters generally tout the reasons why the poll is unbiased. If the poll favors the liberal candidate the reporters will often discuss the reasons the poll is biased against conservative candidate. The web pages of the Digital Journal are filled with articles demonstrating this type of bias.
Bias by omission is committed when journalists ignore facts that disprove specific claims, or that support opposing views. I have observed many journalists on Digital Journal commit this form of bias when posting articles on the Digital Journal. A recent example of this prompted me to compose this blog. The journalist composed an article attacking a Presidential candidate for attending a fund raiser at the home of an individual who outsourced many jobs and left a great number of people in dire financial straits. The article was well written and appeared factual. The problem was the journalist did not acknowledge the fact that the opposing candidate had done the same thing. It puzzles me that the editors and owners of the Digital Journal allow this bias to continue.
The bias of selection occurs when a journalist selects stories that promote a personal agenda while ignoring stories that supports the opposing view. This is another frequent sin occurring on the Digital Journal. Several prolific journalists on The Digital Journal are guilty of this. The majority appear to support liberal issues. However, there are some who focus on promoting conservative view points. In reality, the commission of this act reduces the credibility of the journalist a great deal.
Selection of sources is another type of bias that devalues the merit of an article. This occurs when a journalist includes more sources in a story that support one view over another. This type of bias can also be recognized when the story states that "experts believe," "observers say," or "most people think." Often this is observed on the Digital Journal in stories regarding health, genetically modified crops, and environmental issues.
Spin is probably the most prevalent type of bias occurring in the comments section of the Digital Journal. Bias by spin occurs when an individual emphasizes aspects of an issue favorable to the writer’s preferred point of view, while ignoring relevant information that supports the opposing point of view. It also occurs when the writer presents his or her interpretation of what an event means without presenting the opposing interpretation. Recent examples of this type of bias can be found in the comments on articles related to 9/11, and the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.
Attaching a label to individuals who support the writer’s agenda is both a form of bias and intimidation. In the article the journalist may use derogatory terms such as Tea Wanker or Libtard to describe factions or sources in the article. Often journalists use extreme terms to describe individuals the journalist disagrees with. Individuals the journalist agrees with are often labeled favorably with terms such as “expert” or “independent”.
Bias by endorsement occurs when the journalist stops reporting and endorses a specific position regarding which policies should be enacted. This is acceptable in an Op-Ed. However, endorsement has no place in a serious news article. Allegations of bias by endorsement appear to have forced Keith Olbermann to leave his position at MSNBC.
Bias by condemnation occurs when a journalist criticizes current or past policies. This is similar to endorsement. Again, the personal opinion of the journalist in a news article violates the journalistic Code of Ethics. Many people believe the entire FOX news network is guilty of committing this type of bias. This type of bias is quite prevalent on the Digital Journal. Conservative and liberal journalists often condemn the policies promoted by politicians they are opposed to.
Sometimes I read a story I strongly disagree with. That does not mean the story is biased. If the article is factual and the journalist has avoided injecting bias into the article, it really does not matter what I think. However, if the story or comment is biased I believe I have every right to speak about the bias.
For example, one very prolific commenter on the Digital Journal frequently uses material from Veterans Today to support his opinions. He maintains the credentials of the references are impeccable. It is true; the credentials of the staff at Veterans Today are impressive.
Regardless of the credentials, it appears the editors and journalists at Veterans Today may be biased. The appearance of bias is recognizable because the writers often incriminate Israel in tragic events around the world. When the articles are closely examined the sources are nearly always anonymous, if any sources are provided. In addition, many of the articles appear to be a string of assumptions, innuendo and unsupported allegations.
As I mentioned, the credentials of the staff at Veterans Today are impressive. However, that does not mean they do not have a bias. Let us examine the credentials of Mr. Gordon Duff. Mr. Duff is listed as the Senior Managing Editor. Mr. Duff’s resume is very impressive. http://www.veteranstoday.com/staff-writers/
“Gordon Duff is a Marine Vietnam veteran, a combat infantryman, and Senior Editor at Veterans Today. His career has included extensive experience in international banking along with such diverse areas as consulting on counter insurgency, surveillance technologies, intelligence analysis, defense technologies or acting as a UN diplomat and "special consultant."”
With that resume it is easy to assume he is knowledgeable in many areas has specific expertise that can lend credibility to his opinions. However, we need to know more to determine if he was unbiased. The first obvious question is does he have business interests that present a conflict of interest. The Veterans Today website states that Mr. Duff is on the board of Directors of an organization called the “Adamus Group”. Here is a description of the “Adamus Group” from the Veterans Today website.
Adamus, among other things, manages a series of organizations that oversee high security databases for national intelligence agencies, law enforcement groups and financial institutions.
Several Adamus group companies work in the area we broadly refer to as “disclosure,” managing the integration of “after next-gen” technologies. Among those are energy sectors including a variety of fusion systems, advanced energy weapons and unconventional flight systems.
Adamus is privately held, quasi-governmental and operates under the authorities of several treaties and conventions.
This information raises several questions about Mr. Duff’s ability to remain unbiased as the Senior Managing Editor of Veterans Today.
1. Can an individual who is on the Board of Directors of a quasi-governmental organization that operates under the authority of several treaties be unbiased?
2. Is Veterans Today a public relations tool for the Adamus Group?
3. Are foreign governments using Adamus and Mr. Duff to provide propaganda to the American people?
4. Which governments is the Adamus Group affiliated with?
5. Given the overwhelming number of articles from Veterans Today that state or imply that individuals associated with the government of Israel are responsible for many attacks on the United States, Iran and a number of other nations, is it possible that the Adamus Group and Veterans Today were created to promote anti-Semitism and turn public opinion against Israel?
6. How can Mr. Duff demonstrate that he is indeed unbiased?
I do not know the answers to these questions. However, they do trouble me. Even more troubling is the fact that an obviously well educated individual is willing to accept Mr. Duff’s word on issues simply because he has an impressive resume. Are impressive credentials a good tool to use in determining if someone is biased?
Personally, I believe it is the duty of all users of the Digital Journal to identify and discourage bias in news and op-ed articles as we encounter them. What can we do about biased articles if we see them?
First, I believe we should not provide them an economic reward for a biased product. This can be accomplished in 2 ways. One is to refuse to “like” the article. This will limit the payoff to the journalist. The other is to stop commenting on the article.
Next, I would encourage readers to notify the journalist of the bias in the article and suggest solutions to reduce the bias.
Finally, we must all exercise personal responsibility and refrain from committing bias in our comments on articles.
Digital Journal is part of our community. It says a great deal about each of us if we continue to allow biased articles to dominate the Digital Journal. If we work together, we can reduce the bias and make the Digital Journal more enjoyable, useful and profitable.