by Ella Scher ‘23
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of the word ‘unbiased’ is as follows: “un·bi·ased | /ˌənˈbīəst/ adjective | showing no prejudice for or against something; impartial.”
Sounds good, right? True neutral. Completely free of opinion and preconceived notions, laying out only the facts for a reader to take them as they may. However, the media has a long-running history of equalizing two very unequal things in order to preserve the notion that they are unbiased. This is especially dangerous in light of the recent presidential (and vice-presidential) debates in one of the most tumultuous times in history, including but not limited to: a pandemic, an election year, a massive social justice movement for BLM, climate change with wildfires and hurricanes, anti-vaxxers (and also anti-maskers), and concerns about an impending economic crash to rival the Great Depression.
Neutral journalism has been a hot-button topic for the last few years, as people attempt to rationalize the meaning of being truly unbiased and what exactly that entails. Let’s use the presidential debates as our primary example. In a debate, there’s no one referee, no one who will come in at the end of 90 minutes and say ‘Time’s up,’ declaring who won. Instead, journalists are expected to make their own deliberations about who performed better and who, in the end, will be the better president. Sometimes, an agreement among the general public will be reached, but like all agreements, there are some in the dissenting party. Therefore, journalists must attempt to remain neutral, but by doing so, often try to make both sides of the argument exactly proportionate.
For example, many newspapers and news sites have been drawing comparisons between Donald Trump, incumbent Republican, and his opponent Joe Biden, pointing out their various strengths and weaknesses. Let’s recap. Joe Biden, in favor of a climate change plan, reinstating the Paris Accord, peaceful protest, fixing the economy, and BLM. And Donald Trump, who openly supported white supremacy and refused to make payouts of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance unless he was reelected. (And paid 750 dollars per year in federal income taxes!) If Obama had done this, you bet I would have been lighting the match to the kerosene-doused White House right now. Instead, I’m sitting here, typing this article, praying that Trump won’t be re-elected so that our next president isn’t a Cheeto-colored, fascist, racist, misogynist Neo-Nazi dictator.
And you want the news to be unbiased?
Let’s revise the definition of bias. Let’s stop saying that being unbiased means being equal. Let’s put out the facts, the real facts, because only then will the American public be able to see the truth. Bias is inherent, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Bias is what you make it out to be, and heck, if humans were completely free of judgment and bias, then we’d all be angels. We’d all be perfect. None of us are perfect by a long shot, but we can try to institute an example of fairness in the media. So let’s start here, with the definition of unbiased.
Un·bi·ased /ˌənˈbīəst/ adjective | Telling the truth, without pretense or defense, every single time.