Newspapers and nearly all publishers of news are biased. This simple-to-understand fact is one of the factors which makes the world of news so difficult to navigate, both in readership as well as in the writing of the news stories themselves.
Bias sounds like something really bad, and in the media business this quality can be quite detrimental. But bias is what makes us human; it’s a sign that we have opinions, and often morals, which we hold to. However, when writing a news article about what’s going on in the real world, it is really important to leave personal opinions, grudges, admirations, etc. out of the picture.
A well-written news story sticks to the facts, does not blur them, and examines the situation or topic from several viewpoints in order to create the most encompassing overall view. This does not mean reporters are permitted to stretch or shrink the truth in any way to meet a viewpoint which makes everyone happy. Not only is such a practice impractical and impossible, but it also goes against a reporter’s obligation to deliver the facts.
Politics (and many other areas of society) are imperfect; they’re not politically correct. Thus, the news is not going to be politically correct, and news writers can’t sugarcoat harsh realities. That’s not their job; that’s the task for comic strip writers.
Despite the obvious journalism morals getting bent around and discarded these days, there are a few select places in news publications for pieces chock-full of opinions. Comics are clearly one of those places, and so many politically-based comics are not funny to everyone. But there are other nonfiction genres in which opinions have a place.
An op-ed article is typically a commentary, an article directly classified as being very opinionated. These types of pieces are often rather personal too. A good example of such an opinion piece is “Why I declared war on Christmas” by the Chicago Tribune‘s Christopher Borrelli which seems more like a bit of venting to the world about the struggles of his childhood and current life. I think it would’ve been better placed in a lit magazine. (But that is just my own opinion, and I admit it.) But it is quite personal, and that’s a fact. Many other such opinion pieces can be found in new publications. One publication I write for, the Good Men Project, for instance, lives off of publishing such material.
Another genre of news writing which obviously entails the use of opinions is artistic criticism. This is because all people, and therefore all critics, are going to have varying artistic palates. E.g.: Some may enjoy Picasso, whereas some may rather take a liking to the works of van Gogh. This is why every so often critics from different publications end up giving the same piece of art drastically different reviews: some negative, some optimistic. The freedom allowed in such criticism is one of the reasons I’m drawn to this genre. I find film and literary criticism enlightening and enjoyable.
The problem occurring, especially in newer journalists, is an ignoring and bypassing of the morals of journalism. It’s becoming more freeform, and strict news is not supposed to be that way. It’s meant to be straightforward, concise, and accurate. Rantings are meant for opinion articles and reviews of movies, books, and the like. If the journalistic morals are to be kept intact, opinions should be left behind in only those few genres. And the news should remain as accurate and unbiased as possible.