J500 Media and the Environment

Outfoxed or Out of the Picture? by erinleap

The phrase “objectivity and advocacy in journalism” immediately makes me think of the 2004 documentary, Outfoxed. Much like Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 documentary that attacked President George W. Bush, Outfoxed was aimed at exposing FOX News Channel for its conservative, right-winged objectives.

On the flip side, news channels such as CNN, MSNBC and CNBC are accused of having left-wing biases, favoring democratic candidates and liberal topics. So which news source are we to believe?

Remember the media coverage of Natalie Holloway, the 19-year-old, blonde college student who disappeared during spring break in Aruba? Or how about JonBenet Ramsey, the six-year-old pageant queen from Boulder, Colorado who went missing one Christmas Eve? Recall the names Caylee Anthony, Elizabeth Smart or Kelsey Smith? I’ll assume your answer is yes to at least one of these names, if not all of them.

Now what about Reyna Gabriella Alvarado-Carrera or Mya Lyons? How many people recognize these names? I’ll admit I had to do a little research myself to remember the names and the significance attached to each person. Alvarado-Carrera was a young, Hispanic woman who disappeared around the same time as Holloway and Lyons was a young, black girl who disappeared around the same time as Anthony, yet neither one of these girls received nearly the amount of media coverage the others did. Even more perplexing is that every news station was guilty of this media biased, not just FOX or just CNBC.

So what’s the objective? Why do journalists cover one story over and over but selectively leave out others? What is the media trying to advocate by covering certain

Cries for journalistic objectivity aren't restricted to American media. This Chinese student is protesting BBC's objectivity breach.

Cries for journalistic objectivity aren't restricted to American media. This Chinese student is protesting BBC's objectivity breach on the coverage of the Tibet riots in March 2008.

types of stories versus others? My honest answer is, “I don’t know.” I can guess that the media covers stories it thinks its audience wants to know about, but I think it’s the media’s responsibility to keep us informed, not focused. The golden rule of a journalist is to remain objective, not selective. I know it’s easier said than done, but as a consumer of news, I want to hear it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. I’d like to make my own discretions instead of the media deciding for me. 

-Erin Pursel


3 Comments so far
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Hey Erin, in my pursuit of information for this blog post I came across a an interesting article about media bias and how sometimes what we think is happening is not proved out by the numbers. Take a look at the link below. Great article on politics in the news and the final paragraph has one author’s view about the way journalists start seeing a story the same way. She talks about the influence of journalistic norms and competitive pressures.


Comment by margaretec


Thanks for sharing this article. I never thought about the editors and producers who take the journalist’s story to frame it for their newspaper and TV station. I also didn’t think about the “journalistic norms” journalists face when composing a story. Although it may be the journalist’s intention to avoid biases, it can be “nearly impossible” when you include all of the other factors mentioned in the article.

-Erin P.

Comment by erinleap

Hi Erin-

I also don’t completely understand the process of deciding what stories get covered and how much. It’s like murders, some get significant coverage–like ones in a small town others hardly, that involve non-violent people, a high-profile member of community, a unusual type of death.
But murders in high-crime areas, involving a drug deal or gangs, or maybe domestic violence–often get barely more than a mention.

The words “big tent” are often used when determining stories. But who’s to determine what will and will interest the most people?

When it comes to difficult, controversial, or complex issues, I think journalists (or news management) often look for an easy way out to avoid problems. Check this out.

Maybe journalism should be more viewer/reader/listener/consumer driven. But how do you do that and keep up with the fast pace of news and quick turn-a-round of coverage expected from consumers?

Dave D.

Comment by davemd

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