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Generic Confusion

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Who's balanced? Who's biased?

The recent elevation of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI is a story no news outlet could ignore. It provides a case study of bias in news media. You have liberals claiming Fox News makes a mockery of the motto "Fair and Balanced." You have conservatives saying the bias in the mainstream media is so obvious that one must be willfully blind to deny it. So let's see how they compare on this story.

First, Fox News:

Ratzinger, 78, served John Paul II since 1981 as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In that position, the man described as a conservative guardian of church doctrine disciplined church dissidents and upheld church policy against attempts by liberals for reforms.

The new pope had gone into the conclave with the most buzz among two dozen leading candidates. He had impressed many faithful with his stirring homily at the funeral of John Paul II, who died April 2 at age 84.

Now, the New York Times:

He has been described as a conservative, intellectual clone of the late pontiff, and, as the dean of the College of Cardinals, he was widely respected for his uncompromising - if ultraconservative - principles and his ability to be critical.

As cardinal, he had shut the door on any discussion on several issues, including the ordination of women, celibacy of priests and homosexuality, defending his positions by invoking theological truth. In the name of orthodoxy, he is in favor of a smaller church, but one that is more ideologically pure.

Now, a news article shouldn't editorialize. Both articles state he is described as conservative. This is a statement of fact, although it would be much better to state who describes him as conservative. Not being familiar with the common analysis, I will accept that observers agree that he can be described as conservative.

But look at the New York Times quote again. His principles are described as "ultraconservative." That's an editorial comment, one with a negative connotation, and using the superlative prefix "ultra-."

Compare how Fox News refers to upholding church policy and New York Times refers to shutting the door on discussion. Which is a more accurate description of what the leadership of the Catholic Church does?

Now, answer the question: who's the biased news source?


At 1:06 AM, Blogger gecko said...

Clearly Fox is biased in this case. They are reporting against the "norm" of progressiveness that oozes from mainstream media.

O.K., well you could have picked a less flamingly liberal news source to pit Fox against;>

At 1:28 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Hey, how can I not choose the paper of record?

At 1:53 AM, Blogger gecko said...

Seriously, I would have liked to have seen a comparison between MSNBC or CNN and Fox.

I tried to do my own research on this a long time ago, but it was hard to watch those other networks, especially during election coverage!


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