What can we do about media bias?

Posted: Jan 17, 2006 3:08 PM

My last two columns (here and here) generated considerable feedback from readers. I received quite a few emails like this one from Theresa:

Todd, thank you for your column about media bias. I agree with you—what can be done about this situation?

The Associated Press is the 500-pound gorilla of media bias. They are the gatekeepers of our news and they’re extremely powerful. The liberally biased AP is a monopoly when it comes to distributing news to our nation’s newspapers. It’s useless to complain to them though, because they don’t care. They shoo conservatives whining about bias away as if we were gnats. 

The AP won’t listen to us, but they will listen to newspaper editors. Unfortunately, editors don’t care either. They are too busy to worry about bias and they don’t think it is a problem. Editors are only going to start addressing media bias after complaints from their readers reach a critical mass.

So, the formula for combating bias is to have enough newspaper readers complain and urge the editors to address the situation with the AP directly. The big excuse, of course, is the monopoly status enjoyed by the AP. They will say, “We have to use them, what else can we do?”

It’s time for the AP to have some competition.

The AP is the largest, most comprehensive\\ newsgathering organization in the history of the planet. Obviously, it is impossible to compete with them from a business model standpoint. Fortunately, we don’t have to. Our new competitor, let’s call them Fair & Balanced Press (FBP), could make a huge impact with a relatively small footprint. Like CSPAN, FBP could have the narrow focus of simply covering political news.

FBP could be tasked with reporting the news of the president, the Congress and  elections. FBP would not replace the AP, but supplement it. The goal would be to convince newspapers to use FBP dispatches for their political stories.

FBP will not be a company that starts from scratch. It will be an offshoot of Fox News, Cyber News Service, NewsMax or maybe even CSPAN. Understandably, no business is going to branch out and attempt to compete with AP until they are comfortable there is a market for their product. 

This brings us back to Theresa; because there’s a lot to do while we wait for FBP. If you have an urge to take action against media bias, focus your energy on the editor of your local newspaper. Do your part to help create a market for a newsgathering organization that will rival AP’s political coverage.

There is no need to be confrontational when you contact editors. Keep in mind they had to be smart to get their job. Talk about a specific AP dispatch they published. Break it down, as a journalism 101 class would do. Ask the editor of the newspaper why the AP writer’s opinion is interjected in the dispatch. At the end of your call or email, thank the editor for his time. Then contact him again the next time you see a biased article with an AP byline.

You will not win this debate with the editor and that is not your objective. Your goal is to engage the editor intellectually and direct a small part of his attention to the objectivity of AP news stories. Let the editor know that you think there is a flaw in the product he is delivering to his customers. If your argument is sound, you will gain ground with the editor whether he admits it or not.

Media bias is an enormous problem in this country. There is no quick fix. Our efforts to bring objectivity back to the news will be taken one small step at a time. The editor of my local paper knows who I am. Does the editor of your local paper know you?