Jack Shafer has begun a series of columns about bias in the news media for Slate. A very busy day prevented me from linking to his first installment yesterday.
I found this part particularly interesting:
The crude symmetry of the left and right media critiques suggest that 1) having over-tuned their radars, partisan press critics sometimes detect media bias even where it ain’t; 2) if both liberals and conservatives are partly right about the media, as I suspect they are, bias of an ideological nature should cancel itself out in the long run, nudging the press toward rough balance if not absolute fairness on the political spectrum; 3) when the left and right talk about systemic, chronic media bias, they’re not talking the same language; and 4) it’s hard to put much stock in what left and right press critics say because their views are so patently motivated by ideology. In other words, the intense and public biases of the press critics make them unreliable readers of press bias.
Point four is especially important. Is it ever possible to step outside of ideology in order to consider some socio-political phenomenon? I contend that it is possible. An ideology is a set of beliefs about how the world works. Those beliefs may be challenged and, perhaps, changed by new evidence. I think many people allow their ideologies to ossify by refusing to consider new evidence. And so their ideologies become biases and dogmas rather than useful theories.
Shafer also offers us an excellent short history of media critique–very instructive.
UPDATE (11:37 a.m.): I’m not finding much mention of Shafer’s column in the blogosphere. I’ve checked Blogdex, Popdex, and Daypop (links on right sidebar). Hmmmm… MediaMinded, no surprise, is on top of this. I wonder if #4 has anything to do with this dearth.