Being impartial means not being prejudiced towards or against any particular side, and to be fair and balanced. In the world of media, this used to be a standard that many just accepted to be what happened. These days though, with the advance of digital technologies, the thrust for reporting to in response to things as they happen, and the ease with which it is possible to have things published as gospel, this is an increasingly tough one. All journalists have their own views, and yet, to deliver comprehensive and authoritative coverage of news and current affairs they must rise above their own personal perspective.
Is this always the case? When you read or watch a news piece are you sure that what you are hearing is impartial? Does every news piece reflect the diversity of opinion fairly and accurately to get a true picture of what is really happening?
Impartiality means providing a balance of issues and views, reflecting a wide range of opinion, exploring conflicting views and making sure that all significant strands of thought are represented.
This is even more important with controversial issues. I’ve noticed though of late that in the media there seems to be a strong reluctance to deal with controversial issues with impartiality and that at best a one sided approach bordering on opinion is being offered to the general public.
An example of this is the use of experts. Using an expert such as an academic to give balance and credence to a story is noteworthy, but not if the experts chosen provide only to reinforce the beliefs and bias of the writer or the organisation. Everyone has the own bias and if that is the intention to present information in that way, then the piece must clearly be identified as an opinion piece.
To often these days, we are presented with news stories hidden behind a ludicrous headline that is solely there to entice us to click through on the story. Quite often opinions are formed and shared just be reading this headline and often in a way that create misconceptions and ill-informed knowledge about what is actually happening.
New terminologies such as ‘fake news’ ‘echo chambers’ ‘gone viral’ are now impacting on the way we go about our news collection more than ever before. A recent report found that: “control over search results (SEME) is, in all likelihood, now determining the outcomes of upwards of 25% of the national elections in the world, as well as impacting the beliefs, attitudes, and opinions people form about everything they research on the internet - all without people being aware that their thinking is being shifted by algorithms.”
Potentially scary stuff! What can be done? As individuals, it is up to us to be aware and not just accept what we are fed. I would encourage everyone, every day to challenge what they read, ask questions of its author, whether they be at school, work or just going about their daily business. Keep asking, keep looking, keep reading until you have exhausted all the avenues to find the answers for yourself and don’t believe or agree with what is handed on a plate.
Because as Tony La Russa once said “You can be stupid once, but idiotic to do it again. I’ll settle for being stupid.”