I just finished my internship with WBUR's Here and Now, and I'm feeling nostalgic. Working for the show has been rewarding and makes me excited for what the future could bring... (jobs, anyone? I sure hope I can find one post-graduation).
It's interesting to think about biases in the newsroom. Alongside the internship I've been reading from a book Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production by Jonathan Kern. He writes:
"If newsrooms were as diverse as the rest of America, there would be lively debates whenever a story idea was suggested. But broadcast journalists are more like one another than they are like the population as a whole, and news reporting can suffer because of it." (12)
It's true. As you sit in a room, processing the news day after day with people you inevitably come to know well, you're bound to expose your personal political beliefs. Yes, the office I was in has an undeniably liberal bent. Even if you actively try to keep a balanced perspective in the news, you're dealing with a room full of like-minded people.
That doesn't mean we were left wanting for lively debate. In fact, sometimes it got so lively our senior producer would have to put the conversation on pause so that we could meet deadline. But it was that debate that was so crucial in the pursuit of integrity. The folks at Here and Now were objective enough to know their own biases and remarkably able to keep the scripts that they wrote relatively balanced.
It's not so unlike a small liberal arts college, in that sense. When you come to Colby, you can safely assume that the population is dramatically more liberal than the country as a whole. In a burst of enthusiasm for our shared beliefs, it's easy for voices to get lost in the mix. So in both the newsroom and the classroom, it's a matter of admitting your own biases, knowing your limits and striving for objectivity. It's also about surrounding yourself with intelligent people willing to call you on your bias, yet having integrity in your convictions. That's what impressed me at Here and Now (among many other things); they were able, somehow, to maintain a balance between objectivity and a strength in their own convictions. I will try to bring that attitude into my life in general--at our school paper, The Echo, in class discussion and term papers, and in day-to-day life.
And, as Simon and Garfunkel sang in "The Boxer:" "Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and he disregards the rest." We're facing a day and age where you can simply go online to a blog somewhere and affirm your own beliefs, all facts to the wind. I think it's important for both news organizations and individuals to open their eyes, ears and minds...and set a goal for honesty and objectivity in communication.