Oh, this is very funny … a true spoof. The cliches fall like autumn leaves. (Pwah!)

I have a serious book somewhere called Bending Reality: The state of the media (James Curran) which, among other things, discusses the compromises and distortions those in the news media routinely can and do make in the effort to ‘package’ the news. Sometimes the effect is to tell the exact opposite of what’s truly happening. It happens all the time.

Arianna Huffington has some worthwhile things to say about the media’s illusion of ‘balance’ and what she calls ‘fake neutrality:

Traditional media outlets have failed their readerships miserably by hiding behind a fake curtain of neutrality, when the facts often stack up more heavily in favor of one naked “truth,” charged liberal activist and online publisher Arianna Huffington Monday morning at a conference in New York City about politics and technology.

The main problem with the old media is that they’ve given up the pursuit of the truth for the pursuit of fake neutrality, which means that they present every story and every issue as if it has two sides,” said Huffington, …

from Wired

Now, while all Huffington says about fake neutrality is true, there is another bias problem lurking in the undergrowth: one-sided reporting — which can occur for a number of reasons, and sometimes even unconsciously but is usually, in my view, best ascribed to unequal access to information.

In my observation, journalists are most loyal to their sources — those who feed them. Sure, a reporter makes basic judgements about whether a source is reliable (or, more importantly, whether the information they provide is) and then, hopefully, follows the story where the info leads…

What can occur is a collusive tendency — an inclination to protect (or even to project?) the interests of one’s sources. It’s like taking ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ a few crucial steps further.

Working in political journalism exposed me to experts at preying on the ‘Look after me and I’ll look after you’ subtext. Press Gallery reporters who ‘displeased’ the powers-that-be (Govt or Opposition) would sometimes be chastised and frozen out of information or events that they needed access to to do their job properly. Reporters whose work ‘pleased’ the gatekeepers were rewarded with favoured access, favour and ‘exclusives’.
I saw this again and again. Even quite high-profile reporters and commentators were ‘encouraged’ in this way to toe the line.

Everyone wants a fair go. The trouble is, the definition of what that actually is varies.

Consider a more mundane example: Say a journo is being fed information by one party to a dispute, but the other has gone into their bunker — in part based on what they perceive as unfair treatment by the journo.

The adversarial nature of the case makes for black and white claim-and-counterclaim — that’s what happens when you get lawyer-types involved — and documents can be ‘provided’ to the journo by one side — documents designed (guaranteed) to paint a negative picture of the other party.

As happens, positions and perceptions become cemented, and the ‘worthiness’ of either cause can take a back seat to the personality conflicts between the various protagonists.
The journalist, unwittingly, or quite consciously, becomes an attack dog for one side, each snarl or bite on behalf of their ‘master’ reducing further their chances of getting the other side of the story.

If it’s not too far to stretch the canine metaphor, the ‘give a dog a bad name’ syndrome takes over and the truth lies softly bleeding in the gutter — too bad.

None of this is to say journalists are stupid or naive — nor motivated by “a vendetta or jealously” as some have suggested — just sharing some thoughts about the natural hazards of the game.

I like the clarity Huffington has about ‘new media’ and its own special challenges (quoting from the same Wired story) …

But new media isn’t an unqualified improvement on the old formula. Trolls often ruin the discussion at The Huffington Post, she noted. She appealed to the audience for help with any tech geniuses who could restore civility to the community without having to hire an armada of moderators.

Yes. It’s a problem.

More recent discussion on “media blur” here