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JV Editorial

The NY Times and the Perils of Journalistic Bias

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Journalism is a tricky trade. While many writers wish to provide their readers with objective, impartial accounts of events, bias always remains. The inherent slant derives from three factors that always lie in the hands of the writer, editor, or publisher:  selection, presentation, and the positioning of material.

The staff at any newspaper must choose topics to write about to the exclusion of others, and this, the first bias, warps their readers’ general perception of global dynamics.

Once a topic is then selected for coverage, the assigned writer is then left with the task of using a limited number of words and a maximum number of resources and quotations to articulate his story; when some details and quotes are employed, others are necessarily left out. The result is a skewed story-the second problem.

The third subjective element arrives at the culmination of the writing process, when the staff – usually the editor – determines the layout of the paper. Which stories should feature more prominently? Should the story appear on the page’s top or bottom? These are some of the questions any editorial staff is forced to answer, though forced may be the wrong word.

For some papers, the central purpose is to impart a certain ideology to a targeted demographic. To use the Jewish Voice as an example, our editorial slant could perhaps be best characterized as unabashedly Zionist, pro-Torah, and pro-patriotism. While we all (and virtually every other news source) strive for objectivity and rationality in our coverage of current events, we make no effort to obscure our own ideological orientation.

The New York Times did not honor the virtue of objectivity in its recent coverage of “The Third Jihad,” a film shown to police officers that exposed the threat of Islamism in America.

Right off the bat, the headline, “In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims” featured on the paper’s front page.

It cited as a source the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization with direct links to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, distorted the film by erroneously quoting excerpts and misattributing photographs, and failed to solicit a response from Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, the devout Muslim who narrated the film, to the raft of grievances made by critics.

The Times, which covers everything from art to world events, chose to plaster a one-sided local story on its front page. And how was the article written? “Ominous music plays as images appear on the screen,” it first reads. No need to continue.

If the editors of the Times plan to maintain a reputation as a newspaper with journalistic integrity, they should be more careful not to affront men like Jasser and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who interviewed for the film. They should minimize the paper’s bias by paying greater attention to the selection, presentation, and positioning of their pieces-at least if they want us to take them seriously and continue reading .

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