Why Bias is Inevitable

Walter Russel Mead, in his usual long-but-worth-your-time style, explains the obvious:

 At bottom press bias is the consequence of honest efforts to report the real news by sincere and thoughtful people.

There is a lot going on in our busy world these days, and every reporter and every editor has be selective. They have to scan the vast flow of events and select a relative handful of stories that seem more important than the rest. To do this, you have to have a view of the world. In putting together the international news section, you can only run a few stories a day. Do you write about a cabinet change in Austria, a provincial election in India, a political show trial in Russia, a trade dispute at the WTO, ethnic conflict in Burma, a troubled vaccination campaign in Nigeria, a corporate merger in Italy, a lèse majesté case in Thailand, an anti-American demonstration in Pakistan, a statement on Iran from an Israeli opposition leader, the coca harvest in Bolivia, a central bank scandal in Malaysia, a budget crisis in Ukraine or a debate over the euro in Germany? And these would be just a few of the events that you might be looking at every day of the week.

How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? How do you sift out less than one tenth of one percent of all the events that happen in any given 24 hours and put them in your paper?

Unless you use the dartboard method, you have to make conscious choices about what is important and what your audience will likely want to read about. These decisions inevitably reflect your sense of where the world is headed, what the driving forces of history really are, and how important different issues and different regions in the world are to your readers.

In other words, you must exercise your bias to function as a journalist. There is simply no other way to do it—and the more information at your disposal, the greater the flow of news, the more important your bias becomes.

So the media has never been and can never be objective. Which is fine. If you consider a news item to be a product – and really, there’s no other way to look at it and be honest – then each news item reflects the people who produce it. This is not a crime against Journalism, it is human nature, as natural as breathing.

All we ask is that they own their worldviews.

The Debt Can’t Go On Forever…

and according to Walter Russel Mead, even Democrats are eventually going to have to embrace this reality:

Republicans and anti-blue statists will want to fix this because bad government is big government and takes a terrible toll on the economy (cumbersome procedures, bad decisions, a large and expensive staff). But smart proponents of a strong federal government will also want to change this status quo because the state as presently constituted is simply not able to take on all the missions they would like to see addressed.

That’s all well and good, but Andrew Cuomo aside, I don’t see the Democrats acknowledging this reality yet. And it’s going to be harder for them to do so, because so many of their key donor groups are dependent upon the old system. For every Cuomo, there’s two Martin O’Malleys who are doubling down on stupid.

The real question is, can we create a “post-blue model” before we become Detroit?

Hamilton’s Blues

Walter Russel Mead has an excellent column on the continuing reverberations of the great Hamilton-Jefferson Divide. 200-plus years later, the argument is still not over.

In Osawatomie and beyond, President Obama will run for re-election as a Hamiltonian and a custodian of the 20th century progressive state.  He will argue that modest and careful reforms, trimming a few excesses here, making some innovative policy shifts there, can keep the old ship afloat in the twenty first century.  Like JFK, he will argue that the best and brightest can develop government policy that will guide the nation to a brighter future through collective action and state investments.

Governor Romney, so far as one can discern, is at his core a Hamiltonian as well, but he has less sympathy than President Obama and the Democrats for the blue synthesis of Hamiltonianism and social democracy.  He stands roughly in a line of Republican presidents like Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush who accepted the basic elements of the progressive state.  Former Speaker Gingrich is also a Hamiltonian, but much more than either Romney or Obama he believes that Hamiltonianism needs to be re-imagined for our times.  Congressman Paul is the one Jeffersonian in the race, and of the four he seems the least likely to be elected in 2012.

Continue reading → Hamilton’s Blues