I love it for many reasons. I love it because it helps me expand my knowledge of others’ opinions, I love it because it helps me understand the arguments for and against my own opinions, and I love it because it opens my mind to opinions different from my own and from those of my friends.
I am an avid reader of Reason magazine, an unabashedly libertarian magazine based out of D.C.
Personally, I learn far more from reading Reason articles than I do articles from CNN. Without the need to seem unbiased, Reason can publish analyses of news from a number of points of view, and that’s far more helpful than posting opinions posing as facts. Now, this is only really applicable when the publications in question are legitimate; if they’re talking about chemtrails and the government using the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) to orchestrate Hurricane Sandy, you’re probably getting a load of crock. Making the distinction between news and analysis of news is important if you’re looking to read things from a particular perspective, obviously.
But you, the reader, likely hold some strong views of your own. Reading writers with whom you agree can help you strengthen your argument and consider policy alternatives that had never crossed your mind. Reading those with opposing opinions can help you find the weaknesses in your arguments and just possibly change your mind about things. I used to be a huge Republican; I had a “Thank You President Bush” bumper sticker on my first car (I’m not proud of it, but it’s true). But I talked to one of my friends who sent me some articles and studies that showed me what a colossal waste of resources the War on Drugs is, and I began my deep, dark descent into libertarianism.
Everyone is biased. Journalists for prominent publications are often prohibited from ever giving a political opinion or supporting candidates publicly. Honestly, that’s completely the wrong way to go about it. I’d much rather know what someone’s biases are so that when I read their pieces, I can see it through that filter. That kind of information is much more valuable out in the open than hidden behind layers of false detachment.
For instance, Keith Olbermann was suspended after donating to three Democrats’ campaigns in the 2010 midterm elections. The MSNBC policy regarding political donations stipulated that employees had to clear their political donations with the network before sending them off. Now, Olbermann blatantly disregarded these requirements — there is no doubt of that. But the fact that employees have to clear political donations with their employer seems rather uncomfortable to me.
I’m not advocating for a law against this sort of policy, but if we were to lift our ridiculous expectation of anchors to be completely unbiased, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen. I mean it’s not like Olbermann was accused of being a shill for the GOP or anything before the donations, so how did that change anyone’s perception of him?
Unbiasedness is a worthy goal, don’t get me wrong. But it’s simply unattainable. No one can be free of bias, and try as humans might, our backgrounds and predilections for or against things inevitably sneak into our opinions and thoughts. As well as pure facts would serve the public, journalists with defined and readily researchable biases come up very closely behind.
Alexandra Williamson is a senior accountancy major from Frisco, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @alyxwi.