Need help with a Discussion on Commercial bias which is often called “infotainment”

While between 65 and 85 percent of the public reports that they believe that the news media slant the news in one direction or another, the nature and impact of bias is actually quite complicated. On the one hand, news coverage can be politically biased, that is, specific media outlets could favor one political agenda over another. A popular claim, usually from the political right, is that the media are liberally biased.

Former CBS News reporter Bernard Goldberg, who claims that he is in dependent, argues in his best- selling book, Bias, that most reporters are liberal and therefore slant the news (even unknowingly) to favor liberal positions on issues. In fact, President Bush famously carried a copy of Goldberg’s book when it first appeared on the market! Media critic, and self- professed liberal, Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media? is a response of sorts to Goldberg’s book as it debunks some of the claims Goldberg makes and offers an argument that the media are mostly conservatively biased (especially when it comes to the ideological persuasions of radio hosts and television political pundits).

Of course, political/ideological bias is but one way that the media can slant coverage. News and entertainment programming can be corporately biased. Corporate bias is news coverage that favors large corporations such as advertisers and media conglomerates. For example, if bad news befell General Electric (which owns NBC) or Disney (which owns ABC) and NBC failed to report on GE’s troubles or ABC put a positive spin on Disney’s problems, we could label their coverage as corporately biased. By the same token, if a prominent newspaper advertiser laid off workers, was indicted, or had a bad fiscal quarter that the newspaper either failed to cover or covered in a way that made the advertiser look good, we could once again conclude that the coverage was corporately biased.

Another kind of bias is concerned with the actual value of media programming itself. Commercial bias is bias that is designed to titillate readers, listeners, or viewers even if the information is not all that useful. For instance, a television news programs focus on the latest scandals involving Paris Hilton might encourage people to watch even though a story on which technology jobs are growing at the fastest rate might be more useful to news consumers.

Commercial bias is often called “infotainment,” a slightly derogatory term for news coverage that is more flash than substance.

DISCUSSION 1: Which kind of bias do you think is the most dangerous? Why?

DISCUSSION 2: Which kind of bias do you see the most when you are watching, reading, or surfing for information? Does the most prominent bias vary by whether you are consuming news or entertainment information?

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