Journalists and social media bias

When you follow New Zealand journalists in social media you get an idea of where some of their political sympathies lie. This can be subtle, and far removed from the perceptions of some (usually hard lefties and hard righties) that all journalists are biased to the left, or that all media are biased to the right.

For US news I get both Fox News and CNN feeds on Twitter, and they are both generally biased, most notably Fox.

Ironically Fox writes about a less right leaning competitor: NY Times changes social media guidelines so reporters don’t appear biased

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet issued new social media guidelines to his newsroom on Friday and advised staffers to “read them closely, and take them to heart” so that the paper’s journalists are not perceived as biased.

“Many of our journalists are influential voices on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms. The voices of our readers, listeners and viewers inform and improve our reporting,” Baquet wrote. “But we also need to make sure that we are engaging responsibly on social media, in line with the values of our newsroom.”

Baquet discussed Twitter at a forum at George Washington University Thursday and said his staff should not be able to say anything on social media that they cannot say” in the Times, according to Politico.

The Times’ rival, The Washington Post, published a story back in Oct. 2016 headlined, “#Biased? Reporters on Twitter don’t hold back about Trump”. The article mentioned Times reporters throughout, noting that “reporters are supposed to keep their opinion out of the stories they write” but that policy doesn’t seem to apply to Twitter. The Post called out Times staffers Alex Burns for attacking Trump on a regular basis – and that was before he defeated Hillary Clinton on Election Day.

While some journalists state on their Twitter profile that any tweets are their own opinions they can’t help being seem as associated with their jobs and their media organisations, so they must be aware of this and behave accordingly.

Media Research Center Vice President Dan Gainor thinks it’s too little, too late when it comes to the Times’ reporters appearing anti-Trump on social media.

“Twitter has been around for 10 years and The New York Times is only now realizing that its staff say lots of stupid, left-wing things there? I know Baquet isn’t active on Twitter, but he claims he is aware of the Times agenda problem. You’d never know it though,” Gainor told Fox News.

Fox frequently slams other media for being anti-Trump, but even though she is a political relic Fox continue to show strong bias against Hillary Clinton and the liberal left, as well as an obvious bias in favour of Trump. Their current feed has scores of positive tweets like…

…about interspersed with several like:

There are mild biases in media here at times, but they are nothing like the extremes of the US media.

They can go both ways at times, this is two consecutive tweets from CNN:

 

18 Comments

  1. David

     /  October 14, 2017

    Given that Harvard (I think it was them) study that 90 something percent of Trump stories were negative it may be somewhat futile to censor twitter. I imagine it could be in response to that silly woman on ESPN who called for a boycott of anyone advertising during the NFL if owners forced their players to stand, she was suspended for trying to kill the business that pays her.
    Fox I think was 50% pro and 50% anti Trump, I find them quite well balanced with some hosts despising him and some worshipping him but their correspondents are pretty neutral.

    • Their twitter feed looks very pro Trump and very anti-Clintons and Democrats.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  October 14, 2017

      I guess whether one thinks a statement is well balanced depends on how closely your views align with the organisation/person making the statement. If you are too far to the right or left of them then you will regard them as biased.

      I regard Fox as a conservative pro Republican media organisation, which is fine as long as they don’t claim to be neutral.

    • Mefrostate

       /  October 14, 2017

      Does 50% pro and 50% anti Trump constitute balanced reporting?

      What percent split would you expect for Maduro?

      What percent for ISIS?

      • Mefrostate

         /  October 14, 2017

        That was @David btw

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  October 14, 2017

          I’ll answer for him, Mefro. What percentage support do either of the others get from Americans? Trump gets 40%. Probably the same percentage in the media would rate as reasonable to an objective observer.

          • Mefrostate

             /  October 14, 2017

            So rather than a media which challenges the majority perspective, you’d prefer it actively try to mimic the status quo? Hardly sounds like real fourth-estate stuff.

            By your rule Duterte deserve two-thirds positive coverage?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  October 14, 2017

              A media which has its own agenda is a weapon waiting to be misused. Obviously Duterte is doing things people like. It would be surprising if those were not covered along with the reasons people approved of them. to me at least. Maybe not to you.

            • Mefrostate

               /  October 14, 2017

              Obviously we both agree about the vital importance of a free & independent press.

              The argument is about how we can best assess the bias of the press, to combat vested interests (government tampering, corporate ownership, click-driven funding models, advertiser influence, or lefty journalists).

              I don’t think expecting 50-50 is anywhere near a suitable method, nor do I think matching the public favour polls is particularly useful.

              I’d look for something much more nuanced which explores factuality of reporting, diversity of opinion columns, transparency of financial conflicts, surveys like the Harvard one, public views of the media themselves, and so on.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  October 14, 2017

              Over time I would say that if the reportage varies substantially from the public level of support that is prima facie cause to suspect something fishy is going on.

            • Mefrostate

               /  October 14, 2017

              Sure, but you seem to focus that suspicion on lefty journalists while ignoring all the other possible influences. And your criticism is exclusively reserved for those critical of Trump or our centre-right government, while you happily supply articles supportive of those governments, no questions asked.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  October 14, 2017

              There is no need for me to ask questions that others will certainly ask. Were the conventional wisdom pointing the other way I would take the opposite approach.

            • Mefrostate

               /  October 14, 2017

              You’re defining the conventional wisdom based on what you’ve absorbed from your own bubble. Lefties will do the same and direct their skepticism at Fox & Breitbart & InfoWars. We’ll all disappear into our silos muttering about those bastard others, and continue to get more and more divided, unable to even agree on the truth of verifiable occurrences, not least their reasonable interpretation.

  1. Journalists and social media bias — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition