FRI.DEC.27 on CATALYST: Media anaylst JEFF NYGAARD on STORIES OF THE YEAR

From cable news to national magazines, it's time for the annual "stories of the year"---but, what does that consensus leave out? Creator of NYGAARD NOTES/Twin Cities media analyst JEFF NYGARD gives his take on stories of the year. You can see EXCERPT below) his newsletter at www.nygaardnotes.org

NYGAARD NOTES

Quote” of the Week: “We Are Biased Toward Existing Narratives”

This is an odd “Quote” of the Week, since it’s so old, coming from a 2003 article in that bastion of establishment journalism, the Columbia Journalism Review.  But I just read it last week, so it’s new to me, which is why it’s the “Quote” of the Week for this late-2013 issue of Nygaard Notes.

The author, Brent Cunningham (now an editor at CJR) wrote a piece called “Re-thinking Objectivity,” in which he talked about social class.  At one point he addressed the ever-present charges that reporters are not “objective,” which in the political culture gets turned into accusations of “liberal bias” by people Cunningham refers to as “the bias cops.”  In a very thoughtful way, Cunningham then discusses what he calls “The Real Bias” of journalists:

“Still, most reporters' real biases are not what political ideologues tend to think...  Reporters are biased, but not in the oversimplified, left-right way that Ann Coulter and the rest of the bias cops would have everyone believe... We all have our biases, and they can be particularly pernicious when they are unconscious. Arguably the most damaging bias is rarely discussed—the bias born of class. A number of people interviewed for this story said that the lack of socioeconomic diversity in the newsroom is one of American journalism's biggest blind spots.

“Reporters are biased toward conflict because it is more interesting than stories without conflict; we are biased toward sticking with the pack because it is safe; we are biased toward event-driven coverage because it is easier; we are biased toward existing narratives because they are safe and easy.”

Exposing and calling into question those “existing narratives,” which are typically unconscious, is a big part of the reason for Nygaard Notes.