Our knowledge sharing institutions of today are beginning to “humanize,” to focus more of their resources on creating readable, shareable media than on reporting cold, hard facts, simply to stay relevant and on top of peoples’ online radars. To make facts more palatable, many medias will interpret ideas with respect to their own unique brand Point-of-View, one only has to consider CNN versus FOX news here in the USA. But, do institutions who stand and a major knowledge source for world readers have a responsibility to keep bias out of their findings? Is “fact omission” or “spin” an appropriate way to interact with vital facts? Or, as I seem to see it, has major marketing technique got its claws too far into our knowledge sharing institutions and our own lives (because, really, we as readers are the ones who perpetuate this problem).
Drama is more sexy. It is more entertaining, shocking, and many other exciting adjectives. But because drama is all the things we enjoy, individuals will often take the drama, the emotional response, as the “takeway” from the content, even if there were incredibly important facts displayed in the piece of media.
Of course, there is always going to be interpretation of information. Human interpretation is how facts become knowledge; how numbers on a spreadsheet become a beautiful, meaning-filled data visualization or infographic. People will always see information in light of their own unique upbringings and backgrounds. A scientist will most likely not interpret information the same as an artist would, and vice versa.
But where is the line between interpretation and straight-up bias? It seems that in many knowledge-sharing institutions, that line is blurred. There are hundreds of examples of clear media bias in reputable media, such as the Wall Street Journal. Is there a line that should be toed by institutions claiming to be reputable to prevent unfiltered, writer-based bias from entering the realm of “knowledge?” Personally, I think so.
How do we prevent our own perspectives from being overly influenced by this outpouring of bias?
Sources, sources, sources
Read more than one source in general, and about specific topics you want to learn about. Google search, and click through more than the first 2 pages of results. You might be surprised by what you find! First-hand accounts, examples of photojournalism, and true journalist integrity await after the swell of SEO and paid search accounts.
Fact check with media from other places in the world
Make sure the media you’re reading is not all local! The best perspectives often come from people outside the situation itself — that’s why people use mediators in arguments with two strongly opposed sides. These people can be called “unbiased,” or at least “less biased.”
Research the creators/publisher’s background
This one often slips under the radar. I’ve seen many people fall into the trap of a content creator with a clear agenda simply because the reader/viewer didn’t check out the author/creator’s background. The Onion is not a reputable news source, people! Regardless of where you stand personally on either side of an issue, it’s your responsibility to make sure you are curating and sharing fact-accurate information.
If you want to learn more about this, check out this post on preventing cognitive bias.
What do you think? Are knowledge-sharing institutions showing too much bias? What’s the best example you can think of?