Shawn Vestal and a recent Spokesman-Review editorial rightly pointed out potential bias behind the Face-Off at Ferris forum last October. In hindsight, it would have been better if the teacher had reached beyond her circle of friends to be sure there were suggestions from a broader variety of viewpoints. Point taken; I’m sure Jennifer Walther and her students will use your constructive criticism to improve the next debate.
Now that we’ve discussed the kettle, let’s turn our attention to the pot. I expect Vestal, Crooks and the editorial board to ensure balance in reporting, if not in editorializing. When you look around the newsroom, is there political diversity reflecting the region you serve? Are you conscious of how your own bias affects the stories chosen for coverage and the questions asked? Do you reach outside your own circle of friends and seek contacts who will challenge your assumptions? Do you carefully wield the power of the headline to slant the story?
I love reading newspapers, but there is more than a grain of truth to this Norman Mailer quote: “Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists.”
Sue Lani W. Madsen