The Journalist in the Hat

Armed Liberal and I attended the same party recently. AL writes about a discussion with a man he calls “The Journalist in the Hat.”

Here’s what I know about him: He worked for an alt-weekly in a large Western-state city (since he isn’t around, apparently, to defend himself, I won’t describe him further.).

His position, as near as I can tell, is that journalists are not biased and that what we get fed by the mainstream media isn’t biased. Journalists as a whole, I believe his position would be, try hard to be fair and honest.

I joined the conversation late, just as he was saying this. I said, “Bullshit.” He persisted. “Bullshit,” I said a second and a third time. At which point he walked away.

An hour or so later, I approached him and apologized for my harshness and rudeness. We then picked up the conversation again. He restated his opinion. I told him I disagreed, at which point he broke off the conversation again, not willing to listen to my side of it.

Keep in mind, he already knew by now that I wasn’t just some blogger with no experience in the media. He knew where I worked. He knew where I used to work. He knew I was speaking from experience.

One note — I find it ironic that a man who has spent his career at alt-weeklies, where bias is a badge of honor, would so vehemently deny bias in the media.

What I wanted to tell The Journalist in the Hat was, “Look, this isn’t even just me saying it.” At the time, I very much had in mind this quote from Mark Halerpin.

But I never got the chance to repeat the quote to him.

When I speak of media bias, I’m not suggesting, as some do, that there is a conspiracy to promote a particular agenda. Nor am I suggesting that any one reporter, or any cabel of reporters, is purposely destorting the truth. We all have our filters, and the filter — as Halerpin duely points out — is a filter of experiences, prejudices, worldviews that color how we shape what we report. Even reporters who struggle mightly against this (and I think they are few and far between) sometimes fall victim to such biases. What I wanted to tell The Journalist in the Hat was that not enough journalists, in my opinion, work to surpress their innate biases.

The beauty of blogs, I think, is this cacphony of voices — informed as they are by speciality backgrounds and educations, different viewpoints, differing agendas and politics — is a check against the institutional biases of the media (where it is beyond reasonable argument that most reporters and editors are liberal and/or Democrat).

That’s what I wanted to tell The Journalist in the Hat. But he didn’t want to listen. Too bad.

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