Sunday, December 7, 2008

You Can Do It!

Today is not a regular blog for me because it does not focus on detecting mere bias in a particular article or photo. Instead, since it is getting to the closing point for this blog, I figured I may share some interesting facts and ways to detect bias presented in the news on your own. I researched "news bias" all over the Net and was excited to find many sites and articles that fit perfectly into our group's discussion throughout the semester!

Check out these following Web sites and discover much more about the reality of news bias --it raises many points and truths about the type of journalism we need to avoid:
News Bias Explored
Bias in the News
Fairness and Accuracy
AP Bias!
Media Awareness Network

And my personal favorite, which requires a download but is so worth it and pretty funny--
Spinspotter shows specific instances in articles that display significant bias.

I learned it is often difficult to investigate and find the bias components of stories or photos, but following some certain guidelines and knowing what to look for makes it much easier and actually quite amusing.

Since our group may not be here as often, if anymore, to help point out the most obvious bias in news, you now know where to go and learn about doing it yourself--especially the future journalists in our class or those who are simply honest citizens wanting fair and accurate news.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Delicious founder to show you political bias on Memeorandum

Delicious founder Joshua Schachter and technologist/blogger Any Baio have created a new GreaseMonkey script that displays the political orientation of blogs and news sites on the aggregator site Memeorandum. GreaseMonkey is a Firefox extension that allows users to customize the appearance and functionality of Webpages.

Using an algorithm that scores every blog on Memorandum based on linking activity, this new script colorizes the Website. Those who install the GreaseMonkey script will now see Memeorandum in shades of blue and red. Liberal-leaning blogs are blue and conservative-leaning blogs are red. Darker colors represent stronger biases.

These colors are a reflection of bloggers' linking activity; they may not always represent personal views or biases (liberal bloggers often link to conservative sites and vice-versa). However, this script eliminates the arduous task of reading blog after blog on Memeorandum to find one consistent with one's own views. But then again it could fuel peoples' tendency to avoid dissident view points, which for obvious reasons inhibits intelligence. None the less, this GreaseMonkey script, along with Microsoft Blews (see my previous post) is evidence of an emerging form of aggregation intended to help people identify political biases.

To install this application, visit Andy Baio's blog at

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Photos CAN Lie

(above photo taken from BBC News)

In doing my bias research this week, I found pictures that took me by surprise on how media gets away with the slant in not only their stories, but also photos.

For instance, here is a picture dated October 18, 1962 showing President Kennedy. Click here to view. It is interesting to see what they did with the photo in order to create a fabrication of the reality of the situation. Read the caption and the following explanation. Of course if the public knew what was really going on at that meeting the nation would have been scared out of their mind, but the picture was put with an article having nothing to do with that aspect and made it seem more comforting to the public eye.

Also, go to this site to see more "pictures that lie" and reveal that looks really can be deceiving. I think it is amazing to see how drastic some of the alterations of the photos are on that page, from something so little as making a person look tan to a more significant thing like incorporating a large object not originally there, such as a soldier. We have Photoshop to thank for most of the deceiving pictures.

Now we really know to never judge a book by its cover, or in this case never judge or trust an article based on its image or artwork!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Another sad day for journalists

I'll start off by saying that this post will not be like others seen on The Unbiased Tabloid. Instead of pinpointing and criticizing bias in news coverage, I'd like to take an opportunity to praise the absence of bias that would have likely been staggering in amount had it been present in this article. 
Although most of us would like to bury our heads in the sand at the mention of this depressing topic, the awful truth is that print journalism is struggling, maybe even slowly crumbling. As we have talked about in class, there are ways to see the "light at the end of the tunnel," so to speak, and to prepare ourselves for the rapid transformation of the tradition of journalism. 
Today, the D and C announced a job reduction amounting to a total of 59 employees, including the elimination of 11 open positions. I was surprised to see that, while the article was very brief, the writer (it was categorized under STAFF REPORTS) didn't try to glorify or justify the D and C's actions in laying off so many employees. 
The article begins like this..."Facing a worsening local and national economy, the Democrat and Chronicle this week will lay off 34 employees and accept voluntary separation requests from 14 others." 
The writer blames the layoffs on the horrible state of our economy, which of course at this point can't really be disputed. The writer continues with only the basic facts, the total number of layoffs, the fact that the job cuts amount to about 8 percent, the amount of severance pay laid off employees will receive and how many jobs remain after the reductions. 
The only part of the article that I found to be a bit questionable or flaky were the quotations from D and C publisher Ali M Zoibi. Of course he is going to want to make an impression placing the D and C in a respectable position, but I think he may have gone a little far when he brought up First Amendment rights.
Zoibi said in a statement: "The Democrat and Chronicle remains steadfast in its commitment to fulfilling its First Amendment news responsibility, as well as providing excellent daily coverage of the greater Rochester community." 
Also, I would have liked to have seen some input from people in other management positions within the D and C. The addition of at least one more source may have added a bit more comfort to the seemingly ever increasing decline in journalism opportunities, driving home the idea that journalists are going to have to learn how to adapt to new positions, new environments and new technologies. 

Is the media Trying to be nice?

Last week, the court in Thailand decided to oust former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and dissolve his party after months of protests by the People's Alliance for Democracy, an anti-government coalition.

Today, there is an article on The Nation, Thailand's leading English news site, titled "Forget me not: Somchai Wongsawat." If you haven't yet known, the former PM was forced to resign after being found guilty of electoral fraud. I agree that he has been unseated anyway, and that we shouldn't go back blaming him over and over again, instead the country should move on and resolve the chaos created after a long period of protests. But the article appears to be too "generous" with Mr. Wongsawat. It seems like the author is trying to help Mer. Wongsawat save the last bits of his wounded reputation.

"...the dissolution of his party had freed him from duty, paving the way for other responsible people to take over the country's reins."

"...he had worked to the best of his ability right up to his last day in office."

"I can do charity work, and don't need any authority to do the job,' Somchai said."

About his wife, Mr. Wongsawat said: "She has supported me since we married. She would never leave me. I know she supports and encourages me all the time. I also support and encourage her all the time. We don't need to say this to each other."

Most of the media in Thailand is government-censored, including The Nation. Hence it is surprising that some of the news would play favor towards the government, even when that government is already dissolved. Even if the government does something wrong, the mainstream media would not report facts and information that overtly put the government in the awkward position. They would say things that don't sound wrong and opinionated to save the face of the government.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Almonds and Blackberrys for Mumbai Terrorists!

This is not so much an article of biased media report, but it is closely related to what we discussed in class a while ago about the importance of keeping pace with modern technologies. We talked about how technologies such as RSS feeds or SMS are importance to journalists to bring the news to the public asap. Not only journalists, but also terrorists, are utilizing new technologies. I found an article on about how terrorists in the Mumbai attack over the weekend have been using Blackberry to keep updated with news, domestic as well as international, since the government cut all cable TV feeds into the buildings.

They managed to attack the Chatrapati Shivaji railway station, Cama Hospital - a charitable hospital for women and children, Cafe Leopold - a common hangout place for tourists, Taj Mahal and the Oberoi/Trident Hotels, a Jewish center which also houses visiting Israelis.

Besides standard weapons and tools such as automatic weapons, grenades, fake identity cards and credit cards, connection with insiders of the hotels...the most important weapons, according to, were " humble mobile phones and internet technology" - Blackberrys. This was totally unexpected by the anti-terrorist forces. They could cut cable lines to the hotels, but how would they block the terrorists' internet access?

The use of Blackberrys provides the terrorists with a major advantage in a battle like this: knowing their enemies. They gain access to public reaction of the event on a global scope. They are updated of the political situations. They have eyes everywhere. These are major strengths compared to conventional terrorist attacks.

After all, these terrorists are just like one of us, who are familiar with and knowledgeable about the tools we use in our everyday lives. Just like a journalist needs to know the tools available to his job, the terrorist needs to know the tools available for him to achieve his goals.

On the first day of the attack, I also got to watch a video on CNN of a journalist reporting to CNN from a hotel room. I don't know what happened to him after that, whether he survived or not. But one thing for sure, he had helped the public gain insight about the situation, a view from an insider, a person who was right at the spot, one whose faith was still undecided.

It's hard to say whether technology helps life for the better or worse. It assists people in carrying out good acts just as much as destructive ones. It's just the matter of who uses it more efficiently. If our enemy uses it well, it's our job to understand the technology and think of ways to override it.