The benefit of minding one’s biases

Ethical standards in the newsroom protect the newspaper’s biggest asset — its credibility.


Reporters and editors at a traditional daily strive to understand their own biases and avoid applying them when reporting, writing and editing stories.

“To serve the public, journalism must be accurate, independent, impartial, accountable, and show humanity.” —

One example: I recently excavated a tape recording from a carton in our attic. My husband, then the managing editor/reporting at The Portland (Maine) Newspapers, had recorded himself at home on a Sunday as he read the weekend editions, noting any news element that caught his attention, for good reason or bad.

“Is this an example of male bias?” he asks himself. “The toxic shock story on Page 5 is only four paragraphs. That’s a story that affects almost all of our female readers.”

He was asking himself whether a story on toxic shock syndrome deserved more room and better play, but didn’t get it because the male editors at the paper failed to perceive the story’s importance to female readers.

Bias is just one of the ethical issues that newspaper reporters and editors wrestle with as they go about their daily work.

Addendum (March 21, 2016):  I found this quote taped inside one of my husband’s old address books. It belongs here, I think.

“Always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party … always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.”  —Joseph Pulitzer

Author: TAM

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