Meet John Doe: Be alert to bias in the local press

July 31, 2013

By Paul Gorski

They couldn’t print it if it wasn’t true,” a friend of mine used to joke when we discussed news reporting by newspapers and other news outlets. Why, sure they can, because if a newspaper or television station is only “reporting” the news and not analyzing it, it can report whatever a biased source may say.

The Rock River Times (TRRT) has a “green” bias, often reporting on renewable energy, pollution concerns and other earth-friendly topics. TRRT wears that “bias” badge of honor proudly, proclaiming “The Rock River Times has been leading area media in Renewable Energy and green news coverage since 2002” at the bottom of the first page of every issue.

However, regarding local government and personal rights, I note a slight hint of “libertarian” values making it to print, either through editorials or columnists, which spices things up a bit.

One of these columnists, Michael Kleen, states in his column “Keepin’ It Kleen: Local daily should shine light on downtown development” May 15-21, 2013, issue, that the Rockford Register Star has pro-downtown development bias. Kleen suggests this bias is based on a desire to prop up sagging property values to make the paper more attractive to a potential buyer. I say hogwash.

I suggested in my online comments that both the RRStar and TRRT promote downtown because it’s good business to do so and good for the community.

TRRT does a good job of disclosing any past or present business arrangements discussed in news coverage. Perhaps the RRStar needs to step up in that regard, much like stock analysts disclosing any financial interests in the stocks they report on.

You’ll find Mr. Kleen’s original commentary and more online comments at http://rockrivertimes.com/2013/05/15/keepin%E2%80%99-it-kleen-local-daily-should-shine-light-on-downtown-development/.

Some time has passed since that article was printed, but what Mr. Kleen and I would likely agree on is that the daily paper tends to offer the news in a softer, non-confrontational style, which in itself is a bias. If you don’t ask tough questions, you’ll only get softball answers.

Our local television stations do a good job of reporting. I’ve always felt that the only bias the local television stations had was to report good local news. If you give the TV stations advance notice on local events, they will try to be there.

Local television reporters may not try to “analyze” the news very much, but they do try to get all sides of the story. If a local station is covering your event, be ready to get on camera and deliver that “wow” statement.

If you have questions about a news story, contact the reporter; or write, call or post comments online. If that news source doesn’t respond or won’t print your comments, send your comments to The Rock River Times. You’ll often find comments about other news sources posted here.

Challenge the news reporting you read and watch.

Paul Gorski (http://www.paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.

From the July 31-Aug. 6, 2013, issue

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