Mapping media bias

a multidimensional affair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The term "bias" recognises that there is never only one way to represent a state of affairs. The profound implications of this for understanding the relationship of language and "reality" are not clear in current debates about bias, which focus on "loaded words" or phrases which seem to carry obvious evaluative meanings. In particular, analysis of this kind is unable to probe the effects for meaning of the many unconscious grammatical choices involved in creating a text. This paper illustrates the lacunae in the debate about bias by exploring the grammatical patterns in two news reports from early in the Iraq war: a front page "hard news" story entitled "First strike on Baghdad", and a news report by award-winning journalist Robert Fisk, "Amid allied jubilation, a child lies in agony, clothes soaked in blood". While the Fisk report makes its evaluative stance clear, the "neutral" tone of the other report can be shown to be equally selective, and therefore "biased", by foregrounding particular kinds of meanings and backgrounding others. The method adopted in this paper may enable a move towards a "forensic" orientation to judgements of "bias".
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-155
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Journalism Review
Volume27
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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