Information operations · Information Warfare · Press

How we think of bias at Knowhere

This is not an endorsement of Knowhere, but they do try to stay neutral. 

Try is the operative word, because I often groan reading their products.  But, they do try, valiantly.

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How we think of bias at Knowhere
By Dylan and Nathaniel, Knowhere Co-Founders
Dear Subscriber,
Fewer than half of Americans can name a single outlet that they believe reports the news objectively, according to a 2018 Knight Foundation study. How has trust in the quality of our public discourse arrived at such dire straits?
America has always had partisan media outlets. Patriot newspapersviciously attacked their Loyalist contemporaries in the run-up to the American Revolution, providing space and an audience for revolutionaries including Thomas Paine. In the war’s aftermath, which left the Loyalist papers completely destroyed, divisions emerged between Federalist and Republican politicians, who each sponsored their own outlets with the specific aim of promulgating their opinions to the public. By 1850, the Census counted just 83 “neutral and independent” versus 1,630 “political” and party-funded newspapers nationwide. The norm at the time was for a town to have two papers — one dedicated to messaging from each major political party.
The close of the 19th century brought substantial changes to the industry. A bitter war for circulation between media barons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer cut down on overt partisanship after both realized it risked alienating half of their prospective readers. Instead, they turned to sensationalism: lurid stories of sex, scandal, and crime helped along by frightening and wildly misleading headlines became the standard replacement for political bias. Even at the time, the resulting coverage drew heavy criticism and a series of sometimes-successful libel cases.
A 1910 political cartoon lampooning Hearst’s scandal-focused ‘yellow journalism.’
Nonetheless, the early 20th century saw the professionalization of the industry. A $2M gift from Pulitzer in 1912 established Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, which has remained a top academic and research institution within the field to the present day.
Significant professional associations including the National Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists – along with their attendant codes of ethics – came into existence in this pre-war era.
During the first and second World Wars, many journalists viewed propaganda as a necessary evil for maintaining morale on the home front, but the post-war period saw what some refer to as the golden age of journalism. Reporting was generally considered to be balanced and factual, although there were few outlets to choose from. Coverage of the Vietnam War, including the publication of the Pentagon Papers, and the Watergate scandal cemented perceptions of the media as a guardian against corruption and misconduct in the minds of many Americans.
Since then, trust has steadily declined. News sources have proliferated as technology has improved, and many editorial teams have again sought to attract audiences by pushing overtly partisan narratives. The conflict reached a zenith in 2016 as then-presidential-candidate Donald Trump popularized the term “fake news” and brought it to the fore of the public consciousness. Allegations of foreign and domestic propaganda campaigns have poured more fuel on the fire, yet most Americans believe the situation is still getting worse.
The industry needs to change. Accurate, factual information is vital to democracy. As Americans, we must work to stop the balkanization of our political discourse, and as journalists, we must maintain the professional ideals our industry has struggled towards for the past three hundred years.


One thought on “How we think of bias at Knowhere

  1. I suppose these guys view I.F. Stone as a journalistic hero as their successors will apparently view Glenn Greenwald? A free press is important, but since their careers are made or broken by scoops, investigative journalists will be easy prey for our adversaries in their motivation to leak sensitive/security related materials. Thus today, figures like Manning, Snowden, and Assange become heroes to those who see the free press as an unquestionable bedrock of democracy. Accurate information is important, but too many of these people live in a left wing vacuum with little thought for now national security works and so they become easy pawns of our enemies – if they’re not actually communist sympathizers at heart.

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