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Bias is an inclination to present or hold a partial perspective at the expense of (possibly equally valid) alternatives. Anything biased generally is one-sided, and therefore lacks a neutral point of view. Bias can come in many forms and is often considered to be synonymous with prejudice or bigotry.
Look at the following list of sentence fragments from articles about Whitney Houston. For this assignment, you will read the quotes, divide them according to whether they are biased or unbiased, and then create your own unbiased news article about Whitney’s life.
After reading the above quotes, create a t-chart like the one below. Find 5 biased quotes for the BIASED column, and 5 unbiased quotes for the UNBIASED column.
BIASED FRAGMENTS UNBIASED FRAGMENTS
Bias is an inclination to present or hold a partial perspective at the expense of (possibly equally valid) alternatives. Bias can come in many forms.
So what does that mean? Bias means that something is influenced in a particular direction. It is usually unfair, or prejudiced. The bias can be in favour of or against one thing, person, or group, compared with another. For example, Sunny grew up with dogs and not with cats, and his friend Navneetis choosing to purchase her first pet.Sunny would be likely to try to convince Navneet to purchase a dog. That’s because Sunny is probably biased in favour of dogs because of his own positive experiences with them.
In this case of cats and dogs, the chances are no one will be offended or hurt by Sunny’s preference. But now imagine that Sunny is the head of the Peel Humane Society. Because of funding cuts, he has to send 50% of his animals to the Vancouver Humane Society. If Sunny is someone who is very biased in favour of dogs, he might choose to send mostly cats to the Vancouver Humane Society. This works out well for Sunny, but now all the dog keepers at the Humane Society get to keep their jobs, whereas all the cat keepers will lose theirs. Also, people coming to the Peel Humane Society to purchase a pet cat will now be unable to do so. This is a case in which bias can be extremely unfair, and have far-reaching and unintended consequences for many people – and cats.
2. Terry Fox was born July 28, 1958 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. When he was 18, he was diagnosed with cancer. In 1980, after he lost one leg to cancer, he embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres.
3. In 2012, Jenna Talackova was disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada pageant because she was born a male. According to the pageant organizers, one of the rules states that all contestants must be “natural born females”. Although Jenna has had gender reassignment surgery, and has identified as female since her childhood, she was born male and so was disqualified from the competition.
You'll find that very little in communication is without bias. We often are influenced by our closeness to the issue or affair. Granted, we'd like to believe we are objective, however, we are naturally biased. You will continue to examine opinion as it relates to creating bias and the means by which the message can be manipulated.
How do we detect Bias in a news story?
Do news agencies report the news objectively all the time? We would like to believe they do. However, there are many instances when the attitudes or the background of the reporter colours his/her reporting. Is it always intentional? Perhaps not, nevertheless, news shaping is biased. What factors do we need to be critical of when a news story is presented to us, regardless of the medium?
Bias has a way of showing up in many different forms, notably:
Bias through selection and omission - news stories that are published in major newspapers are selected from many newsworthy events and stories and the content of those stories is selected as well - the process of selection itself reveals bias. Why has that news story been selected? Detecting what has been omitted from a story is difficult to determine unless we compare several news reports of the story by different news agencies.
Bias through use of names and titles - how an individual or group is labelled has an influence on how we will perceive them. The same person in one paper may considered a freedom fighter while in another publication may be referred to as a terrorist.
Read the following editorial, "Oh Canada" from the Mississauga News and identify how the author uses bias in presenting his/her point of view.
July 3rd, 2002
While hundreds of thousands of Mississauga residents celebrated Canada's 135th birthday Monday, a few dozen Quebec separatist supporters denounced our nation’s very existence.
While tens of thousands in this city sang songs, celebrated with friends and neighbours, danced in the streets and painted their faces with Canadian flags, a few dozen Quebec separatist supporters shouted jeers at federalists and yelled insults at Canada Day enthusiasts.
While thousands flocked to Streetsville to watch the night sky transformed into a brilliant palette of sparkling lights in celebration of the nation’s birthday, a few dozen Quebec separatist supporters added light to the night by turning Canadian flags into torches.
So much for unity.
The good news? The numbers of those celebrating their good fortune-being Canadian - far outweigh those for whom the day offered little more than a forum for rehearsed criticism and practised theatrics.
Quebec filmmaker Pierre Falardeau denounced the Canada Day celebrations in that province's capital as, "an act of provocation" suggesting the day's events were financed by money other Canadians “stole” from the pockets of Quebec residents who were "annexed" into minority status.
In almost any other country in the world, such acts as burning and defacing the flag would be met by charges of treason and incarceration.
But luckily for Falardeau and his associates, Canada is a land of freedom that allows - no, encourages - individual expression, regardless of sentiment, without formal consequences.
While approximately 30 million Canadians celebrated the opportunities, freedoms and resources that are ours by virtue of birthright or immigration, a few dozen Quebec separatist supporters tried their best to rain on our patriotic parade.
Happy Birthday, Canada.
There is bias through selection and omission, as the Quebec separatist perspective is clearly missing in this editorial. This makes the reader feel like everyone is in agreement with the author, and also makes the Separatist cause look small and insignificant.
Did you know that all media, even the news, constructs reality? Take for example a television news story. The journalist will submit a report and the report will then be edited. During the editing phase, phrases, images and details will be included or extracted in order to provide the best impact on the target audience. The story now will offer another point of view, offering us what appears to be an objective version of the story, but what in truth is the most dramatic representation of the story. Evening news shows are in competition for audience share. A highly rated show means television networks can demand more for ad airtime.
The media uses codes and conventions to suggest the way we should perceive the representation. The camera angle or the lighting of a scene will suggest what sense we will make of what is going on. How do we know the good guys from the bad guys? Or even the cool guys from those who are not cool?
When I look at the Teint Miracle ad, the scene feels serene and calm. The background is blurred out and looks like it is glowing. This gives a magical feel to Julia Roberts, and makes her seem angelic. The ad is for foundation. Celebrity endorsement is used by having the famous actress Julia Roberts as the face for the campaign. The colours are very light and diffuse and it is difficult to tell where the picture was taken. The ad suggests that beauty is a commodity that can be bought and sold. Beauty is perfect and white and flawless. Julia Roberts has an “aura” that can be manufactured. The language tells us that science can make us perfect – and that the results of this product are “miraculous”. Indeed, the ad seems to merge religion, science and the spiritual, with words like “science”, “aura” and “miracle”. Although it might not be explicit, or immediately obvious, this ad was very deliberately constructed to suggest to viewers that perfection is attainable, and can be bought at your local department store.
Next you will have a print advertisement and a video advertisement that you will deconstruct following the steps used in the ad above.
Assess your Understanding:
Address the following questions with one the Dove Evolution video ad: