One of us

I've built a handful of posts this year around some of the work contained in Clay Johnson's book, The Information Diet. These included:

Taking responsibility for one's media consumption habits is a central recommendation in The Information Diet. An idea I've come to support, it's also challenged by a recent Nieman Journalism Lab article, "How do you tell when the news is biased? It depends on how you see yourself."

Written by Jonathan Stray, the article describes the "hostile media effect", in which "both sides feel that a neutral story is biased against them." Stray explains that we are more likely to see bias when we identify as part of a particular group.

Speaking to journalists (Nieman's primary audience), Stray suggests that:

"… if we can find a way to tell our stories outside of partisan frames, we might also reduce feelings of unfairness. The trick would be to shy away from invoking divisive identities, preferring frames that allow members of a polarized audience to see themselves as part of the same group. (In this regard, the classic “balanced” article that quotes starkly opposing sides might be a particularly bad choice.)

"Encouraging the audience to perceive itself as unified — this seems simplistic, or naïve. But the consideration of identity is foundational to fields like mediation and conflict resolution. Experimental evidence suggests that it might be important in journalism too."

In Stray's report, I am encouraged by the focus on outcomes. Rather than measure inputs ("this article is demonstrably neutral"), he suggests ways to keep people engaged on their own terms. I think there's something to be said for that.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.