I read Scott Rosenberg's post today about extraordinary attempts to avoid appearance of journalistic bias, then got to discuss it with him today too. I noted that the problem seems to be a bit worse in the US. In Canada and the UK, I think newspapers may be a little happier to be known to have a bias. Not the Globe and Mail, perhaps, which takes a high-horse approach to politics and society despite clearly having biases at times, but at least the Sun. And in the UK I've heard papers are more likely to take sides and I know the Economist sometimes bluntly admits its bias. In the US, it seems, papers go to greater lengths (including forbidding attendance at benefit concerts) to avoid being seen as a mouthpiece for either the Democrats or the Replublicans.
One theory for the extra attempts to appear neutral: since there's only two real US parties, any admitted bias is tantamount to admitting that the paper favours one of them. In Canada politics may not be quite so partisan or polarized, or at least haven't been for so long. A Canadian paper with a slight conservative bent could be a PC mouthpiece, or a Reform mouthpiece, or neither, so at least there's confusion about which party it's supposed to be the mouthpiece for. But I'm not sure this theory holds up because certainly Canadian politics can be partisan (and nasty), and UK politics may be polarized much like American.
Another theory is that since Americans are generally so quick to come up with conspiracy theories, Americans are therefore quick to assume that politicians are somehow controlling journalistic output. Therefore a paper must appear especially untainted to avoid being written off as government-controlled propaganda.
I'm not terribly happy with either of these theories, and maybe I'm wrong that this is uniquely American, so feel free to chime in.
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