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Media Bias

Media bias with filtering of fact betrays the public interest and democracy. Staff

May 19, 2024

Constitutions of so-called “Peoples’ Democratic Republics” that are in fact uniparty dictatorships routinely expound expansive rights which are systematically ignored or interpreted in ways that make them meaningless.  These so-called “rights” provide a veneer of credibility amplified by ideological fellow-travelers and the naive to cover for the regime’s abuses.

Similarly, many media organizations set forth ostensible principles of journalistic ethics used to profess credibility, while in practice ignoring key elements or applying them selectively. Actual conduct is driven by undisclosed factors consisting of ideological bias and agenda, whereas professed written principles serve as propaganda.

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) code of ethics articulates principles that many journalists and organizations profess to adhere to. These standards are prefaced with the note that “public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.”[2] Yet despite a powerful role in democratic societies, journalists are not meaningfully held accountable to the professed standards that serve as the basis for their special privileges.  The SPJ notes that its ethical principles are “not a set of rules” and claims that it “is not, nor can it be under the First Amendment, legally enforceable.”  This conflates the legal right to free speech under the First Amendment, and the credentialing and professional society requirements and for journalists who receive special privileges.

Abundant legal precedent has established that defamation, fraud, incitement, and true threats are not protected speech.[2] The First Amendment “only prevents government restrictions on speech,”[3] and in no way prevents professional societies from sanctioning members who breach ethical codes.  The failure of journalistic organizations to sanction members who violate their professed ethics represents an evasion of accountability, and not a legal constraint.  While many matters may indeed be appropriate for wide discretion, the lack of consequences for gross dishonesty and pervasive partisan double standards have severely eroded journalistic credibility in public opinion polls.

The widely-cited Seven Standards of Quality Journalism taught to students from fourth grade include: “1. Multiple credible sources, 2. Verification, 3. Avoidance of Bias, 4. Balance, 5. Documentation, 6. Context, and 7. Fairness.”[4] The Ethical Journalism Network proclaims “Five Principles of Ethical Journalism,” including “1. Truth and Accuracy, 2. Independence, 3. Fairness and Impartiality, 4. Humanity, and 5. Accountability.” Codes of journalistic ethics of various media companies are listed at the Newsleaders Association.[5] 

National Public Radio’s professed ethical standards include accuracy, fairness, completeness, honesty, independence, impartiality, transparency, accountability, respect, and excellence.  NPR claims that “our primary allegiance is to the public.”[6] Yet mounting evidence demonstrates pervasive ideological bias trumping public interest and journalistic integrity.[7]

The New York Times’ “Guidelines on Integrity” appears with the prominent claim that “Our greatest strength is the authority and reputation of The Times.  We must do nothing that would undermine or dilute it and everything possible to enhance it.”[8] Yet the Times has long been a propaganda mouthpiece flaunting journalistic ethics, from serving as apologists for Stalin’s mass murders, minimizing the Holocaust, facilitating Fidel Castro’s rise to power, and promoting the George Floyd “1619 Project” riots, among others.  From its “puff pieces” for radical leftists and “hit pieces” on perceived political opponents, the NYT’s coverage across the spectrum of issues has been predictable by ideology rather than ethics.

A common denominator of these media outlets is that they claim to be serving the public interest while in fact serving partisan agendas.  Dr. Thomas Sowell wrote:

  • “Journalists cannot serve two masters. To the extent that they take on the task of suppressing information or biting their tongue for the sake of some political agenda, they are betraying the trust of the public and corrupting their own profession…

  • “Some journalists — too many, in fact — do jump on the bandwagon of particular candidates or particular political agendas, and end up filtering and spinning the news as a result… the truth is the truth — and filtering out facts is betraying the public that has turned to the media for information.

  • “It is legitimate to argue for or against those who believe that global warming justifies one policy or another. That is an honest expression of opinion. But filtering the facts is not.”[9]

Dr. Sowell noted that before the Second World War, the Times of London filtered out “negative reports of what the Nazis were doing,” ostensibly to promote peace. He observed:

  • “It downplayed the dangers of Hitler, thus contributing to Britain's belated awakening to those dangers, and its vacillating responses — factors which emboldened Hitler to launch the Second World War.  It was not just that Dawson guessed wrong. More fundamentally, he misunderstood a journalist's role and the betrayal involved when he went beyond that role, even for a noble cause.”


[1] “SPJ Code of Ethics.” Society of Professional Journalists, revised September 6, 2014. 

[2] “Unprotected Speech Synopsis.” Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. [Accessed May 19, 2024]

[3] "First Amendment and Censorship." American Library Association, October 2021.

[4] “Seven Standards of Quality Journalism.” News Literacy Project, 2020.

[5] News Leaders Association. “Ethics.” [accessed May 19, 2024].

[6] “These are the standards of our journalism.” National Public Radio. [accessed May 19, 2024].

[7] Zilber, Ariel. “NPR editor Uri Berliner resigns after bombshell expose reveals network’s pervasive left-wing bias.” New York Post, April 17, 2024.

[8] “Guidelines on Integrity.” New York Times, September 25, 2008.

[9] Sowell, Thomas. “The Media and Politics.” Creators Syndicate, February 11, 2008.

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