In this highly charged, high-stakes election year, charges of media bias have been leveled at every media outlet. Bloggers, TV newscasters and newspapers have received the brunt of the charges, but there may be a solution on the horizon.
The buzz this week surrounds a new Web site that claims it has software that can spot the spin in an article. In a BusinessWeek.Com article out this week, SpinSpotter.Com is highlighted as a possible solution to the embattled news media by either revealing bias to the point where outlets would be forced to conduct themselves according to writing ethics or by revealing the media to be less biased than previously thought. The software uses algorithms based on the guidelines set out in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics to spot passive voice usage and other indicators.
This is pretty interesting news. Almost every writer who is charged with writing an article for a publication, whether in print or online is charged with writing it from an objective perspective. We are charged with gathering information from reputable sources and compiling it in a way that leaves out our personal opinions. I’d like to open this up to debate. But before we get started a couple of ground rules – this is not about politics. We’re not talking left-leaning or right-leaning, we’re talking about bias in general. There are biases in all types of publications – in parenting magazines and car publications so keep that in mind.
The questions for today are: Would you use this software? Would you use it to review your own articles? Have you ever had trouble maintaining objectivity?
Remember, no politics, no mommy wars, no Star Wars vs. Lord of the Rings. It’s about honing our skills as writers and looking critically at media – particularly print and online.