The word “bias” carries with it a negative connotation today. We usually think of bias as an unfair favoring of one thing compared with another. But there are other nuances to the word, and it has not always been viewed negatively. In 1828, Noah Webster defined bias as “a leaning of the mind; inclination; prepossession; propensity towards an object, not leaving the mind indifferent; as, education gives a bias to the mind.”
Webster viewed education as that which gives a “bias to the mind.” This is inevitable because all education is fundamentally moral. All students are learning how to view the world and how to properly behave in the world. These are moral matters. The idea that education can be amoral and devoid of religion is erroneous. Students will be learning a religious worldview; the question is which one. Webster again: “To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.”
Being neutral or indifferent about issues is not something to strive after. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”
It is impossible to be neutral about everything. Everyone makes decisions and judgments according to their worldview. If I truly believe we all evolved from primordial soup, then my view of the sanctity of life will be diminished. On the other hand, if I truly believe that God created and gives value to life, then I will be moved to protect the innocent from slaughter (e.g., abortion).
But what about media? What about a newspaper? Shouldn’t we expect them to be neutral and unbiased? No, not exactly. Being biased is not the problem. The issue is what we are biased towards. What is our foundational worldview that colors all we do?
I submit that being biased towards the Christian worldview is an admirable bias. The values, principles, and precepts found in the Old and New Testaments form the only bias that is commendable.
How does this work out in media?
First, our bias towards the Christian worldview reminds us that there are fundamental truths that we cannot subvert. Human sexuality is defined by God, who created male and female. Our bias prevents us from accepting the secular narrative; we will not alter pronouns to cater to the bias of non-Christian worldviews. Abortion is the premeditated taking of an innocent human life. Our bias prevents us from accepting the secular narrative; we will not refer to a human being as a “clump of cells.”
Second, no newspaper or news agency can cover every single story. There is selectivity when it comes to the stories we report on. Our worldview, our bias, will influence the types of stories we cover. Our worldview will tell us some things are more important than others. For example, the Christian worldview/bias would lead us to focus on the policy decisions of civil magistrates today, rather than bringing up past sins that have already been confessed and acknowledged. A secular bias, on the other hand, may lead to repeated attempts to drag up past sins to shame, disparage, or cancel a person or group.
Third, news analysis will reflect a bias. In fact, this is the point of news analysis: how do we understand and interpret the news from a particular worldview? For example, if we believe that the government should be submitted to blindly, then our analysis of citizen protest to government mandates will reflect this bias. On the other hand, if we believe that God has ordained government for a very limited purpose and there are legitimate times to disobey the government, our analysis will be different. Analysis requires a worldview.
However, there is something to be said for being impartial. While we should be biased in our worldview, we should be impartial in our dealings with people. In fact, it is a Christian bias which will enable us to remain impartial. Let me explain.
Again, I defer to Webster, who lists one definition of impartial as “not favoring one party more than another; equitable; just; as an impartial judgment or decision; an impartial opinion.” The idea is that we do not defer to a group simply because of their status or affiliation.
This idea of impartiality is found in the law of God: “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15).
A newspaper or media group should seek to be impartial in this sense. Because we are biased towards the law of God, we seek to be impartial in our dealings with others. We should not favor one group of people over another. For example, we should not seek to gloss over the missteps of the Republicans while highlighting all the errors of the Democrats. Furthermore, we should not be influenced by intimidation or persuaded by inducement to alter the facts. Our bias towards the Christian worldview should preclude us from hiding the truth for personal gain or social credit. Finally, while we can certainly be critical of policies and legislation (from the Left or the Right), we need to be diligent to accurately represent people’s positions, even if we disagree with them.
Newspapers that claim to be unbiased and neutral are neither. Those who claim to have no bias are, in fact, the ones most susceptible to being animated by detrimental biases. We all have traditions, beliefs, and motivations that influence our view of the world. The question is not if we will have a bias or not, but what our bias will be based upon—secularism or God’s Word? We must understand our biases and then seek to have them transformed by the renewal of our minds according to the Word of God (cf. Romans 12:2).
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Chris Hume is the managing editor of The Lancaster Patriot. He is responsible for managing customer service, sales, and content across all The Lancaster Patriot’s print and digital channels. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ChrisHume1689 on Twitter.
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