May 18, 2005
Writer, reader see different sides of
My first business mentor explained the difference between
stubborn and loyal. When he asked if I knew the difference,
I paused, and he took the silence as permission for him
to define the terms: Loyal is when you agree with me
and stubborn is when you don't. We laughed, but I did
get the point...perhaps bias fits into the same distinction:
it often depends on whether one agrees with what someone
else says or writes. So before we're too harsh on media
bias, let's assess the implications.
Some people avoid thinking for themselves. Perhaps
they lack the language skills, the time or maybe they're
simply lazy. They prefer to have information interpreted
for them. Savvy marketing professionals know how to package
products, including headlines and stories, to attract
Unless individuals are willing to research and study
issues, then it should be no surprise that those selling
news products will provide attractive, sometimes sensational,
headlines to increase mind share and market share. Is
this bias or shrewd business?
A dozen years ago, I spoke with former North Carolina
head basketball coach Jim Valvano. It was just before
the United States went to war with Iraq, for the first
time, and Coach "V" and I were talking about
important lessons from our childhood days - his in New
York City and mine in small towns in Indiana and Missouri.
What was particularly interesting was his story about
how his father had taught a valuable lesson about intellectual
snobbery and bias.
Watching their dad reading the color comics, one wisecracking
brother asked why Mr. Valvano read only the "funny
papers" on Sunday. A long pause followed. Then he
noisily folded the comics and firmly placed them on the
table next to his favorite chair.
Mr. Valvano, looking at his two college-educated sons,
reminded them that he enjoyed the comics because he had
difficulty reading. He said he was glad his sons could
read better than he could, but he enjoyed the comics,
especially the pictures, because they helped him understand
English, his second language. And, then he made a powerful
point: "Cartoons are for those who don't read so
well and editorials are for those who don't think so
Coach Jim Valvano said he and his brother both felt
ashamed - and immediately apologized to their dad.
Bias, by the media or individuals, can occur any time
and seldom reflects integrity. Drawing conclusions hastily,
without thoughtfulness and thoroughness, will lead to
errors in judgment.
Bias and prejudice, of all types, must go away because
integrity matters, in all situations.