Venezuela’s media and the U.S. media
Two items regarding recent mainstream news reports telling the story that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is cracking down on free speech in refusing to renew RCTV’s license. First, Robert McChesney unpacks the issue and provides some of the facts and context that have been buried, showing how “the US media coverage of Venezuela‚Äôs RCTV controversy says more about the deficiencies of our own news media that it does about Venezuela.” Also, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has an analysis of recent coverage on the issue which does a great job of showing the mainstream media’s bias in favor of the Bush administration on this issue, and its lack of perspective or context. Both commentators point out that a television station attempting to incite a coup in the United States would have been shut down long ago, and its operators tried for treason.
There is an unfortunate cognitive bias among many librarians that says that mainstream sources, ones that seem not to be activist in nature, are automatically more reliable and objective. This is commonly stated as a basic guideline in evaluating information sources, without reasons given, and without awareness of issues in media theory. A companion to the idea that “mainstream means objective” are the anti-intellectual ideas that “everything balances out,” and that “for every argument there is an equally valid counterargument.” This kind of thinking makes our professionalism irrelevant, and makes literacy irrelevant as well. For a profession that claims to specialize in information literacy, as a group we know a lot less about issues of bias than we should. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s magazine, Extra!, should be required reading in library schools (to recommend a very easy starting point).