Addressing "Bias"

It's apparently a two-way street.

Accusing news reporters of being tilted toward one side or idea or another is nothing new.

But two incidents I've been involved a few months ago and one this past week...highlight the saying that "You know what opinions are like, and everybody has one".

Last October, when President Obama was campaigning at Ohio University, WTAP aired the event live on our "My 5" channel. But because the president was speaking at the 6 P.M. hour, we also decided to air two minutes of it (the speech lasted perhaps a little more than half an hour) live during our newscast at that hour.

Shortly after that brief portion aired, I received a phone call in the newsroom from someone who said, "We turned our TV off after you aired (Obama) on your newscast." The caller promptly hung up.

Thanks for sharing.

A more recent complaint came the other day, this one from a woman who said she "stopped watching WTAP" after the election due to our "right-side bias reports". (She apparently is still watching, or at least following our web channel.) She was protesting my story on Thursday on the sequester, in which I interviewed Republican Congressman Bill Johnson. (I also interviewed Democratic Senator Joe Manchin on the subject on Wednesday.)

In the e-mail titled, "Are You Fox News?", the writer went on to suggest we interview two Democrats, Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich, on the subject, presumably for more "balance".  While Kaptur is still serving in Congress from Northern Ohio, Kucinich left Congress last year and currently is an analyst for ---Fox News.

The point of the interview was to speak to an area representative in Congress. Currently, all three members of Congress serving our area (Johnson, David McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito) are Republicans. Based on their recent statements, McKinley and Capito share Johnson's views on the budget stalemate. On Saturday morning, the Parkersburg News and Sentinel (to whom this writer has threatened to send a Letter to the Editor complaining of our "bias") ran a story on the sequester almost completely quoting McKinley.

Furthermore, in my almost 33 years at this station, I have interviewed a variety of lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican.  On the Democrat side, that includes the late Robert Byrd and Howard Metzanbaum, Jay Rockefeller, Sherrod Brown and former Democratic congressmen Alan Mollohan, Ted Strickland and Charlie Wilson.

The point of all this is...and reporters all over the country probably get this as well...people who don't like (and, in some cases, "don't like" is being mild) President Obama complain we're biased to the left. And his supporters claim we're biased to the right.

They can't both be correct, can they?

A quick lesson: part of being objective (or fair) as a reporter involves airing both (or more) sides of the issue, which has been done in this case.

And sometimes it means getting criticism from both sides.

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