Will Dana Speaks at Middlebury

Managing Editor of Rolling Stone Magazine, Will Dana, came to speak a few days ago as part of Middlebury‘s “Meet the Press” series. I attended along with maybe a 100 or so folks from the school and town community. Here are some of my notes from the lecture entitled: “The Myth of Fair and Balanced: A Defense of Biased Reporting”:

  • “Just because you’re biased, doesn’t mean you’re not fair.” This is nothing new but it’s good to hear a leading journalist say it every once and awhile. Bias is a good thing. Without it, everything would be dry and quite useless. Everyone has a bias, so don’t pretend that you don’t.
  • Biased Reporting is Hard. You’re argument has to be that much tighter to prove your point.
  • The Public Distrusts Mass Media. “Unbiased” new sources are often times the most questioned. Clearly defined biased news sources have far less issues with public trust because the public thinks it knows what it is getting. There is a disclosure that makes people trust biased media, if they know it is biased in a certain way.
  • Biased Reporting Does Not Have to be Black and White. Good biased publications print nuanced articles that while generally biased a certain way, still challenge the readers to think.
  • Print Media Is Not Dying. Online media still leaves something to be desired, the tangible feel of something that you can keep. So long as a publication stays relevent and interesting to its readers, it will stay alive, online and off.
  • Good Reporters Are Passionate and Dive Deep. Dana estimates that Rolling Stone reporters use 25% of the information they uncover in the article. Rolling Stone pays reporters to go months getting information for a story so long as that story is passionate and deep.
  • Bloggers are the media watch-dogs. No publications want to be called-out by the bloggers because it can mean big trouble. That said, not many bloggers are true journalists, they only mash-up content reported by the big media.