Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Peg Kaplan on the why of it

JD brought my attention to a blog post by one Peg Kaplan.

Kaplan has had some opportunity to roam the halls at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.  The Poynter Institute owns the St. Petersburg Times, which in turn brought PolitiFact into being.

Kaplan's take:
I agree with those in Professor Burgess-Jackson's post who slam Politifact for its analysis about Obamacare. Nevertheless, I know some of the people who work at Politifact, through the Poynter Institute. These people are not stupid and they are not dishonest. I am certain that they believe what they write.

If they are wrong, then how is this possible?
Kaplan's experience agrees with mine.  The journalists I have met are sincere and conscientious as a rule.  Kaplan's explanation also agrees with the one to which I hold:  The newsroom culture steeps its membership in a cloud of accepted wisdom.  That accepted wisdom isn't always particularly wise.  The homogeneity of the newsroom culture discourages journalists from asking some of the right questions.  The blind spot in their perceptions can't help but manifest in their work. 

This type of bias, by the way, is an institutional bias.

Do read the whole of Kaplan's post, and follow the links to Burgess-Jackson's post.

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