Poetry topic idea: bias in news stories

Today’s poetry topic idea is bias in news stories.  Bias in news stories can show up in a number of ways.  Some of them include:

  • Cherry picking of facts. There can be a number of facts about an issue.  Bias can occur when someone only selects those facts that support their point of view.
    For example, if someone wanted to say that a city had worse crime than it did in the past, they might look at crime statistics for the city.  If some crime statistics showed a decrease in crime (for example robbery went down), but other statistics showed an increase (for example car theft went up), a biased person would only show those statistics that showed an increase in their story.

  • Searching for an example. There can be a number of situations that can represent an issue.  A biased person might look for those situations that fit the position they have.
    An example might be a person wanting to show that cities that have a certain kind of something also have an increased rate of some other kind of something (either both good or both bad depending on the idea).  They might look for cities until they found one that fit the idea.  This is a bit like cherry picking of facts, but in this case the person would look one by one for the information they wanted until they found what they wanted, instead of getting a large amount of information and then picking what supported their view.

  • Exaggerating the truth. The truth can be exaggerated in a number of ways.  For example, if a person found two cities that had crime rates of 1 and 2% respectively for a certain kind of crime and they wanted to portray one place as better or worse than the other they might say a statement such as:
    City A has twice (or double or 100% more) the crime rate of a certain crime than City B (if City A had the 2% rate and City B the 1% rate)
    They might also do something like show a graph with no numbers that shows City A’s rate to be twice as high as City B’s.
    In this case, the exaggeration comes because, although the statement is true, it makes things sound worse than they are (assuming rates of 1 and 2% are both considered low).

  • Choosing stories. An example of this might be a story related to minimum wage.  If a person wanted to show an increase in the minimum wage was good, they might find a person who got an increase and do a story about how their life was better because of it.  Conversely, if they wanted to show that an increase in minimum wage was bad, they might show a small business that had to close when the minimum wage increased.

  • A story can have a number of adjectives.  A report, for example, might be described as “shocking”.  An event might be called “unprecedented”.  Something perceived as good might be called “great” or “wonderful”.  Something else might be described as “routine”.  Adjectives are used to make something sound more or less than what it is depending on the point of view.

  • What stories are told. Bias can appear when some stories are told and others are not.  For example, if one story supported a point of view it might be told.  If it didn’t, it might be ignored.

  • Drawing conclusions. A story can have bias when it draws an unsupported conclusion.  This can happen for example, when something happens and someone gives an unsupported reason why it happened.

  • A story can show bias by granting legitimacy to a person, group, or point of view.  By reporting about someone, some group, or some idea, and portraying them as mainstream and important, a story can grant that person, group, or idea legitimacy.  They are indicating that that something is important and is part of the conversation about some idea.

  • Half the story. This idea was related above in choosing stories, but the idea here is that a person presents a view of something while ignoring opposing views.  They might not have facts or people that speak, but rather, they simply give one side of an issue while ignoring the other side.

  • A story can have bias by implying urgency.  Is the story described as “breaking news”?  Are frequent updates given?  Are reporters “on their way now”?  Something that is portrayed as being urgent is similarly portrayed as being important.

  • Story emphasis. Bias can occur when a story gets more or less time or space than some other story.  Bias emphasis can also occur when one story is more prominent (e.g. on the front page) than another story (e.g. somewhere in the middle).

If a poet wanted to write about bias in news stories, they could read, watch, and listen to news stories and look for examples of the bias above.  They could note what the bias is and how it was portrayed.  They could then write a poem about the issue and the bias shown.

A poet could also pick from the ideas above and apply them to situations in life.  For example, they might describe a boss giving a biased speech at some meeting.  They could work in different types of bias into the poem presentation.

As another idea, a poet could write a satirical poem containing overt bias.  They could go out of their way to use the different bias ideas above and present them in an overt way to emphasize bias regarding an issue.

Another idea might be for a poet to pick one of the ideas above and write a poem about the idea.  For example, a poet might write about the idea of cherry picking facts.  They could describe it, how it works, and how it is used.

For another idea, a poet could try to write a poem about something they have a strong opinion about without any bias.  They might write it normally first, and then look for bias in it and change those parts.

Another idea might be for a poet to explore reasons for bias in news stories.  They could look at the ideas of views, opinions, agendas, and so forth and explore why bias occurs in a poem.

A poet might also write a poem about the effectiveness of bias.  They might write about how people are influenced by biased information they read and hear.

Here is an example poem using the idea of bias in news stories:

Mars has half the crime of Venus!

Breaking news!

In a shocking report,
just released today,
Dr. Fluff,
chair of fluffology,
at the prestigious,
and renown,
Institute of Fluff,
has found that Mars,
has half the rate,
of spaceship theft,
compared to Venus.

Stretch TheTruth
is on the scene now,
on Venus,
for an exclusive report.

(Gritty urban environment,
sirens in the distance.)

“Yes mam,
tell us about the,
extremely upsetting,
theft of your spaceship,
in the crime riddled streets,
of Venus.”

Stay safe out their Stretch.

Falsly Claim,
is on Mars,
with this story.

(Idyllic scene.  Sun shining.  Flowers blooming.  A cool breeze.)

“Here on Mars,
where most Martians,
seemingly don’t have locks on their doors,
it’s been impossible,
to find one spaceship theft victim,
in the remote,
and unpopulated,

Enjoy your stay there Falsly.

There you have it folks.

Mars –
peaceful, serene get away.

Venus –
a tragic example of blight in the solar system.