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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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).
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.

Reporter,
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,
here,
in the crime riddled streets,
of Venus.”

Stay safe out their Stretch.

Reporter,
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,
here,
in the remote,
and unpopulated,
countryside.”

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.

Poem with an explanation: the darkness of irrationality

The darkness of irrationality,
in the twilight of sensibility,
the sounds and glimpses,
transform and grow,
and there in the shadows,
where the metal turns,
translucent forms,
hide in the fog.

 

This poem is about someone being afraid.  They are home alone, at night, and a sense of fear comes over them.

The first line, The darkness of irrationality, shows that the person’s fear isn’t founded on anything specific.  They have a fear that there is someone outside their home who wants to come inside and do them harm.  The person though, isn’t afraid of someone they know, or someone nearby, or something they heard in the news.  They are simply afraid.  They have a fear of what might or could be.

The second line, in the twilight of sensibility, is meant to contrast with the first.  While the person’s general fear is irrational, the idea of their fear isn’t.  There could be someone outside.  There is the real possibility of a home invasion or some other kind of harm.  There is a sense of sensibility in the person being aware and cautious of the possibility.  The person though, goes to the level of irrationality in the sense that they are continuously afraid of the idea.

The first line and the second line are meant to show a contrast through their form.  Both lines are ten syllables long.  The first line has darkness, while the second has twilight.  The first line has irrationality, while the second has sensibility.  The equal lengths paired with the opposite words shows the contrast of the ideas.

The third line, the sounds and glimpses, describes the audial and visual things that increase the person’s fear.  The person hears many noises.  Their heater makes a noise.  Their refrigerator makes a noise.  The house creaks.  They also see things like reflections or things out of the corner of their eye.  These things are interpreted by the person as signs of what they fear.  They believe each noise is someone outside and each sight might be someone inside.

The fourth line, transform and grow, refers to the sounds and glimpses of the third line.  As the person grows more afraid, the idea of what could be causing the sounds and glimpses grows.  The person becomes more afraid with each instance.

The fifth and sixth lines, and there in the shadows, where the metal turns, describes the unseen places of the person’s house.  They imagine that there is someone outside of these places trying to get in.  This “getting in” is described as a lock turning or, where the metal turns.  They have the horror movie image of a lock slowly turning, in their mind.

The eighth line, translucent forms, describes who the person is afraid of.  It is a vague image of a person.  It is what they imagine an intruder would look like.  It is a composite of criminal images they have seen.  The image is vague and not defined because the person is afraid of an idea more than of an actual person.  The vagueness is shown through the idea of the forms being translucent.

The last line, hide in the fog, shows that, partially, the person is afraid of the unknown.  They are afraid of what they can’t see outside.  Also, it shows the confusion of their fear.

This poem is about a person afraid alone at night in their house.  The idea of it is to describe, in some sense, the haziness of the person’s fear.  The person is afraid, but their fear, in some sense, isn’t based on anything substantial.  The person is mainly afraid of the possibility of something.  They, in some sense, want to be on guard for it.

The poem isn’t meant to criticize the person for their fear.  Describing the fear as irrational isn’t meant to imply that the person is.  The idea of the poem is meant to describe how an irrational fear can grow, even in a rational person, under certain conditions.

P. S. Do you like poems with explanations? Did you know that M. Sakran has an eBook of them?  It is true.  You can learn more about the eBook and purchase a copy from here: Understanding: poems with explanations.