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: Putting away the soapbox

They speak
you hear.

You speak
no one hears.

You bring out your soapbox
and some listen
though so much fewer
than the whole.

Some nod
some shake
nothing changes.

They speak
you hear.

You speak
no one hears.

You bring out your soapbox
and some listen
though so much fewer
than the whole.

Some nod
some shake
nothing changes.

The cycle repeats.

And then one day
you paddle your boat
down a new channel.

They speak
you hear.

You speak
no one hears.

The soapbox though
stays put away.

But then you wonder
of all the others
flowing along
the other channels.

The sky is blue
but they say green
and somewhere inside
it doesn’t make sense.

But soapboxes are heavy
and the channel is smooth
and so you stay

and calmly listen.

 

This poem is about watching political news.

In the poem, a person starts by watching political news they disagree with (They speak/ you hear).

The person feels a sense of disagreement.  They believe that what they are hearing is wrong.  Though no one is listening, they say why it is wrong. (You speak/ no one hears.)  This line also relates to the reach of the media contrasted with the reach of a single person.  The person hears the media, but no one hears the person.

The person wants to express their view to others and correct the information they see as wrong in the news.  They go online on social media (You bring out your soapbox).  As referenced above, they reach a far smaller audience than the media (and some listen/ though so much fewer/ than the whole.)

When they express their view, some people agree (Some nod), some disagree (some shake), but they cause no change in either group (nothing changes).

The next four stanzas repeat the first four.  This is to emphasize the idea that the person keeps going through this.  They watch news they disagree with, they go online to say why they disagree, supporters agree with them, other people oppose, and they cause no change.  This notion is said more explicitly in the following stanza (The cycle repeats.)

The person gets tired of the cycle and so they change the channel (And then one day/ you paddle your boat/ down a new channel).  They find a news channel they agree with.

At first things are the same.  The media has a reach greater than the person (They speak/ you hear.  You speak/ no one hears.)

Since the person agrees though, they don’t feel the need to express their ideas (The soapbox though/ stays put away.)

The person then starts to wonder though (But then you wonder).  They think about all the people watching news that they believe is biased and inaccurate (of all the others/ flowing along/ the other channels).

The sense of how inaccurate the information is, is expressed in the first two lines of the next stanza (The sky is blue/ but they say green).  The person struggles with the idea that first, in their view biased information is being spread to so many, second, that so many people don’t see the information as biased, and third, that there isn’t much the person can do about it.  This doesn’t make sense to the person.

The person at first feels like they want to correct the information they see and speak up about it.  This becomes tiring though (But soapboxes are heavy).  They find the new news they are watching agreeable (and the channel is smooth), and so they stop watching the other news they disagree with (and so you stay) and they feel calm (and calmly listen).

The poem expresses the idea that listening to news that a person disagrees with can be a tiring experience.  It can feel tiring for a person to want to correct much of what they hear and it can feel bad for a person to think about the biased information being disseminated and others not seeing it as biased.  Because of this, some people simply stick to news they agree with.  It can be a calmer more comfortable experience.

Poem with an explanation: through the lens

through the glass
the mirror speaks
and says the words
you want to hear

the world is known
through the lens

“What do you mean,
you don’t see?”

 

This poem is about news that leans one way or the other on the political spectrum.

In the poem, a person watches news that is on the same side of the political spectrum as they are.  They hear something they agree with.  This is symbolized by a mirror saying words a person wants to hear.  A reflection of the person’s views are presented to them.

The second stanza provides a commentary.  It says, the world is known/ through the lens.  This means that what a person knows about the world is influenced by how the information is presented.

In the third stanza, a person is taken aback when they encounter someone who perceives the world differently.  In this case, the person encounters someone who watches news that is on the opposite side of the political spectrum as what they see.  Because of this, the person encountered has received a different presentation of events and therefore perceives things differently.  The original person finds this confusing for two reasons.

First, they perceive the news as fundamental.  They don’t see a political leaning in the presentation.  Additionally, they don’t see how a political leaning could influence facts or their presentation.

Second, they had not considered that others might see news presented in a different way.  They had not considered that others might see the world through a different lens.

Because of these two reasons, they can’t understand why a person they encounter knows different facts than they do and why they see those facts differently.

Poem with an explanation: The rain fell

The rain fell –

the farmer celebrated,

the builder complained.

 

This poem is about how people respond to social issue news.

The news sometimes has stories about social issues.  It might be a law being passed, a change in public opinion, a change in industry practices, a survey, or something else.  The news presents some change in a social issue.

Upon hearing the news, people have different reactions.  People who support the change celebrate.  People who oppose the change complain.

The idiosyncrasy of the situation, is that although the reactions are different, the news is the same.  People hear exactly the same thing, but they have different responses to it.

This idea is portrayed in the poem.  In the poem it started to rain.  A farmer, who needs the rain for their crops, celebrates this occurrence.  The builder, who has to stop work because of the rain, complains.  Both people experience exactly the same thing, but they perceive it, are impacted by it, and respond to it in opposite ways.

The idea that people can see the same thing, but have different responses, can be a strange thing to an outside observer.  It seems inconsistent.  The poem highlights this idea.