Published: Sept. 24, 2018

Professor Alex Worsnip (UNC Chapel Hill) will be giving a talk "Media Bias: What is It, and Why is It Bad?" Tuesday, October 9, from 5:00-6:30 PM in HUMN 250. Alex Worsnip is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Previously, he taught at New York University and did his graduate work at the University of Oxford and Yale University. He is the author of more than a dozen articles in peer-reviewed philosophy journals, as well as a number of commentary articles and book reviews for a general audience in Prospect Magazine. He is currently working on a project focusing on questions in epistemology (the theory of knowledge and rational belief) as they apply to topics of concern in social and political life - for example, to public debates about media bias, the role of experts, science policy and climate change, and standards of proof in the law.

Abstract: Accusations of bias in media reporting are widespread on both sides of the political divide. But when we accuse a media outlet of bias, what exactly are we accusing it of? This question matters: if our accusations of bias are to have any critical force, bias has to be something bad – and in order to explain why bias is bad, we have to say what bias is. But this turns out to be surprisingly hard. Is bias a matter of failing to “remain neutral” between all points of view? Of reporting outright factual falsehoods – “fake news”? Of being selective in which facts you report? Of letting your moral and political values influence your reporting in any way? Of simply being on the wrong side of contested political issues?

In this talk, Professor Worsnip will argue that all of these answers are inadequate in one way or another, and that many of them count at least some perfectly responsible coverage as “biased”.  He will then try to give a better answer that avoids the problems with the other answers and that vindicates the idea that bias is always in some way bad. However, he will also suggest that in light of difficulties in knowing exactly when a particular media source is biased, we need to diversify the range of media sources that we each consume as individuals.