24 August 2005

Columnist blues: Opinion vs Bias

If you thought columnists voiced opinions, and it was a natural thing, it may pay to think again on the issue.
Opinions are one thing, bias is another. One is about a point of view, the other is about integrity.

News is out that a New York Times columnist faces a defamation complaint from Institutional Shareholder Services, a reputed advisory agency that offers its considered opinion. It seems from the story that the columnist accused it of bias, and ended up facing the same charge! Is it okay to hurt reputations?
Here is the story:
http://today.reuters.com/investing/financeArticle.aspx?type=mergersNews&storyID=2005-08-23T230248Z_01_N23576729_RTRIDST_0_NEWYORKTIMES-ISS.XML

And here is the column:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/21/business/yourmoney/21gret.html


In India, this could be food for thought after a recent incident involving a planned (but not real) privilege motion against Pioneer columnist Swapan Dasgupta after he questioned the neutrality of the Lok Sabha speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, using some data and plenty of vitriol to paint the chair with the speaker's communist red. But the columnist is a well-known saffron sympathiser!
We can bring this colour scheme down to political mudslinging but that does not mean that we can abandon measured thoughts on where a columnist becomes biased and where s/he voices a well-thought-out opinion. In such cases, both the reputation of the columnist and the facts in question play a role.
Of course, the moot point, as the cliche goes, is that a columnist with a sustained bias is called an intellectual with a right to ideological twists, but when the speaker does it, he is partial. We are talking chairs here, not people.
Strange, but I didn't hear in the Pioneer episode of any significant cries of bias from the opposition benches that was loud enough. Were they bowing to authority, or was the columnist--in his own outdated British lingo--more loyal than the queen?

1 comment:

nk said...

interesting blog u have..now lemme read the archieves..