If I called myself an unbiased writer, I would be lying.
No human is capable of removing all bias. We are shaped by our experiences, our families and our friends.
As journalists, we are trained to recognize our biases and minimize them as much as possible.
On social media, writers receive a lot of scrutiny for biases that exist and those that do not exist. Consumers of news media should question where we are coming from with our stories.
Earlier this week, a reader noted we run stories from the Illinois News Network. He accused the group of having a conservative bias.
What is the Illinois News Network? It started a few years ago as an arm of the Chicago-based Illinois Policy Institute, which bills itself as libertarian and often is referred to as conservative. Last January, the institute revealed that it had transferred the network to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, another Chicago-based group.
Some of Franklin’s executives are connected to conservative organizations. According to a January story in Crain’s Chicago Business, the conservative Koch brothers gave millions to the center, but is no longer funding the group.
I looked through some of the recent stories on the network’s website. They seemed balanced to me. A story about abortion included both sides. Same with one about marijuana legalization.
At the same time, the network runs stories about subjects that might be particularly appealing to conservatives. One such recent example is a story about work rules for food stamp recipients. That piece, though, included both sides of the debate.
In an email to me, Dan McCaleb, editor of the network, noted it is a 501c3 nonprofit and therefore, by definition, cannot be political or partisan.
“INN distinguishes itself by focusing on state issues that are most relevant to taxpayers, and making sure the taxpayers’ side of the story is represented, as well as government’s,” said McCaleb, a former editor for suburban McHenry County’s Northwest Herald. “INN strives to fill a gap in statehouse coverage because many media companies do not have the resources to cover the capitol, and those that do often do not include the taxpayers’ perspective in their reporting.”
Last week, a mayoral candidate in Chicago suggested the Dan Ryan Expressway be renamed after former President Barack Obama.
We posted a story about this issue on our Facebook page, which generated more than 100 comments.
The proposed name change seems reasonable because Chicago is Obama’s hometown.
And just who is Dan Ryan anyway? I wasn’t sure, so I checked. Ryan served as the Cook County Board president from 1954 until his death in 1961. He died during the peak of the nation’s freeway construction boom, which Ryan promoted.
After his death, officials reasoned it was appropriate to name Interstate 90-94 after him.
Long ago, Chicago expressways were named after presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy, who served when most interstate projects took place.
After the renaming proposal came to light this week, Ryan’s family protested.
“Our family has been honored by this for 50 years, and we’d like to keep it that way,” Ryan’s grandson, Daniel B. Ryan III, told The Associated Press.
Like it or not, Obama is far more consequential than Dan Ryan. He cleared extraordinary hurdles to become the first black president, something many thought they would never see.
I think such an achievement is worthy of commuters regularly hearing Obama’s name associated with traffic tie-ups.
YOU DO HAVE POWER
After President Donald Trump announced he would pull U.S. troops from Syria, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, took to the national airwaves to criticize the move.
Kinzinger, whose district includes Iroquois County, vowed he would speak out against Trump’s action, but insisted Congress could not stop it.
Actually, there might be a way. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. If Kinzinger really wanted the United States to go to war against the Islamic State group in Syria, he should introduce a war declaration.
Unfortunately, Congress has not used this constitutional power since December 1941, when it declared war against Japan and Germany in World War II. Since then, our country has entered plenty of wars, with occasional congressional authorizations but no formal declarations.
I feel like an eccentric discussing this congressional power. It seems as if no one brings it up any more in polite society. Yet, the provision still remains in the Constitution. That’s good enough for me.