Hidden Agendas: How Journalists Influence the News


212 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-1020-3
DDC 071'.1





Reviewed by Jay Newman

Jay Newman is a professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph. His
most recently published work is Biblical Religion and Family Values: A
Problem in the Philosophy of Culture (2001).


This disappointing work unsuccessfully attempts to combine two quite
different projects. On one hand, it seems to have been intended mainly
as a serious social scientific contribution to the extensive scholarly
literature on such subjects as journalistic objectivity and bias and the
problem of news distortion. On the other hand, as we are informed by a
blurb on the back cover, it is a “no-holds-barred exposé of how
reporters’ opinions shape the information that we consider news.”
The scholarly part of the work seems to be based mainly on warmed-over
material from Lydia Miljan’s doctoral dissertation, while the
polemical forays likely reflect more the influence of Barry Cooper, who
has achieved some prominence in the media partly by insisting that
people with views like his receive insufficient attention in the media.
Sometimes the book seems to be addressing general issues about the
nature and potential cultural value of journalism and news, while at
other times it seems to be mainly concerned with expressing resentment
against the liberal/left types that it sees as controlling Canadian
media culture.

The social scientific methodology employed in the study may not have
been designed to yield the conclusions that the research’s patrons had
hoped it would, but the first of this book’s three parts, the part
devoted to “context,” is superficial in its treatment of basic
conceptual, cultural, and ethical issues concerning the journalistic and
news enterprises. One may well suspect that these political scientists
turned political controversialists have not spent enough time reading
their Lippmann, Schramm, and John Calhoun Merrill or indeed their Innis,
McLuhan, and Fulford. Their examples of liberal/left bias in the
Canadian media are usually effective—though I suspect that I could
easily come up with more instructive instances—but these professional
academic scholars probably realize that most university-educated readers
could readily expose examples of half a dozen different journalistic
biases, including those displayed by the authors themselves. In any
event, it can be very discouraging to find professional academic
scholars writing too much in the manner of journalists, particularly
when they are engaged in disparaging journalists.


Miljan, Lydia, and Barry Cooper., “Hidden Agendas: How Journalists Influence the News,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/29429.