The Honest Writer
How to write an unbiased piece of journalism
There are times when a biased spin is appropriate for a piece of writing, times when it is entirely intentional to make a point in favour of one side or another. Other times, a more balanced approach is preferred or necessary depending on the type of written work, the publication, or the intended audience.
When it comes to the way a person writes, there will, almost inevitably, be personal opinions. Regardless of the writing style or journalistic skill of the author, it is likely that these opinions, however hard a writer attempts to disguise them, will filter into her work.
It could be argued that the only way to be truly unbiased in writing would be for the writer to create a piece of work about a subject in which they genuinely have no opinion either way. This, in itself, is problematic for two major reasons:
1) A writer is rarely inclined or inspired to write on a subject about which they are indifferent.
2) A lack of passion for a subject can show through. If a writer has not engaged well with his work, his audience is probably not going to engage either.
How Can a Piece of Writing Be Both Engaging and Unbiased?
First of all, do not worry about choosing one side or another. The type of article and the type of publication for which it is intended will have a bearing on the amount of spin the writer gives either way. Sometimes the article will naturally steer itself in a particular direction. As long as the writer does her best to adhere to the topic and is able to notice and adapt should the article begin to veer off on a tangent, this natural progression is not usually a problem.
While there is always the possibility of a writer showing a preference for one side over another, there are three steps to gearing written work towards an unbiased middle ground. These steps give scope for an article to be both lack bias and be of interest.
1) Sources are important in any form of writing. When conducting investigations and research, it is essential to be open-minded and take information from a variety of places. Wherever possible, obtain opinions which differ from each other but also confirm facts with more than one trusted source, rather than relying on one or two just because they are the first to come up in a search or because they confirm the opinion of the writer.
2) Stick to the facts. It is perfectly acceptable to opine on the facts or the subject of the article. It is, nonetheless, paramount to keep in line with facts and not cite information which contradicts them.
3) Remember that there are always at least three sides to every story and a good writer a researcher will look for them. There is a quote which has been attributed to both writer J. Michael Straczynski and producer Robert Evans, which reads: "Understanding is a three-edged sword. Your side, my side, and the truth." This statement can be true in many a circumstance but means, more or less, to stay open-minded, pay attention to both sides while understanding that the interpretation of each side is not necessarily the full and accurate story.
It is the choice of the writer, of course, whether to lean towards one side or another or sit on the fence or offer an entirely different perspective altogether.
Even if a piece of writing requires bias, facts are still essential in journalistic writing. To give a truly unbiased representation means to produce logical arguments from different perspectives. To show a preference for one argument over another is not wrong, but it still should be backed up with facts and logical statements.