BySean McElwee – What If We Reported On Poverty The Way We Report On The Stock Market?

“The media is biased,” is a complaint that media organizations receive a lot, so they tend to be fairly wary of overtly partisan reporting. However, while media organizations are loath to seem partisan, they are often deeply unaware of other deep biases they hold.

One psychological bias humans suffer from is the “availability heuristic”—a tendency to generalize based on our immediate surroundings. It crops up in numerous ways: If you live in New York City, you might overestimate how many people commute by public transportation, since 40 percent of public transportation commuters in the whole country live in NYC. These biases certainly afflict newsrooms, which are whiter and more male than the general population and come from wealthier backgrounds. Most live in cities and live flight- and Uber-filled lives that simply don’t comport with the lives of average Americans. In other words, the media coverage has a distinctly upper-class bias. Case in point: the financial news of the last couple of days. Yesterday, when the Dow Jones dropped dramatically, news organizations were quick to report on the development. Twitter was ablaze with analysis and a new hashtag “Black Monday” was born (earning over 100,000 tweets when this article was written).

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