Notes from the Bibliosphere: Bias

Notes from the Bibliosphere: Bias

October 2, 2011


Notes from the Bibliosphere is a semi regular feature I do here on Bibliogrrrl. It’s usually posted on Sunday and is where I reflect on bookblogging and/or share things I’m interested in from the bibliosphere.

I’ve had an interesting week on the blog front. It was my first Banned Books Week as a book blogger. While I didn’t do as much as I originally hoped to, I did write a fairly lengthy post about Twilight. Who am I kidding? It’s a monster of a post: it clocks in a close to 1200 words and is my longest blog post to date. And I don’t think you’ve seen the end of the long posts here. I’m currently working on a post about how people decide what to let their kids read, which I hope to publish either Tuesday or Thursday. While I don’t have a final word count on it yet, it’s shaping up to be pretty lengthy. I know not everyone likes long blog posts, but I have my reasons for posting them. I’ve seen people write really long blog posts that I’ve found both interesting and well written. I’m not saying my posts necessarily fall into that category, but I’m working on that. There are areas of my life where I go to write something and don’t end up writing as much as I need to. So I’ve been using my blogs as a way of working on that, playing around with stuff, etc. If that’s going to be a problem for you, this probably isn’t the blog you want to be reading.

What I really want to write about is bias and how that bias colors this blog. Bias is a word that gets thrown around a lot and generally has negative connotations. News outlets are supposed to remain unbiased; those that are blatantly biased, e.g. Fox News and MSNBC, are criticized. Really, though, all news organizations I’ve observed have at least some bias, though some are more overt in their bias than others.

The bias as bad line of thinking has spilled over into other areas as well, such as book reviews. Book reviewers, regardless of whether they are writing for pay at a major publication or writing as a hobby on a blog, are often encouraged to remain unbiased in their writing. But is it really possible to remain completely unbiased? I’d argue no. If a newscaster has conservative political leanings, for example, that’s likely to present itself in how the individual talks about the news. They might give more time talking about conservative politicians, highlight conservative ideologies, or be quick to call out liberal politicians who make mistakes. And no, I don’t think this is limited to conservatives. People of all political strips can be – and are – guilty of the same sorts of things.

Similar things can be seen in book reviews. I have some fairly liberal leanings, for example, and that’s going to influence which books I choose to read and how I feel about what I read. Since I have a bias against someone like Sarah Palin, I’m going to be more critical of the things she says, does, and writes. Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s important to hear and consider different opinions. Sometimes my opinion of something radically changes because of a well-rounded argument for the other side. This is why it’s important to get your news from several different sources and to read several different book reviews. When you get your information from more than one source, you can make more informed decisions. I don’t advocate not considering different angles to an issue. At all.

The problem, I think, is when people pretend their biases don’t exist. “Our news is completely unbiased!” they exclaim. Anyone who would say such a thing is lying to you. To the book bloggers out there, I encourage you to look at yourself and be honest about the bias you have. I may not be an expert on blogging (far from it!) but I think your readers will appreciate you being honest with them as well. Having a degree of bias doesn’t make you a bad person, as long as you’re willing to also consider other opinions.

And in case you were wondering and this hasn’t already become blatantly obvious, here are a few things about me that are likely to color the types of books I read and what I think of them:

  • I’m an adult who is not a parent. Yet, I still enjoy reading young adult fiction.
  • I’m a feminist and have fairly liberal views. I’m pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights, and I’m interested in how feminism intersects with things like pop culture, weight, and disability.
  • I occasionally read books I don’t think I’ll like just to get a different perspective on an issue. Sometimes this has changed how I look at a subject, other times it helps me better understand the position I already had.

If you think that these facts make it impossible for me to write a review you can trust, this probably isn’t the blog for you. Just know that I always provide my honest opinion about everything.

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