The press is often vilified as biased and unprofessional. A common accusation is that reporters selectively filter what to put into a story based on what supports their various political agendas, and that they skew facts to slant public opinion one way or the other.

You see it on Fox and MSNBC all the time. Fox is notoriously conservative, and MSNBC infamously left-leaning. But these institutions were created to pander to their audiences’ political views, and should not be taken seriously as real journalists.

They do not represent most members of the news media. It’s true that we filter what goes into our articles, but not because of any political bias or agenda. Any story has a matter of inches to fit full coverage in.

Larger organizations such as the Los Angeles Times publish longer articles, but the average at most publications is less than 500 words. Those 500 words need to convey what happened, when it happened, where it happened, how it happened, what it means and why it’s important, who was involved, all the sides of it and what’s next.

That’s why stories are filtered. Journalists strive to present objective, accurate reporting, and agonize over which facts readers need to know and which can be left out so the story can fit. Coverage of a government meeting, for example, would include arguments or decisions involving the budget, but leave out the debate on which brand of water tastes best.

Reporters take volumes of notes before submitting a story. They put those into a story based on what’s most important, and will thoroughly check for inaccuracies. Once an article is written, it goes through a stringent editing process, often being reviewed by multiple editors for content, objectivity, accuracy and grammar.

There will always be writers who abuse the position they’re in, but most regard themselves as gatekeepers for the flow of information and take that seriously. We are our own biggest critics, and abhor unfair, inaccurate reporting. Rely on Facebook and bloggers, who often have no code of ethics, and see how reliable the news becomes.

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