An Ethical Dilemma: The Battle Against Bias

15 Apr

“We are human beings; we are a product of how we were raised and what we have learned.” Hoppy Kercheval said. “It’s a constant struggle to minimize bias.”

As a forty-year veteran in the journalism industry, Kercheval is no stranger to the difficulty of remaining unbiased in reporting. The biggest ethical dilemma he has faced during his career came while covering the 2010 Senate race between John Raese and Joe Manchin on his radio show, Talkline, for MetroNews.

John Raese is not only the owner of MetroNews, but he has been a close friend to Kercheval for decades. While this had already put him in a difficult situation, Kercheval complicated matters by contributing to Raese’s campaign.

As a result, he faced criticism from listeners and made covering the election a hard task.

“It meant that I didn’t have a lot of credibility when covering that race,” Kercheval said. “It’s a price I paid for making that contribution.”

The Talkline anchor announced on air that he made a contribution and promised to do his best to cover the race fairly and treat both candidates fairly.

Manchin and Raese were both interviewed on the show and Kercheval admits he was probably even tougher on Raese. However, upset listeners still voiced their disapproval.

Kercheval responded by urging them to listen carefully to the interviews before accusing him of being biased. If, after that, they still were displeased, he accepted that he couldn’t convince everyone and focused on what he could control.

Manchin, who went on to win the election, was cautious and skeptical, according to Kercheval. Although, he was willing to come on Talkline and do interviews throughout his campaign.

Eight years later, the long-serving journalist says he may have done things differently, if given the opportunity.

“It’s certainly questionable whether I should’ve contributed to the campaign,” he said. “In hindsight, that probably crossed an ethical line. I might think twice about doing that again.”

As journalists, we are committed to remaining fair and allowing our audience to make their own decisions. While I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I disagree with making a public contribution to a political campaign as a journalist.

As Kercheval said, each person has their own biases and beliefs. But the best way to act on them is by voting and keeping this vote private. Not only could Kercheval’s contribution upset Manchin’s supporters, but it could influence undecided voters who respect Kercheval. If someone was unsure of who to vote for, but thought highly of Kercheval, they may have voted for Raese simply because they know he did.

Even though I disagree with the contribution to Raese’s campaign, Kercheval handled his decision well and responded appropriately to listeners. Instead of ignoring his decision, he was upfront and honest with his audience. Furthermore, he was aware of his own biases and tried his best to keep them at bay during his coverage of the election.

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