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 Posted: Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 01:44 pm
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PvtClewell
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Journalists write the first draft of history (thus, making them historians?)

I would argue that the historians who follow distill the facts and offer interpretations (as opposed to lessons). Some interpretations are more valid than others and this is where bias comes in.

Bias is everywhere. Journalists are supposed to be objective, but pure objectivity is impossible. As a journalist, I might cover a basketball game saying the Blue team's defense stopped the Red team's offense (because that's how I saw it), and then the next day get an angry letter from a fan saying, 'What, are you crazy? The Red team lost because it's offense was pathetic and the Blue team had nothing to do with it.' It all comes down to point of view (which might be a better term than 'bias' in this discussion). Who's right, me or the fan?

Ten years later, a historian might review the game (perhaps using the story I wrote as a primary source) and interpret the Red team's loss because of faulty strategy or a key injury, or the Blue team won because of superior coaching. Is the historian biased?

This is an interesting thread, but given that we all come with bias or points of view, to what purpose?



 Posted: Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 09:42 pm
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JoanieReb
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This is an interesting thread, but given that we all come with bias or points of view, to what purpose?

Geez, Pvt. Clewell, if your'e gonna ask that question about this thread, you have to ask it about every thread, and indeed, the whole board....we might just as well state, hello, my name is ----- and my bias is -----.   And make that the whole board!

How about learning thru trading perspectives?  Just like on every other thread.

Interestingly, I didn't know that McPherson had been publically cited as having a notable bias when I started this thread; I only know that after reading three and 1/2 of his books, I thru the fourth down in weariness, thinking, "OK stop banging the drum and tell the story, already!"

(Young Miss and I are both very ill with the flu, I may be scarce for a few days....)

Last edited on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 09:56 pm by JoanieReb



 Posted: Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 10:07 pm
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BigPowell
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“Historians are not journalists; their job is to distill facts and actions into lessons.”

 - HankC

“Journalists write the first draft of history (thus, making them historians?)”

- PvtClewell

 
Journalists and historians have a very similar charge and duty. They must document the who, what, where, when, why, and how of an event – the journalist is charged with documenting current events, which makes them an important primary reference for future historians. A good journalist will also have a keen sense of history that will give context and perspective to current events, as the average adult has the attention span and memory of a 3 month old Jack Russell terrier. It also doesn’t hurt to constantly remind us of the two clichés – “there is nothing new under the sun,” and “those that don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Historians are charged with the who, what, etc. of past events. They should also work other similar past events into their writing for the above stated reasons.

Neither the journalist nor the historian should distill facts and actions into lessons. That should be the job of the individual reading them. If the individual is unable to utilize the material, he can always turn to a variety of resources to help him, i.e.: trusted colleagues, academics, commentators and pundits, clergy, etc. This will of course distill and distort the original information.

“This is an interesting thread, but given that we all come with bias or points of view, to what purpose?”

- PvtClewell

 
We chat like this to distract ourselves from the fact that
Rome
the USA is burning, as our Republic’s leadership (both Dem and Rep) are a bunch of self-serving whores and morons who are incapable of learning from history, or science, or even the application of common sense. But that’s another thread….

 

And I hope JoanieReb and her youngster recover soon. These wintertime plagues take all the fun out of life!

Last edited on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 10:14 pm by BigPowell



 Posted: Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 11:20 pm
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ole
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We chat like this to distract ourselves from the fact that

Rome
the USA is burning, as our Republic’s leadership (both Dem and Rep) are a bunch of self-serving whores and morons who are incapable of learning from history, or science, or even the application of common sense. But that’s another thread….

Geez, Big Powell. Let it all hang out! Tell us what you really think!

Unfortunately, I agree.

ole



 Posted: Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 11:24 pm
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ole
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Whatever the underliying responsibilities of Journalists and Historians, the primary rule is to not knowingly lie. Isn't it from them that we get our facts? If we can't depend on them to do at least that, what's the point of reading their work?

ole



 Posted: Tue Dec 4th, 2007 12:00 am
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PvtClewell
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Big Powell (I want to call you Boog Powell — any relation?)

Back in the day before newspapers went online and you could actually hold the newsprint in your hands, we wrote our copy with the understanding that the average reader spent a total of eight minutes per day with the product (and I suspect most of that was with the comics and obits). The average newspaper subscriber also reads at the level of an eighth grader, according to industry surveys —so take that, New York Times.

Joanie,

I wasn't being critical of the thread or discussion boards. Of course I enjoy the different perspectives offered here, otherwise I'd be making better use of my time like addressing Christmas cards or watching football games. But my focus was a little more centered. Your original premise about author bias, and specifically McPherson's perceived bias, seemed like a complaint to me. That's why I questioned the purpose. If you find McPherson wearisome, who do you prefer? If McPherson is iconic, as you say, then it must be for a reason.

I personally find McPherson insightful, well-read, and well-versed.

Anyway, what, you didn't get a flu shot? Sigh. Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat chicken soup and don't call me in the morning.

Ole,

Hear!, Hear!



 Posted: Tue Dec 4th, 2007 12:09 am
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JoanieReb
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"Your original premise about author bias, and specifically McPherson's perceived bias, seemed like a complaint to me. That's why I questioned the purpose. If you find McPherson wearisome, who do you prefer? If McPherson is iconic, as you say, then it must be for a reason."

Thank God!!!!!, Pvt. Clewell, you're back!  Where HAVE you been?

Let me down some chicken soup.  If it takes hold, I shall take you on.

Just remember, OJ Simpson is/was? an icon, too.....and yes, there was a reason....

(Is it time for Cleburne Fan to put her popcorn in the microwave?)

JoanieReb



 Posted: Tue Dec 4th, 2007 02:37 pm
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HankC
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There's apparent confusion over the roles of journalists and historians (and apparently librarians and archivists). Is there overlap in these professions? Sure there is, but that does not diminish each's basic tasks.

Journalists record information (who, what and where) which is then preserved by the archivists and librarians.

Eventually historians craft an explanation (lesson) about the events and people of the past and present.

Often 'bias' is inevitable. Primary Union sources for the Civil War far outweigh Confederate - sometimes the only sources for an event are Northern. The converse is seldom true.


HankC
http://civilwarmissouri.blogspot.com/



 Posted: Wed Dec 5th, 2007 01:01 am
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JoanieReb
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OK, this is a bit more palatable, still have some (smaller) reservations, but am still a mite too ill to put it all together tonight.

I wonder if historians can agree on what their role is?  It would be interesting to canvass some of the profs at the local U, see what they think....

Catch ya later too, Pvt. Clewell...gotta go find the nearest pillow and rest my aching head.

 



 Posted: Wed Dec 5th, 2007 02:20 pm
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ArtorBart
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Hello, All...

Quite the forensic debate topic here! Excellent points all 'round.

Haven't seen Bruce Catton or Shelby Foote mentioned yet. How 'bout those guys?

In my mind, bias might be interpreted as propaganda unless the author openly states his/her intentions, in a forward or preface. Kind of like the Declaration of Independence! Without alerting the reader as to his/her political/sociological leanings, the writing can almost become an insidious epistle, a vehicle of subterfuge, something misleading.

On the other hand, this "declaration of intent" could be construed as the imposition of of political correctness on authors so that some thin-skinned reader doesn't get  upset if the writer seems to support  readers "from the opposite camp's" beliefs.

It's up to us, the readers, to hear and understand, through discourse such as we're employing right here and now -- as Jefferson hoped -- as many viewpoints and interpretations as possible in order to come to the fullest understanding possible and make the best "democratic" decisions, or interpretations of facts, that we can.

 

ArtorBart



 Posted: Wed Dec 5th, 2007 03:34 pm
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HankC
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I wonder if we are mixing up 'bias' and 'point of view'.

Bias is a prejudice that colors and influences a point of view which is a perspective derived from nature and nurture.

Gaining fresh points of view can negate or eliminate biases. Of course, bias can also preclude gaining a fresh point of view ;)


HankC



 Posted: Wed Dec 5th, 2007 03:58 pm
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39th Miss. Walker
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We are all a product of our upbringing and lessons learned in life. We all experience different things at different times. So I can understand some bias in an author's work.

What I don't cotton to is when that author's bias is used to try and persuade the reader to his point of view, not by the neutral historical facts, but by the skewing of the historical record to support his bias.

The more widely published or popular the writer the greater the chance of fostering his point of view, his bias. The problem comes in where it is a deliberate attempt to sway the reader, instead of the historical record. Damn do I make sense?

For instance Shelby Foote said he was not a historian, just a story teller. But his telling of the story does make him a historian

A journalist to my mind uses the facts he is presented with at that time to write the narrative of the story. A historian at some time in the future uses the historical record to review and interpret the narrative. To give or provide the meaning of the historical record.

A historian in this case should be held to a higher scrutiny than the journalist.

Part of the problem we have in history is most of the works were not written by either objective journalists nor objective historians. Particularly on a subject of this where there is today still racial and regional bias in the telling of the narrative.

If one was to only be exposed to one source for the narrative then the chances are the interpretation, by the student, of the narrative would have a bias as well. That is why it is so important to seek your information from any number of sources.



 Posted: Sun Dec 16th, 2007 10:01 pm
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JoanieReb
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Ah-hah!  The above post confirms a theory that I have about this board:  If I just wait long enough to reply to something, someone will come along and say what I would try to say, and pro'bly say it more n' better.

Thank You,  Mr. 39th Miss. Walker.  I feel reconciled to this thread now.  Which means that not only do I agree with what you wrote, but I also learned something.  You took it further and better than I could, and I am persuaded.  I may raise my battle flag again here later, but for now I am comfortable in lowering it.

Joanie



 Posted: Tue Dec 18th, 2007 12:07 am
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PvtClewell
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I am moving the McPherson discussion back to this thread, where it belongs.

Keep in mind the pullquote I used from the N&S story came near the end of his essay and I took it out of context because of the ironically timely sentence 'The American Civil War would not have occurred without the existence of slavery,' which seemed to fit the slavery thread to a T.

While some things may be obvious to some people, a good writer can't take for granted that something will be obvious to all readers. You may not ever agree with McPherson, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to imply a prolific Pulitzer Prize winning professor emeritus of history from Princeton University is a dolt.

Catton was good in his day, but Civil War scholarship, like all history, moves on. Catton is dated, now by nearly 50 years. Not saying you still can't learn from him. Others now bear the mantle. To me, McPherson is one of them, still writing, still researching, still provocative.



 Posted: Tue Dec 18th, 2007 01:19 pm
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Johan Steele
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I've got to ask this... how can Wikpedia be thought of as a credible source?



 Posted: Tue Dec 18th, 2007 04:22 pm
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ole
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For an example of author bias, read anything on Lew Rockwell's site.

Naaaah, Wikipedia is not reliable and it implies that up front, but it is a good place to start.

ole



 Posted: Tue Dec 18th, 2007 04:53 pm
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Texas Defender
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Ole-

  Lets assume for the sake of this question that I have a website on the Internet, and that you consider me biased as a source of information. If I choose things written by others and put them on my website because I agree with them, does that automatically destroy the credibility of those other authors? (If yes, then I have the ability to damage other authors simply by putting their writings on my website.)



You have chosen to ignore Bama46. click Here to view this post


 Posted: Tue Dec 18th, 2007 05:39 pm
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ole
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TD:

I consider you a partisan, not biased according to HankC's definition which implies intent or deception. Rockwell's site is intentionally biased and it shows. I explore the site only when a link is posted; I have yet to read an unbiased essay thereon.

Bama:

It's not the readers who are loony, it's the site.

ole



 Posted: Tue Dec 18th, 2007 05:48 pm
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Ole-

  Okay- back to the dictionary.

partisan-   (n)- An adherent or supporter of a person, party, or cause, especially one who shows a biased, unthinking allegiance.

  Can I assume from what you said that you associate me with the first part of the definition, but not the second?    ;)



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