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July 12, 2020
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Source Bias Hopefully Not Sexism

Published Jan. 22, 2020 • Last Updated 10:55 a.m., Jan. 22, 2020

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The toxic environment of current era can be terrifying. Despite relative peace times, our we have become increasingly partisan and fearful of the other. We lack civility at the national level, but Madison has been able to shine where national leaders have chosen darkness.

In addition to suspicion of the other based on race, gender identify, nation of origin, or mother tongue, the very integrity of journalists and their reporting has been targeted as “other,” characterized as the “enemy of the state” by dangerous individuals with far too much access to critical government powers. I recently found myself defending journalism to friends from diverse political ideologies, highlighting journalism’s importance.

In this setting, I was deeply disappointed by The Source’s coverage of recent nominations by the Board of Selectmen [Jan. 9 “Republicans Accuse Lyons of Bias in EDC Appointments”]. The title of the article suggested validity in accusations made during a board meeting, despite the journalist’s story repudiating charges of unfair and biased membership selection for volunteers on our town committees. Couldn’t our local journalists use a more neutral title to cover this newsworthy topic? In the absence of careful title selection for the article, The Source magnifies the unfounded mudslinging tactics used by disgruntled opposition party members.

I sincerely hope this isn’t explained by a visceral repulsion of women in leadership, the enduring legacy of sexism and unconscious bias. I welcome debate on this matter. I maintain hope that civility and professionalism will prevail, and that our local journalists will continue to reflect on their own practices, holding themselves to higher standards in the interest of their calling. Lest we permit these types of reports to go unanswered, ultimately contributing to cynicism and abandon of our shared democratic ideals, even in our idyllic town of Madison.

Kathleen Akgün