Journalism professor's book examines reporter bias

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Photo of Dr. Sue Ellen .

Christian

KALAMAZOO--Promoting fair, ethical and inclusive coverage in the news media is the aim of a new book written by a Western Michigan University faculty member.

Dr. Sue Ellen Christian, WMU associate professor of communication, offers a fresh take on unbiased reporting in her book "Overcoming Bias: A Journalist's Guide to Culture and Context," published in January by Holcomb Hathaway Publishers.

Christian contends that although journalists go out of their way to avoid purposeful bias in the news, a more pervasive set of internal biases and flaws in thinking can lead to unintentional inaccuracies and distortions in news coverage. Consequently, her text examines the way humans categorize people, filter information and default to rehearsed ways of thinking.

The book teaches readers to edit their thinking for habitual errors, making them more perceptive journalists, and provides a career-long foundation for challenging bias. Stories and on-target advice from reporters and editors provide real-world voices and experiences throughout the book. This advice and guidance is coupled with practical exercises that give readers the chance to apply what they learn.

Sue Ellen Christian

Christian joined WMU's faculty in 2001 after 10 years as a staff reporter at the Chicago Tribune, where she covered public health, politics, and state and local government. She has also worked on the staffs of the Los Angeles Times' Washington, D.C., bureau and the Detroit News.

Her research and creative activity focuses on journalism pedagogy, diversity reporting, community writing projects and using journalism as a way to promote civic engagement. Her work has appeared in publications such as Quill, the Journal of Intercultural Communication Research and the Journal of Intergroup Relations.

Christian produced "The Story Behind the Story," a video and CD-ROM emphasizing diversity and ethics featuring working journalists, in particular women and people of color, discussing their craft. Additionally, she created the Student Newspaper Diversity Project to publish and disseminate student work on diversity issues in the local community and teamed up with a community partner in 2010 on a race and ethnicity reporting project that produced a booklet, online site and videos featuring local citizens.