I began thinking about this topic when MG Siegler wrote a review of the Galaxy Nexus from the perspective of an iPhone lover, and Josh Topolsky took issue with it, as well as John Gruber’s response. This was right on the heels of a similar discussion on an episode of On the Verge, which was later discussed on The Talk Show, along with commentary from the Macalope.

Without getting into all the details (that’s what all the links are for), the argument can essentially be broken down to “is bias okay in journalism?” The answer is yes, but only when it’s clear that what the author is discussing is opinion and not fact.

The problem is that many journalists, especially in cable news from what I’ve seen, feel that objectivity means presenting both sides of the story, even if facts do not support one side. Those journalists are partially right. They should present both sides, but they should not give the same weight to each side.

The fact of the matter is that facts are facts. They do not change. Ever. However, the interpretation of the facts does change. A vast majority of journalists today (at least that I read and watch) have a problem telling the difference between facts and theimplications of those facts.

For example, one could state that climate scientists agree that the earth’s climate is changing. This is a fact. You could then state that some people believe this is caused by humans, and some people believe it is not caused by humans. You have reported two implications of the root fact. That is fair and unbiased reporting.

If you reported that some people believe that climate scientists agree and that some people believe they don’t agree, then you have indeed reported two facts. However, the receiving audience will take both viewpoints as equal and valid, because you haven’t provided the root, solid facts. You have given equal weight to both sides. What’s worse, you have implied that a fact is being debating, which means it is not a fact. If you believe that this is unbiased reporting, then you have a loose grasp of reality bordering on psychosis.

The problem is that journalists no longer cater to the truth, they cater to their audience, who may go elsewhere for their news if the truth doesn’t match their preconceived notions.

In addition to media bias, the original issue eventually came to revolve around the concept of the “fanboy”. The word is used when one believes that another person’s opinions are based solely on a prejudice, and not on actual facts. For example, someone who purchases Apple products without knowing anything about them would be labeled an Apple fanboy (or sometimes “iFanboy”). Similarly, someone who buys Android devices simply because they cannot stand Apple as a company could be considered an Android fanboy. Plenty of scenarios to choose from.

The word is often used as a lazy excuse to ignore someone. I love Apple products. I think they are made very well. I don’t see any problem with expressing why I prefer their products. I also don’t see any problem with someone expressing why they prefer Android phones, or Windows computers. As long as you explain why you prefer what you prefer, your reader is free to disagree or agree with you. In many scenarios, we would be labeled as fanboys.

Readers should take note as well. Just because an author has an opinion does mean that your opinion is invalid, or that the author is implying that your opinion is invalid. No need to get all butthurt about it.

This is why the word “fanboy” is destructive to any discussion, especially because the target is usually not an actually fanboy by definition. Its usage means that a portion of the people participating in a discussion have stopped listening to another portion because of their own preconceived notions, and not because of facts. While accusing a person of being an fanboy, they have themselves because an anti-fanboy.

And it’s easy to pick out a fanboy. They have many facts, actual facts, that support their point of view. But they will outrightly deny any facts that do not support their opinion. Someone who has considered all the facts both for and against their position and have formed an opinion is not a fanboy.

Also, it’s a little sexist, isn’t it?

Bias is fine, and is in fact encouraged, when your audience expects opinion. Opinions should be clearly labeled when your audience is expecting facts.

Also, anyone who uses the word “fanboi” should immediately lose whatever argument he or she is currently involved in. That’s a fact.