Some bias is unavoidable simply because we are all different in various ways and have different experiences. Nevertheless, by sticking to the observable facts, we can reduce bias to a minimum.
Problems can still arise from interpretation, even when the data is a series of numbers. Until the true cause and effect is identified and confirmed by independent reporters, we cannot claim to have avoided all bias. Most scientists and mathematicians have specialized training to deal with interpretations that rely on data produced experimentally under strictly controlled conditions. The crucible of history is another matter altogether and rarely subject to experimental test. Natural history, though it does not have written records, is much more precise and reproducible than its human counterpart.
To the extent possible we will apply scientific methods when assessing the truth of an assertion. Most situations lie in areas where only their reasonableness can be used to test veracity. This technique usually requires both sides of the story and even then one is often left to wonder what really happened. For this very reason we link to news organs in other parts of the world.
Another technique is to rely on reporters who have managed to maintain their integrity in reporting after long years in the business of reporting; one can usually trust what they write. This is perhaps the best technique and we use it extensively. Even so, pass-through reporting can be no better than the biases of our sources.
Yet another method is to analyze actions of an individual in psychological terms, tempered by what we can know of their character, temperament and skill. When s/he behaves consistently and according to his/her personal profile, we know a little bit about that person's dependability as a reporter, a leader, or whatever. For example, if a leader consistently describes what needs to be done without explaining his/her evidence, or thought processes, in arriving at a course action, we are on guard. If this behavior seems habitual, this person loses serious credibility with us. If you do what you promise and promise what you do, then you are believed--and forgiven for errors for life is not infallible.
What we promise is to report and interpret as accurately as we can.
Posted by RoadToPeace on Wednesday, November 23, 2005.