Top Five Ways to Identify Bias News Coverage
These days everyone accuses the mainstream news outlets of bias. Fox News, as we know, is perceived to be the conservative news for conservative news broadcasting. On the other hand, MSNBC has evolved, particularly within the past few years, as the liberals’ direct response to Fox News. On the web, we find the Drudge Report on one side and the Huffington Post on the other. And, of course, we can not forget the real or perceived biases associated with the rest of the “liberal media”, such as the New York Times, CNN, and whoever else. Because of this, it is important for the those that follow the news to understand the subtle techniques by which media outlets attempt to bias their consumers. The following list identifies the most common techniques that attempt to bend the viewer and reader of news to a given point of view. They are as follows:
5) Perceived facts and actual facts
What are the facts of the story? The most non-biased stories only describe the facts, i.e., who, what, why, when, where, and how. To add to the story, a reporter may include eye witness account(s) or expert opinions. In many instances, however, news outlets will air a story based on a set of perceived facts. Remember, facts are concrete and do not change unless influenced by other facts. Commonly held opinions are most often confused with facts, such as “MSNBC and Fox News are extremely biased news organizations.”
4) Sources and “experts”
Who is quoted in the story? Eye witness sources are the most credible. In many instances, however, in the absence of eye witness sources, the news outlet will turn to experts to help elucidate the meaning of the facts within the story. How can one identify whether an expert is an expert? Or does the “expert” have an agenda? Perhaps the best examples of non-expert exerts are politicians. A story on climate change, for instance, may include “expert” testimony from a politician. If the politician did not come from a professional or academic background that studied climate science, however, chances are the news outlet is more interested in either supporting or discrediting given arguments within the broader debate over climate change.
3) Word choice
Word choice may be the most subtle and manipulative techniques to bias the viewer. The best reporters stick to simple and clear language to communicate the facts within a story. Because there are many linguistic tricks reporters employ to implicitly communicate bias, such tricks may be difficult to identify within a passive viewing environment, such as TV news. The best example is the commonly used implication that a vast majority within a given demographic share the same opinion, for instance: “the American people believe…” or “many people say…”
2) Omission of context
The most commonly cited defense for those chastised by the media is “I was taken out of context…” Indeed, given today’s reporting, they are probably right. Snippets from speeches or other sources are easily strung together in a series of quotes that can either indict or exonerate an individual or organization’s opinion.
1) Story selection
Watch the headlines, read the stories. There are plenty of news outlets that only air stories which cast doubt upon one political philosophy and/or prop up their own. It is fascinating to examine such sites and identify the techniques by which they choose to influence the reader and viewer. Are the headlines sensationalized? Do all them tend to point in one direction? Most importantly, are the stories even newsworthy or are they attempting to manufacture controversy?