News Media Bias

 

   Sooo...maybe you've noticed.  More and more

   folks these days want us to see that news media,

   especially so-called "mainstream" news, is biased.

 

 

Frankly, we wonder why they are bringing up something that has been known FOR A LONG TIME!  Besides, as we point out elsewhere, some measure of bias is inevitable everywhere, including this website.

 

So we started looking into it further, and we found a few things:

 

1. While folks correctly see there is bias in news media, they often don't know the main reason it,

 

2. They don't fully know the nature of news media, media bias, and

 

3. They appear not  to know that bias is inevitable (as we've discussed elsewhere), so our task is to recognize, not 

    decry it, and then analyze it via critical thinking and from there compensate for it.

 

4. And most important of all, many use this media bias notion as a way to

    delegitimize and disregard factual information that they don't like that has been

    provided by mainstream news media.  In other words, they "Throw out the baby

    with the bath water."  They may correctly identify a bias (e.g., this news media

    mostly publishes stories about conservative concerns), and then throw out the

    factual information correctly contained in the news article.

 

 

 

Time for a little analysis.  Let's start with this...

 

The media earn money via advertising.

 

The amount the media can charge and the amount of advertising the media can attract is based on how many people will see the advertising.

 

That's the primary media bias: Providing things people want to see and/or read.

 

Do you remember the old adage: If it bleeds, it leads?  Whether this was ever actually true, or not, it points out the notion that folks would be more attracted to that sort of story.  Yes, they reported on more than that, but more often they did what would get viewers and/or readers.  In 1986 a book by that title written by Laura Di Battists came out.

 

To sum up: The media is biased toward providing that which will increase viewers and readers and thereby increase advertising revenue.  That is the primary bias.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

 

What this means is that the specific media presented (the stories they choose to present and how they are presented) is targeted toward those who want to read and/or see it.

 

This is where to start when looking at news media bias.

Fox News is seen as a conservative news source, choosing to broadcast news stories that conservative viewers are more interested in seeing. 

MSNBC is a liberal news source, one that chooses to broadcast news stories liberals are interested in seeing.

Both of these provide factual news that is biased toward target viewers.  Both can and often do includes analyses and opinions regarding the factual news presented.  As viewers, we are free to filter out and/or disagree with any analyses, or opinions, but we best not also discard that valid facts that may be reported.  Of course, we are free to do follow-up to check the source of the facts.

Are there additional biases???

 

Yes, there are, and an online search will reveal many of them.   Here is a list of a few:

Coverage bias (also known as visibility bias), deciding which individuals, events, or issue will be more, or less presented in the news.

Gatekeeping bias (also known as selectivity or selection bias), similar to coverage bias, done on ideological grounds to fit some agenda.

Statement bias (also known as tonality bias or presentation bias), when media coverage is slanted towards or against the statements made by particular individuals or in relation to particular issues, often ignoring whether the statements are valid, or not.  This also includes the tone used, often expressed in adjective (e.g., "Fred confessed that..." vs. "Fred said that...")

Advertising bias, when stories are selected or slanted to please advertisers.

Concision bias, a tendency to report views that can be summarized briefly and succinctly, crowding out more complicated and sometimes unconventional views that take time or space to explain.

Corporate bias, when stories are selected or slanted to please corporate owners of media.

Repetition  bias, a tendency to report what everyone else is reporting, while avoiding stories that might offend anyone.

Sensationalism, like the "if it bleeds it leads" bias, this bias is often in favor of the exceptional over the ordinary (e.g. reporting airplane crashing more often than automobile crashes).

Structural bias, when an individual, or an issue is given more or less favorable coverage as a result of status and newsworthiness, rather than any larger consideration (e.g., reporting the views and statements of an incumbent politician rather than those of anyone outside the current political structure).  

False balance, when an issue is presented as even sided, despite evidence that it is not (e.g., reporting false statements that oppose true statements as if both were true).

Factual News vs. Opinion Pieces

This is a very important distinction to keep in mind.  Opinion pieces may be based upon facts revealed in the news, but they are just opinions and as such they are biased by the intent of the writers.  Factual news stories may have one, or more of the biases mentioned above, but op-ed pieces are biased in terms of the point the writer is trying to make.  When assessing the bias of a news media outlet, it is important to separate the opinion pieces from the factual news pieces.  At the same time, it is important to note the extent to which an opinion pieces might masquerade as fact (thereby bordering on fake news).

 

This brings us to this hot topic: FAKE NEWS

 

It goes without saying that fake news is always biased.  It is always presented to present some sort of false information for some sort of gain, or benefit.

 

                   Recent geological studies now prove the earth is flat!

 

                             Mathameticians now know that 2 + 2 = 5

 

There, that's some fake news for you...

 

 

Fake news vs. biased news:

 

First, in our experience, fake news is most often found online, often from fake news web sites.

 

Second, it is very important to understand that not all biased news is fake news, but all fake news is biased.

 

How to tell them apart?  Well, for one thing, while both can contain false, or erroneous facts, or information that is biased, news that is ONLY biased can and will be corrected when it is  found to be wrong.  Fake news is NEVER corrected.  Why?  Because those who provide fake news will NEVER acknowledge that it is fake.  So if it is not fake, it must be true, and it never needs to be corrected, or modified.

 

Ways to identify online fake news:

 

Here are some ways to find out whether or not an online news item is fake.

 

1. Check the URL of the story to see if it comes from a legitimate news source. For example, abcnews.com.co is NOT a legitimate site for ABC news (abcnews.com is the legitimate site). Also, check to see if the URl actually leads to anything resembling a valid source of news, not simply opinion.

 

2. If someone deemed important (e.g., George Washington) is quoted, do a search for the quote using a search site (e.g., Google). It is important to distinguish between that which is posted (it might be something of value, or it might be something that smears of demeans) and the purported source (often such sources are offered to make the quote seem more valid and/or important).

 

3. Reverse search questionable image. Right click on the image, copy the URL of the image source, then go to images.google.com, paste the image to see where it came from. If it is a doctored image, you can often find the original image.

 

4. Use websites that can check facts (e.g., politifact.com and factcheck.org) and check for scams (e.g. snopes.com). Finally, to check for email and FB hoaxes (e.g. at truthorfiction.com and Hoaxslayer.com). Note that some have claimed these sites are biased, and while the various biases listed above may apply, they don't just check the facts but they also site sources.  So if and when you use them, you can filter out the biases and verify on your own using the sources sited.
 

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