Often referred to the as the fourth branch of government, the media has come under intense scrutiny over the past decade or so for its inherent bias. Regardless of which side of the political fence where you sit, you might have concluded that some news outlets simply do not possess the credibility to present objective news stories. However, it can be difficult to determine whether a news media outlet devotes its mission to presenting unbiased news like what you read on a site such as Newtrals.
Let’s put our detective game faces on and learn how to spot media bias.
It Starts with Sources
If you have watched recent national news programs, you probably have seen the same cast of characters providing their insight on the same cable news channels. The Coronavirus and the outbreak of protests have spurred an industry called “Insider News.” However, the insight provided by the insiders is often one-sided, which is not a good thing when you want to hear all sides of an issue. If you watch a cable news show or read an online account of an event that refers to the same sources repeatedly, then you have detected the first signs of media bias.
According to Government Officials
When news outlets attempt to validate their information, they consistently implement a timeless tactic called “According to government officials.” This tactic is supposed to convince you the information presented is accurate, and just as important, confirmed by a government official or a group of government officials. Unless there is a name linked to the information, you should discount the information as biased news. In other words, make your news outlets communicate the names and positions of the people in government that they use for sources.
Diversity Prevents Biased News
Ask yourself one important question before you click on a nightly newscast or access your favorite online news source. Do the news outlets operate on the principle of diversity? If not, then the news you receive most likely tilts towards one side of the social, cultural, and political spectrums. In addition, diversity is much more than employing a wide variety of races and nationalities. It is also about presenting a wide range of stories from diverse points of view.
Double Standards Mean Double the News Bias
There is perhaps no other factor that generates more news bias than applying different standards to different groups of people. Take the recent protests to open up the country again and the protests decrying police brutality. News outlets such as CNN and MNSBC claimed the police protests should go on, while criticizing the protests conducted by small business owners that wanted their stores to reopen. On the other hand, FOX did the exact opposite thing by praising the small business owners and lamenting the protests held by police reformers. All three national news outlets presented slanted news stories to fit their ideological footprints.
Spinning is Bias
It is not just the national news outlets that have succumbed to bias fever. Local news channels have also gone down the wrong path of trying to manipulate audiences. For example, a local news channel in the Midwest recently ran a story describing the discovery of graffiti that read “Deport all illegals.” The reporter called the graffiti racist, which should be the job of the viewers watching the news story to determine. News reporters should “report” the news, not give their spin on what a news story means. If you read, watch, or listen to a news story that a reporter interjects his or her personal opinion, then you should run as far away from the source of the news as possible. You can also refer to news spinning as unchallenged and often incorrect assumptions.
Look for Loaded Language
We are not talking about a reporter that appears to have just come from a happy hour. No, we are talking about news stories that run thick with certain buzzwords. Take for instance the use of the term “racial preference” that many conservative news outlets used to describe affirmative action program. A Louis Harris poll conducted in 1992 discovered that more than 70 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the term “affirmative action,” while just 46 percent of Americans had a positive view of the term “racial preference.”
Avoid Click Bait
Journalists typically do not write their own headlines. That is done by a copy editor whose main job is to attract attention to the published piece. When we say click bait, the reference usually applies to online news stories. Click bait can also apply to radio and television news stories, except you do not click to read a story. Instead, you decide whether to continue listening or watching an upcoming news story. Like digital click bait news stories, print and electronic media headlines often distort the content of the news stories. This is a prime example of news bias.
Finally, we come to a timeless exercise of news bias called where do news outlets position news stories in the daily lineup of programming. Let’s say a news media outlet leans a bit toward the left. A jobs report comes out that exceeds the wildest expectations of conservative leaning economic experts. If the left leaning news station presents the story at all, it probably comes on toward the end of the show. Even then, the story might only get a brief mention.