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Do you Know how to Detect Media Bias in a Story???

Posted by on Aug. 25, 2012 at 3:26 AM
  • 41 Replies
1 mom liked this

What do you think?

When I come on Cafemom, I often find myself contemplating points previous American history, philosophy and psychology professors brought up in classes I attended. What I end up feeling is an unsettling reality, that exhibits itself in some of the responses seen from others. 

It is disconcerting to feel many people gloss over stories, without fact-checking, researching and paying attention to details of stories that play such an important role in politics, life and freedom in this country. 

It is important to not only learn, but to be equally aware of how to separate fact from opinion and fact from fiction when it comes to media reporting.

There is no such thing as 'unbiased' reporting and even the most moderate article can show an author's agenda, but do we ever question it? Many times statements are cut-out, intellectually dishonest, opinionated and biased. Do people pay as much attention as they say they do? With our busy lives and constant distractions, I would think not.

Analyzing Journalism

Research the source

Some papers have a reputation for giving a particular slant, in addition to the news.
Reputable papers separate the news and editorial staffs.
Take note of how many ads a paper runs
(A large number may indicate a paper has entities like special interest groups, corporations, etc. for funding).

Take notes as you read 
Identify the "who, what, when, where, why and how"
Make a note of any missing information or extra analysis.

Look at how the writer treats the people he is writing about

Do some sources or witnesses "claim" their stories while others "explain" them?

Make note of language that gives a positive or negative feeling about a piece of information, but which represents the writer's opinion and not a verifiable truth.

Pay attention to the overall tone of the article

Does the feeling it gives you relate to the information or to the writer's opinion?

What's missing from the article?
Is there a source, witness or explanation that has obviously been ignored?
Is the why unclear?
Does the article fail to present the position of one or more parties involved in the story?

Watch for buzzwods

Vaguely-defined terms ("homosexual agenda" or "Christian agenda") are designed to evoke an emotional reaction without giving you any real information.

Investigate the article for undefined terms, especially when you come across a word that gives you a very strong feeling.

Does the writer try to identify with you or label you (or others)
Be wary if you find yourself being pulled into a particular group as you read the article.

By asking you to identify with a group mentality (regular guys, working class, concerned citizens, mothers, Christians, teens, intelligent people) the writer may be expecting you to forget to think for yourself.

This can be turned around to demonize a group. Something innocuous will have quotes around it so as to appear as something less than mainstream or even deviant. These type of quotes are called: "scare quotes"

Observe the placement of stories
The stories on the front page are considered to be more important than the stories in the back

Consider how people are portrayed through pictures

A photo can make someone look good, bad, noble, sleazy, etc.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What impression does this photo imply about this person?
Could a more objective photo have been used?

Look for at least two sides to every story

A good reporter will allocate adequate space in the story to present facts and figures supporting all sides of an issue.

Ask yourself if all sides of this argument or dispute would agree that their views were represented fairly?
If not, the story may show bias.

If statistics are provided or studies are mentioned, dig deeper

Where did those statistics and studies come from?
Who collected or conducted them?
Who funded the research?

The best articles will reveal this information

If headlines/charts tout worst/best/highest/lowest in X years, do research

More data might show if you go back 2 or 3 times X years ago, things weren't so good/bad as the story would have you believe.

Learn to recognize press releases
Corporations and organizations regularly issue press releases to distribute their side of an issue or story to the media. Some media outlets reprint these releases as "news" without doing any investigative journalism.

Press releases follow a predictable formula:
. Introductory paragraph
2. A single quote from a company executive or spokesperson

3. A summary paragraph or "for more information" reference/link.

The lady.pirate moo

"The right to be heard does not include the right to be taken seriously."

by on Aug. 25, 2012 at 3:26 AM
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Replies (1-10):
by Gold Member on Aug. 25, 2012 at 3:28 AM
1 mom liked this
Thanks for posting...this is a nice PSA :)
Posted on CafeMom Mobile
by Esther on Aug. 25, 2012 at 3:30 AM

No problem. ;D

Quoting LucyMom08:

Thanks for posting...this is a nice PSA :)

by Gold Member on Aug. 25, 2012 at 3:48 AM
4 moms liked this

I am a news producer, and you've hit all the correct points for analyzing print and web stories. 

Of course, an old saw in my business is that if you've pissed off both sides, you've done your job!

by Gold Member on Aug. 25, 2012 at 3:50 AM
1 mom liked this

I was going to say that if it is in print, on the internet, on the T.V., or otherwise written by a human, then it is biased.

by Gold Member on Aug. 25, 2012 at 3:57 AM

Also true. THere is NO avoiding bias. 

Although most folks I know bend backwards in the opposite direction of their personal tendencies to avoid bias. A lot of people who've worked with me over the years thought (and still think) I'm a conservative.

I'm not.

Quoting motherslove82:

I was going to say that if it is in print, on the internet, on the T.V., or otherwise written by a human, then it is biased.

by Ruby Member on Aug. 25, 2012 at 4:02 AM
1 mom liked this

 When Chris Mathews sits behind his desk on television telling the world how he gets a little tingle running down his leg when he thinks of Obama....I'd say there was bias in the media.

Chris Matthews: "I Felt This Thrill Going Up My Leg" As Obama Spoke

Last night during MSNBC's Potomac Primary coverage, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann were discussing Barack Obama's speech. Matthews — who, in the past, has both cried over an Obama speech and compared him to Jesus — described exactly what happens to him when Obama speaks:

I have to tell you, you know, it's part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often.
by Gold Member on Aug. 25, 2012 at 4:20 AM
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I don't consider Chris Mathews to be a news person. He's an opinion person. So's Bill O'Reilly. 

by Platinum Member on Aug. 25, 2012 at 6:16 AM

Thank you, collective. I will use this info in my reading from now on. Great post!you rock

by Ruby Member on Aug. 25, 2012 at 9:25 AM
1 mom liked this

 bowing down  THANK you!  I don't know why someone hasn't posted this a lot sooner!  It ought to be pinned in every group on CM that calls itself a discussion or debate group and we all should post it to all our "current event-type" groups.

by Ruby Member on Aug. 25, 2012 at 9:28 AM

Very nice!  Thanks for the post!

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