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Journalism Resource Guide: Bias in Journalism

A definition, some examples, and how to spot it

Definition of Bias

What is Bias?

3 b: an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment: PREJUDICE
From Merriam-Webster Dictionary at http://www.merriam-webster.com

Remember that everyone has bias and that is neither good nor bad.  However, it's important to learn how to recognize it so it can be factored into your decision making.

Follow stories over a period of time to help gather relevant facts and avoid narrative bias.

What to Look for

Ask yourself these questions when reading news - either in print or on the internet

  • What's the purpose?  Is it fact or opinion?
  • Who is behind the report?  What is the authority of the source?
  • Are alternative points of view included and, if so, how?
  • Are sources verified?

Definition of Objectivity

a: expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices,of interpretations <objective art> <an objective history of the war> <an objective judgment>
From Merriam-Webster Dictionary at http://www.merriam-webster.com

Bias in Journalism

Types of Bias

  • Selection and Omission: What gets covered? Left out?
  • Word Choice and Tone
  • Placement of the Story ("above or below the fold")
  • Biases by images, captions, camera angles
  • Source control: Where does news come from?
  • Statistics/crowd counts

A Reading on Objectivity in Journalism

Background Reading on Bias in Journalism in a Media

Designed for university and advanced high school classes, this book helps students think critically and systematically about news and purportedly factual information in any medium from face-to-face to Facebook to Fox News Channel, from the Huffington Post to the Washington Post. ..., the book builds habits of mind to serve the student long after the class has ended. Detecting Bull explores the nature of truth and bias -- individual, corporate and audience. ....  As news moves from paper to pixels, the book explains the "language" of images and video. Four theories of news selection are examined to show why some events make headlines and others receive little or no coverage. The book exposes many of the tricks of the misinformation trade and ends with a full chapter on using the full power of the Web to check facts and separate the reliable from the rest. (Amazon)