Bias is "a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion" about someone or something. When we discuss bias in media in the US, we are generally referring to conservative (also known as right) v. liberal (also known as left) bias, though there are many more ways to be biased and no one is truly free of bias.
Bias differs from fake news in that fake news is specifically untrue. Biased sources don't necessarily use lies, they just don't include the whole picture, only using the facts that support their viewpoint. By using only the facts that support their cause they are giving an incomplete and therefore inaccurate picture.
Confirmation bias is tricky. As pertains to news, it basically says that we tend to seek out the sources that confirm our existing bias. We tend to watch just the conservative news, or just the liberal news depending on whether our own beliefs lean toward conservative or liberal.
Not only that, when we view centrist sources, we tend to think of them as leaning to the left or right rather then the center.
Which means we are not getting the whole picture of news and events in our world.
How do you get a more complete picture? Seek out sources that challenge your bias. In other words, get your news from the spectrum of bias: conservative, liberal, centrist.
NPR: Motivated Reasoning, A Philosopher On Confirmation Bias
The Guardian: 'The end of Trump': how Facebook deepens millennials' confirmation bias | US news | The Guardian
Using rigorous methodology, the media bias chart evaluates popular media outlets and the way in which they tend to lean: centrist, conservative, or liberal.
You can click/tap on the image to go to the full version of the chart.
When trying to spot bias, ask yourself these questions:
1. What kind of information is it?
News? Opinion? Ad? Does it appeal to your emotions or does it make you think?
2. Who and what are the sources cited and why should you believe them?
Is the source given? Is the source associated with a political party or special interest group?
3. What’s the evidence and how was it vetted?
What’s the evidence and how was it vetted? Is the source a document? Witness? Or is it hearsay/speculation?
4: Is the main point of the piece proven by the evidence?
Did the sources provided justify the conclusion or main point of the story?
5. What’s missing?
Was there an aspect or point that was not covered or unclear that you are left wondering about?
Based on American Press Institute.
The authors of pro & con or biased articles, books, or other sources have a specific bias and are trying to persuade the reader of a specific point of view in contrast to most academic articles that typically focus on topics in an objective manner that is meant to inform the reader.
Here are some characteristics of persuasive or biased articles:
If there is a list of sources used available, they are generally only those that support the agenda or argument of the author and do include those that support a different point of view.
How to Use Them
Opinion or pro & con articles, books, or other resources with bias are ideal to use in argumentative papers or presentations.
They can also be used for informative research assignments, but you have to be more careful so as not to produce an unintentionally biased paper or presentation that is meant to be objective.
Most importantly, you have to be able to recognize if your source is biased and if it is appropriate for your assignment. If you aren't sure, ask your instructor.
This guide was created by Kathy Park at College of the Mainland and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC-BY-NC-SA).