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Not Just the Facts
There is no such thing as neutral or unbiased information. Varying levels of bias or persuasion to come into play in all forms of communication, some of which is appropriate depending on the platform and format. Bias in reporting is also revealed through which details are mentioned and what is omitted, who is quoted (the rich and powerful or the disenfranchised?), and how language is used that might impact how we perceive something (Example: what assumptions are formed if an event is described as a riot as opposed to a popular uprising?). We tend to view news reporting on a spectrum of bias illustrated on the chart below, in reality it is far more complex.
- Before you read the article, look at the headline- how does the headline choice affect our assumptions about the event? Do you have any emotional reaction? Now read and find out what occurred.
- When was the article published in relation to the event? How might this affect the degree of accuracy or depth in reporting?
- Who are the people interviewed, what are the varying perspectives that shape the telling of the event? Whose voices are included/left out?
- What is the publication where the article was published? What do we know about its reputation or where it leans on the political spectrum?
- Who is the author of the article? Do they express their own viewpoint or tend to focus on a particular aspect of the event? Do they have an analysis?
- Do you see citations such as links to other articles, quotes from officials, data and statistics, or information that provides additional context? How does this frame the event or support the telling of the story?
- What are the main issues being explored? Read between the lines. If we were to continue our research (in the library or elsewhere) what questions would we want to ask? What types of sources or people would we want to consult to get a fuller picture.