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ITE 119 - Media Literacy

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What Is Bias?

Bias is a predisposition or preconceived opinion that causes a person to disproportionately judge in favor of or against an idea, belief, person, group, etc. Bias is a form of prejudice, based not on facts and reason but on internal beliefs. Bias is associated with closed-mindedness, and it can be innate (you had it at birth) or learned.

Media bias refers to the same predisposition defined above, but applied to the news media (editors, journalists, producers, etc.). Media bias can distort the news and influence what stories are covered, how they are covered, and what sources of information are given preference.

Why Is Recognizing Media Bias Important?

  • Bias can affect the amount and quality of information provided on a topic, which means you could be missing the whole picture. For example, if you only read articles about the downside of coffee, you are missing out on the other side of the coin, the potential benefits of coffee.  To get the big picture, make sure to read a variety of sources and to read opposing and minority viewpoints.
  • Recognizing bias allows you to understand the purpose and audience of the source.
  • Understanding what bias is can help differentiate between a biased news source ("ALL CHOCOLATE IS EVIL!") and misinformation ("Governor Mandates the Wearing of Party Hats").
  • Recognizing bias, even your own, allows you to avoid confirmation bias, which is the tendency to look for, interpret, favor, and remember information that confirms or supports your own beliefs and values.
  • Recognizing bias allows you to look for more neutral or opposing viewpoints so you can get out of your echo chamber.

News vs. Opinion

News

Opinion

The writer reports the news. People’s opinions may appear as part of that reporting (“According to Mr. Smith…”), but the writer does not explicitly present his/her own views.

The writer shares his or her own views and explicitly seeks to persuade readers to adopt those views as their own. Opinions can and often are biased. This is natural for opinions, but should not be present in news. 

Adapted from Writing Commons (Links to an external site.) which uses a Creative Commons license: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Types of Media Bias

There are many types and sub-types of media bias, and it is important to become familiar with them in order to spot them.  Here are some of the types:

  • Spin
  • Unsubstantiated Claims
  • Opinion Statements Passed as Facts
  • Sensationalism/Emotionalism
  • Mud Slinging/Ad Hominem
  • Mind Reading
  • Slant
  • Flawed Logic
  • Bias by Omission
  • Omission of Source Attribution
  • Bias by Placement

Read about each of these by visiting How to Spot 11 Types of Media Bias, or download the PDF document linked below.