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How do I evaluate a news story?

This playbook will provide tools and strategies to help you identify credible news sources.

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Identifying Biased News Reporting

What is Bias?

Watch this video on recognizing bias (from Films on Demand). If off campus, you will need to login with your MyPVCC username and password.

Reader Bias

When you read a news story, you as the reader apply your own set of biases, and understanding those biases is important because it can color how you consume media. Let's take a look at two types of reader bias: implicit bias and confirmation bias.

Implicit Bias

Implicit bias "refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner" (The Kirwan Institute for the Student of Race and Ethnicity, The Ohio State University). Implicit bias is tricky because it is subconscious! You can profess to believe one thing, but in actuality you do, say, or gravitate toward something else.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs" (Encyclopedia Britannica). Sometimes people will only search for information that agrees with them, defends their beliefs, or affirms their preconceived notions; that is confirmation bias. This is a easy bias to fall prey to while researching for academic papers. Remember, don't just seek out information that agrees with you! You will need to find information that disagrees with you, too. Think of it this way, how can you argue for something if you don't know what the detractors are saying?

Types of Bias

According to the News Literacy Project, news bias is usually "incidental and debatable rather than intentional and overt," meaning news organizations are trying NOT to be biased in their news reporting. (This rule does not apply to opinion or commentary pieces which, quite intentionally, present a point of view.) Sometimes bias happens, but most reputable journalists and news organizations attempt to be accurate and fair.

Below are common types of bias in news reporting.
Type of Bias Definition
Partisan When news coverage unfairly favors one political party, viewpoint, or group.
Demographic When the demographic of the news organization and journalists affect how they present or write an article. Can be present when the newsroom staff is not diverse.
Corporate When the parent company or owner affect the presentation of news stories.
Neutrality Also known as "false balance" or "both sides." When something is demonstrably known (like climate change), but the news article attempts a neutral stance.
Big Story When journalists lean in (focus too much) on big stories.
Visual Including visuals will draw the reader's attention.  Do images presented evoke specific responses?  Do they prejudice the reader to view the news one way?

These types of bias are usually presented by the following forms.

Form of Bias Definition
Absence of fairness and balance The failure of a straight news report to present a fair and balanced representation of the event or issue. 
Framing The way that journalists approach and organize a story. Various types of news media bias can be expressed in how a story is framed.
Story selection The process that news outlets use to decide which issues and events to cover. 
Tone In journalism, the use of words and phrases that affect the audience's perception of the issue or event being covered.
Sourcing All of the people, organizations, documents and other providers of information that are used to put together a news report, the use of incomplete or otherwise flawed sourcing.

Read more about the types of bias here on the Student News Daily.

Identifying Partisan Bias Graphic

media bias chart


Example Assignments/Lesson Plans