Media Bias

The term media bias is used when the media consistently presents one point of view in their reporting. The term refers to reporters and journalists, both in print and television, who select stories and events and report them with a bias on one side or the other. These journalists do not subscribe to open and objective reporting.

The most common type of media bias appears when the media attack or support a particular ideology, candidate or political party. A reporter with liberal leanings will either give preference to a liberal candidate or completely deny the other candidate any coverage at all. Some media stations are known for their political biases and will only report those stories that interest their listeners and readers.

There are other types of media biases. One type is corporate bias, when the opinions of the media bosses or owners determine the items that are chosen for reporting. The result of advertising bias is that items are chosen for reporting on the basis of what will please the station's advertisers. Sensationalism is another type of bias, which encourages the media to report sensational stories such as airplane crashes, murders etc. Other types of bias exist, whereby reporters will report negatively about a particular religious or ethnic group.

One commonly referred to bias in the United States is the liberal bias, which occurs when liberal ideology has an unwarranted influence on the news stories that are covered in the media. Many conservative critics complain that the major news channels such as CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN have a blatantly liberal bias in their reporting. This is also true in the print media such as the New York Times and Newsweek. This argument was bolstered when it was revealed that in 2008, 1,160 employees of the three major networks donated over $1 million to the more liberal Democratic Party, while a mere $142,000 was donated to the more conservative Republican Party by 193 employees.

In their book The Media Elite (1986), Stanley Rothman and Robert and Linda Lichter report on a survey they conducted of media and political reporters who worked for the major television stations as well as the New York Times and the Washington Post. The authors found that most of the journalists voted for Democratic candidates and that their attitudes toward topics such as abortion, gay rights and affirmative action were generally to the left of most Americans.

The authors specifically questioned the journalists about their attitudes toward school busing to achieve racial integration, nuclear energy and the energy crisis of the 1970s. The authors then reviewed what hot topics these journalists had reported and how. They found that the reporting reflected the journalists' personal opinions and attitudes typically considered to be liberal.

In today's 24-hour coverage and fast-paced news reporting environment, it is nearly impossible to avoid biases. With hundreds of commercial channels and dozens of news channels to choose from, television stations are fighting for viewers' attention. When news stories are reported, a single camera shot lasts for no longer than two minutes, which is the attention span of most viewers. During those two minutes, the reporter must report the story and talk about what he or she thinks is interesting or pertinent. There is no time to present another viewpoint. Whatever the reporter's ideology is, that is the way it gets reported.

Broadcast news is dangerous, not so much because of what and how it is reported, but because of what did not get reported. It is the reporter who decides what will get reported and what will not be reported. One redeeming factor in this controversy is the Internet, where one can find all sides of news reporting without having to listen to a reporter providing just one interpretation of a story.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Tilt? The Search for Media Bias
David Niven.
Praeger, 2002
Niche News: The Politics of News Choice
Natalie Jomini Stroud.
Oxford University Press, 2011
Press Bias and Politics: How the Media Frame Controversial Issues
Jim A. Kuypers.
Praeger, 2002
The Liberal Media Myth Revisited: An Examination of Factors Influencing Perceptions of Media Bias
Lee, Tien-Tsung.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 49, No. 1, March 2005
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
How Perceptions of News Bias in News Sources Relate to Beliefs about Media Bias
Rouner, Donna; Slater, Michael D.; Buddenbaum, Judith M.
Newspaper Research Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2, Spring 1999
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
As Goes the Statue, So Goes the War: The Emergence of the Victory Frame in Television Coverage of the Iraq War
Aday, Sean; Cluverius, John; Livingston, Steven.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 49, No. 3, September 2005
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Journalism after September 11
Barbie Zelizer , Stuart Allan.
Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Journalism, Risk, and Patriotism"
The Fair Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s
Jim Naureckas; Janine Jackson.
Westview Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Back to Iraq: News Reporting Echoes Bias of Desert Storm" begins on p. 45
The Press Effect: Politicians, Journalists, and the Stories That Shape the Political World
Kathleen Hall Jamieson; Paul Waldman.
Oxford University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of media bias begins on p. 167
News and Journalism in the UK
Brian McNair.
Routledge, 2003 (4th edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Journalism and Its Critics"
Good News, Bad News: Journalism Ethics and the Public Interest
Jeremy Iggers.
Westview Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Objectivity's Legacy: Is Objectivity Dead?" and Chap. 6 "The Myth of Neutrality and the Ideology of Information"
"Media Bias" Revisited. (the Media)
Bowman, James.
New Criterion, Vol. 21, No. 5, January 2003
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