Many journalists are expected to seek the truth and report it fairly. But no matter how hard a journalist or reporter tries to stay objective during stories, this is easier said than done. Bias is found everywhere in articles whether it’s intentional or not. It’s difficult to present the news fairly and impartially without including any sort of personal bias or stereotype. A news story is influenced by the “attitudes and background of its interviewers, writers, photographers, and editors.” If you’re reading a news article in a magazine or newspaper, or if you’re just watching the news on television, be aware of the different kinds of bias out there.
News broadcasts and writers can show bias through selection and omission. What ends up being presented to the public can be taken out of context to be presented a certain way. Some details can be ignored while others are added. An editor can decide what to include depending on what he/she wants to be conveyed to the public.
If you watch the news at the beginning of its broadcast, or if you look at the front covers of magazines and newspapers on newsstands, what’s the main story? Typically, those that are shown first are the most important ones to see. For example, the following day after a presidential election, you can expect to see the picture of the new winner on every cover and headline. No editor would want to put an insignificant story on the front page. The most important stories are shown first and then the less important ones are put in the back. The placement of a story has everything to do with influencing viewers about its importance.
The words used in headlines also convey bias. How a story is presented through its headline says a lot about the writer’s point of view. It can convey different emotions—excitement, anger, approval, condemnation, etc. Loaded language can also be used through headlines or within articles. Depending on the author’s perspective, he/she can use words that can describe the same group of people. Positive or negative connotations influence readers as well as the tone and word choice. A writer covering a demonstration can call people there “fanatical demonstrators” while someone else can interpret it as “courageous demonstrators.” Another example would be calling someone a workaholic instead of hard worker.
There are plenty of other forms of bias that are out there, but these are just a few of them. Personal interpretations about what a journalist sees or hears can influence how news is presented. Altogether, the words, tone, placement, and selections and omissions that a reporter chooses to use are all journalistic techniques that show bias. It’s not always deliberate, but it’s important to be aware to detect the kinds of bias in the news.
“Detecting Bias in the News | Handout.” Media Awareness Network. The Learning Seed Co. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/resources/educational/handouts/crime/detecting_bias_news.cfm>.