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Monday, February 21, 2005

Media bias

In the ongoing national discussion about media and bias, one aspect is often left out of the discussion, though it is often implied. And that is the dichotomy between hard news and opinion. The average person not only expects but welcomes bias in opinion pieces. I find it rather comical how some on the Left point to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity as examples of conservative bias. This is ridiculous as both Limbaugh and Hannity are opinion pundits. In the same way, no one should complain about Maureen Dowd or Al Franken being liberal; that's what they are supposed to do.

However, the disconnect comes when a media outlet that is supposed to deliver hard news starts showing bias one way or the other. I envision a spectrum with hard news on one side and pure opinion on the other. The best example of hard news would be the AP wire. I think most everyone expects something like the AP wire to have as little bias as possible. Of course, it is humans that have to write even the headlines on the AP wire, so there is no getting around the fact that there will be some bias. But there is a greater responsibility for those media outlets that lean towards hard news.

In thinking this over, I decided to try to create a graphical representation of media and bias. I have created the following chart in Excel. You can click on the picture for a larger one.


On the X-axis, I have charted political bias, with -100 being the most liberal and 100 being the most conservative. On the Y-axis, I have charted hard news versus opinion with 0 being the most pure opinion and 100 being the most hard news.

I have also added dotted lines to delineate areas of acceptable journalism and those areas where there is more political bias in relations to the amount of hard news provided. The upper left and upper right corners are those areas where media outlets are too bias for their amount of hard news.

My score for each of these media outlets has been completely subjective. But I would like to explain some of my reasoning behind my scoring for some of these. Reuters is the biggest outlier and perhaps one of the worst examples of violating this unwritten rule. Reuters is often viewed as something akin to a news wire. Many media outlets use their stories. As a result, they have a greater responsibility to remain as unbiased as possible. They obviously don't.

I'm sure there are some who will question my scoring of Fox News and suggest that I should have placed them further right. While I certainly agree that they tend to lean a bit right, the amount is certainly within the bounds of what is acceptable. Furthermore, much of what leans right on Fox News is their opinion shows such as Bill O'Reilly or Hannity. I made the distinction clear in the case of the Wall Street Journal and their opinion section, OpinionJournal.com.

I would love to get feedback from my readers and will consider changing the scores. However, you must provide some solid information for me to make changes. Additionally, please feel free to suggest other media outlets that I have not scored yet.

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