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Monday, February 4, 2019

Six Forms of Media Bias

David Leonhardt at NYT identifies six forms of media bias:
  • Centrist bias. In her column, Sullivan inveighs against the bias toward political centrism and notes that it often crowds out thought-provoking political views on both the left and right. She also calls out a related problem, bothsidesism: blaming the parties equally, even when they don't deserve equal blame. ...
  • Affluent bias...  National journalists, the ones who often set the agenda, spend a fair amount of time around wealthy people, and national journalists themselves tend to be more affluent than most Americans. A classic example: At a 2008 Democratic primary debate, a then-anchor at ABC News anchor, Charlie Gibson, suggested that a middle class family in New Hampshire might make $200,000 a year. The audience laughed.
  • Bias for the new. Journalists often confuse newness with importance. The problem lurks in the product’s name: “News.” Too often, we emphasize relatively trivial stories — like candidates taking verbal swipes at each other — over more important ones, like the candidates’ tax policy, as New York University’s Jay Rosen has argued. In the 2016 presidential debates, for instance, the moderators almost completely ignored climate change....
  • The same biases that afflict society. From sexism in political reporting (“likability”) to racism in crime coverage (the “crack baby” stereotype), the media often suffers from the same biases that other Americans do. But we could certainly be doing more to fight back. Female and nonwhite voices remain underrepresented at major publications.
  • Liberal bias. Yes, it’s real. Most mainstream journalists do lean left. Political reporters and Washington reporters are usually professional enough to keep these views from affecting their coverage...But on issue-based coverage, liberal bias exists. Education reform — the media’s frequent hostility toward charter schools — is one example. My colleague Ross Douthat makes his case about liberal bias on this week’s episode of “The Argument” podcast. As you will hear, I partly agreed with him and partly pushed back. Michelle Goldberg disagreed with him more fully. It was a good debate.
  • Conservative bias. It’s real, too. Fox News and talk radio are huge, influential parts of the media. They skew hard right, and they often present their readers with misleading or outright false information, be it “birtherism” or conspiracy theories.