Types of Bias

Bias by Commission is the most common type of bias.  It is the pattern of passing along assumptions that tend to support a left-wing or liberal view-point. This occurs when a reporter or other media outlet presents/passes along only one perspective, by a liberal or conservative standpoint, and does not acknowledge the opposing standpoint.  The way to measure bias by commission requires research, finding an expert in the field, and asking for statistics on a type of story.

Bias by Omission is the act of ignoring facts that that tend to disprove a liberal or left-wing claim, or that support a conservative belief.  To catch this type of bias you have to be knowledgeable about the particular subject and know the different viewpoints.  This can occur either within a story, or over a long period of time as a particular news outlet reports only one set of events.  To measure bias by omission you need to keep keen eye on the opposing perspective of current issues as well as make sure that the perspective is included in stories on a particular subject – if these things aren’t included then you have seen bias by omission.

Bias by Story Selection tends to occur when a media outlet decides to do a story on a study released by the same group as always, but ignores studies on the same or similar topics released by the opposing group. It is the pattern of highlighting news stories that coincide with the agenda of one side, while ignoring stories that coincide with the other (example, left-wing and right-wing).  This is most similar to bias by omission because in order to measure this type of bias you’ll need to know the two different agendas and see how much coverage is being received by both parties.

Bias by Placement is the pattern of placing news stories in a way that downplays information supportive of the minority viewpoint. It is the news that editors and producers consider most important and what s most likely to sell papers.  It is easier to identify bias in newspapers because of placement of a story on the front page versus on the bottom of an inside page.  As a general rule, story placement is a measure of how important the editor considers the story.  In order to measure bias by placement you can observe where a newspaper places political stories and which political party is placed on the front page, with a big picture, as well as asking yourself who the articles tend to make look bad. Bias by placement can occur with newspapers, television, and radio news.

Bias by the Selection of Sources is when an editor, reporter, or producer, includes more sources in a story who support one view over another.  This bias can be seen when a reporter tends to use phrases such as “experts believe,” “observers say,” or “most people think.”  Quoting an expert by name does not necessarily add the credibility of the article, because the reporter may choose any ‘expert’ he/she wants.  To measure or find this type of bias stay alert to affiliations and political perspectives of those quoted in the stories.

Bias by Spin is the emphasis of certain aspects of a policy favorable to one side or another.  It is when the story reflects one side to the exclusion of another. To check the spin on a story you can see if a conservative politician offers one interpretation of an event or policy, and a liberal political offers a different interpretation – you will see, most of the time, that the stories don’t match.  Others summarize that the spin put on an even/story by both sides.

Bias by Labeling is attaching a label, usually a more extreme label, to a particular group but not to the other.  An example would be the power to label politicians as conservative and liberal (and the more radical forms of the the two).  Bias by labeling comes in two different forms: tagging of politicians/groups with extreme labels, as well as when a reporter fails to identify a particular group but describes the other group with positive labels.  However, it is important to remember that when looking for bias by labeling, not all labeling is biased or wrong – for example, to call a senator “conservative” or “republican” would be correct, if they are.

Bias by Policy Endorsement or Condemnation is when a reporter goes beyond reporting and endorses the liberal/conservative view of which policies should be enacted, or affirms the liberal/conservative criticism of current or place policies.  Most news stories relate a sequence of events, but when a story mixes reporting with specific recommendations for government policy, that’s bias by policy recommendation.  When a reporter conclusively declares that a past or current policy has failed, that’s bias by policy condemnation.

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For more/other types of media bias, click here.

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