Bias in the Media

Guest Blogist: Chris Simpkins

Hello again. Chris here for the second installment of guest-blogorama. Today’s topic, chosen by me, is Bias in the Media.

Since I started paying attention to what’s going on in this country a few years ago, I noticed that the distinguishing line between news and entertainment has become so blurry that it’s nearly impossible to see.

Talk radio (yes, the shows on those fuzzy AM frequencies) is a good example. The two main AM competitors in Rhode Island both feature taglines promoting themselves as news stations:

“news talk radio” – 920 WHJJ
“news radio” – 630 WPRO

Yet the majority of their programming lineups feature unquestionably partisan commentary on the news. Sure, they have special ‘news jockeys’ come on for five minutes every hour and spout off the AP’s headlines. But how can they, in good faith, call themselves news stations when 92% of the air-time is dedicated to commentary and advertising? One might make the argument that “news talk radio” means talk radio about the news… but the real problem is hidden further below the surface.

Take Fox News, for example. They have personalities who come out and present the news during the week and then host partisan talk shows on the weekends. Fox will often cut from news segments directly to commentary about the news. And as Fox’s ratings go up-up-up, other stations have begun to adopt similar strategies.

People are more trustful of news coming from someone with whom they agree. Which is why Fox has done so well. People see anchors who clearly express their opinions on the issues. And when people agree with those opinions they are more likely to trust those anchors as valid news sources. Fox continually beats out the other news stations in ratings because their viewers trust them. And what is that trust based on? An agreement of opinions. It’s sneaky… and it works.

For specific examples of bias: Media Matters for America
For a beer drinking robot: The Bar Bot