In today’s world, it’s hard to avoid media consumption. Think about it: back in the day, the only news we had access to was either the daily newspaper or perhaps the TV. Fast forward to the 21st century, and we’ve been inundated with different media outlets that provide news and cultural entertainment coverage, and most of us presume it’s all pretty reliable, right? Wrong.
In fact, media bias is more common than you’d think, and it spreads across all forms of media, especially the three main outlets: publishing, broadcasting, and especially the internet. This is why it’s so important to understand how prevalent this bias is and how to recognise it.
What is media bias?
Chances are, you’re aware of the term bias, but let’s look more specifically from a media perspective. It’s when journalists, news producers, and those who work within the mass media cover events with prejudice and control the story’s narrative. The term suggests that the bias breaches the standards of journalism, not the journalist who wrote the piece. And in certain countries around the world, the severity of media bias can be extreme.
How to recognise it
There are various ways you can recognise media bias to locate an unbiased news source in the UK. Start by asking yourself these questions when you’re actually consuming the media, as they may be easier to locate:
- Where are the sources coming from? When reading an article, ask yourself this question. For example, what is the piece about, and does the journalist have an agenda? Do the sources come from the government? Are they corporate? Or, do they limit the references of progressive, female, or minority voices?
- Is there enough diversity? Again, look at the article and the news outlet itself. Do they employ a diverse workforce, and does it relate to their community and readership? For example, does the outlet employ editors, producers, and managers of different sexualities, race, and gender? For a media outlet to be representative and inclusive, its leadership positions need to be filled with a range of diverse people.
- Is the story reported neutrally? For a news source to be unbiased, perspective is integral. For example, most political coverage focuses on how corporations and politicians are affected by the issues, not those most affected. The journalist reporting on the story must present it from the latter perspective to ensure fairness.
- Is context lacking? If a story doesn’t have a context, it can narrate certain groups or societies in a false light. For some actual context: crime rates in a certain area of the UK might be rising due to increased poverty, but if this link is not explained and backed up by reputable statistics and research, there is no context to the story.
- Check for double standards. Is one media outlet covering the story in a completely different way that doesn’t reflect or resonate with other coverage?
Honesty is key
Hopefully, you’ve got more of an idea about media bias and how you can recognise it. While it’s impossible for media bias to be completely eradicated, it’s possible to detect warning signs and gauge whether the writer has a personal agenda or whether the new source is intentionally biased for sociopolitical reasons.
And remember, not all hope is lost if you’re looking for unbiased information. There are plenty of news outlets that report honestly and have integrity. You’ll be able to identify these publications simply by knowing what an untrustworthy journalist or media outlet looks like.
So, the next time you check the news updates on your phone, do some digging and decipher whether the media outlet has an agenda.