Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Detecting Bias in the News

Here is an article similar to what BiasBuster has been saying about bias in the news. It is from Gear Up, a program to encourage low-income, disadvantaged students across Washington to plan for and succeed in higher education where more than 1,000 students from middle schools and junior highs came to the University of Washington Libraries for classes.

Article begins (excerpted)

News stories are influenced by the attitudes and backgrounds of interviewers, writers, photographers, and editors. Bias can creep into the news in the following ways:

Bias through selection and omission: An editor can express bias by choosing whether or not to use a specific news story. Within a story, some details can be ignored, others can be included to give readers or viewers a different opinion about the events reported. Only by comparing news reports from a wide variety of sources can this type of bias be observed.

For example, if people boo during one of President Clinton's speeches, the booing can be described as "remarks greeted by jeers" or the boos can be ignored as "a handful of people who disagree."

Ray Clark and Nathan Tsukroff do this very well. Use of loaded language slants a story. Remember, "Upham complained," versus "Upham said."

Bias through placement: Where a story is placed influences what a person thinks about its importance. Stories on the front page of the newspaper are thought to be more important than stories buried in the back.

The Gray News will put non-news on the front page, and buries news that they can't avoid printing which is unfavorable to their friends in local government. News they can avoid printing which is unfavorable to their friends...they simply don't print.

Bias by headline: Headlines are the most-read part of a newspaper because they are often printed in large and bold fonts. Headlines can be misleading: conveying excitement when the story is not exciting; expressing approval or disapproval.

The most famous example is Tsukroff's "Upham opposes celebration" which has been established as a lie.

Bias by photos, captions, and camera angles: Pictures can make a person look good, bad, sick, silly, etc. Which photos a newspaper chooses to run can heavily influence the public's perception of a person or event.

Matt Perry's photos are excellent. He is a stupendous photographer and any photos the Gray News chooses to run by Matt Perry are respectful to the subject. Nathan's aren't bad, just un-creative and boring. Their photos are heavily skewed toward government photos of their friends, however.

Also, they both sometimes 'stalk' subjects at meetings, training their long lenses on them for extended periods in order to intimidate the intended target, perhaps into a goofy experession or a display of physical awkwardness. Some of these photos ended up on The Gray News's blog, which is not good.

Bias by choice of words: People can be influenced by the use of positive or negative words with a certain connotation.

Clark uses 'complained' and citizens who speak up are characterized as 'disgruntled' or 'naysayers, etc.'


  • "Bias by photos, captions, and camera angles... ... Which photos a newspaper chooses to run can heavily influence the public's perception of a person or event."

    --like the famous (burning the Monument) PHOTO published in the Monument
    ** Victim Card Please-

    By Anonymous Honey, at 6:25 PM  

  • what was biased in The Monument about that? It happened. It was in the paper. It was not distorted or misrepresented. It was a news photo... Please explain how publishing a news photo in The Monument is biased. Thank you.

    By Blogger BiasBuster, at 6:36 PM  

  • yes the photo was distorted

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:13 PM  

  • How so?

    By Blogger BiasBuster, at 7:44 PM  

  • Publish my comments sent previously please

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:04 AM  

  • I do not keep comments that have undergone the REJECT process. They no longer exist. Which comments are you wishing to be published?

    By Blogger BiasBuster, at 6:11 AM  

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