This is the second in a multi-part series that will look at how Media Bias Fact Check (MBFC) determines if a source is Questionable or not. In this installment I will explain why extreme bias is important in determining a media source’s credibility and how much weight it has in determining the overall rating. I think it is important to start with our definition of a Questionable Source:
A questionable source exhibits one or more of the following: extreme bias, overt propaganda, poor or no sourcing to credible information and/or is fake news. Fake News is the deliberate attempt to publish hoaxes and/or disinformation for the purpose of profit or influence (Learn More). Sources listed in the Questionable Category may be very untrustworthy and should be fact checked on a per article basis.
I am sure most readers understand what bias is, but perhaps a proper definition would be helpful before I begin: prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
In general, we use two simple ways to determine a sources bias. First, we look at wording. Do the words tend to favor one side or the other? Is the source trying to illicit an emotional response from the reader using loaded emotional words? Second, we look at story selection. Does the source cover only one side, such as the right or left or do they cover both sides? Further, within the articles we look to make sure that the source is presenting the opposing argument. If they are not doing this, then that would be considered biased to one side.
In order for a source to be rated as having extreme bias they must exclusively favor one side. For example, every news item would favor the right with positive wording or use negative language toward the left. Within the articles themselves, they must only present one side of the argument without ever considering the other sides perspective or rebuttal. Below you will find two examples of headlines and articles that exhibit extreme bias.
In this example there are strong loaded words in the headline such as Brutally and He Will Not, that automatically bias the reader against Donald Trump. The opening paragraph of the article continues with aggressive negativity directed at Donald Trump. The loaded emotional words are italicized.
“Donald Trump began his first Martin Luther King Jr weekend as an elected official in the most repulsive way possible: By attacking esteemed civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis. Well, if Trump thought he could bully John Lewis, he better think again.”
Within this snippet we have three very strong words against Donald Trump and one very favorable word for the Democrat Congressman. The rest of the article is much the same. This is a classic extreme left biased article that only presents one side and lacks full context.
Extreme Right Bias: Disturbing Proof Just Revealed, Obama Lied To America For 8 Years
In this example the headline clearly biases the reader that Obama lied and it is disturbing. Right off the bat we are to feel extreme negativity toward Obama. Here is a snippet with loaded words italicized.
“After eight years under Barack Obama most of us realized the lies behind the “perfect president” that the Left portrayed. Employment numbers and monetary numbers were warped time and time again in order to make Obama look better.”
In this snippet the message is clear that Obama is a liar and his presidency is a failure. The article fails to provide evidence for any of these claims which conveys extreme bias.
When determining if a source is Questionable, extreme bias is a huge factor as it misleads people. However, it is never the sole reason for a source to be labeled Questionable. There must be one other thing such as poor sourcing, failed fact checks or conspiracy theories. Typically, most sources who exhibit extreme bias do all of the above anyway.
In conclusion, look for emotional words that are either negative or positive and make sure the source is covering both sides of arguments, either within the articles or through story selection. If they fail to do this they might just be a Questionable Source.
By Dave Van Zandt
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