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Thinking About Personal Bias: In the News

Think about...

Learn to...

 Identify the audience and purpose of information found. 
 Read and identify editorial writing, explicit or inferred.
 Determine credibility and potential biases of the author. 
 Analyze evidence presented for potential weaknesses.

About Personal Perspectives

Personal perspectives in the news present in many places and media formats.

Social Buzz
Letters to the Editor
Critical Reviews
Editorial/Opinion Columns
Political Cartoons/Satire
Discussion Forums/Comments
Blogs and Podcasts
Radio and Television Talk Shows
Broadcast Commentaries

 

Watch the gossip...

People tell stories. We are social beings and it is normal for us to pass information via word-of-mouth.

Unfortunately, this information often becomes distorted as it spreads. Remember the childhood game of telephone? The information loses accuracy in the retelling and reinterpretation!  Even eye-witness accounts are riddled with personal interpretation.

Did emotions cloud witness understanding?

Did the person have a significant relationship (good or bad) with one of the event participants? 

Be very careful about relying on things you've "heard." Consider possible biases, ask clarifying questions, and check facts!

Understand Media Bias

Identifying bias in the media isn't always easy.  Use our guide, Media Bias Uncovered, to learn simple techniques for helping you recognize bias.  

Audit the Pundits!

While the role of pundit (Sanskirt for "learned") originates as an advisor or counselor to kings, today the term generally refers to those who share their personal opinions on a variety of social and political subjects through mass media.  In print media, pundits publish regular "editorial" columns.  On radio, television, and through podcasts and blogs, pundits are also referred to as "talking heads," openly (and sometimes loudly) sharing their own analysis of newsworthy events.

Call Number 
305.8  /  BIS

It is crucial to remember that pundits both express and bolster personal opinions. Oftentimes, they share extreme or incendiary commentary meant to excite reaction. In his book,The Big Sort (available in our Library), Bill Bishop argues that over the past three decades Americans have been "sorting" themselves into distinct and polarized communities based on information that supports rather than challenges their own point-of-view.

The task for the information literate consumer is to sort this punditry out from factual news. This is not always easy.  In today's media, pundits are often presented alongside traditional news and differences between opinion and fact are not always clearly defined.  

Listening to, and reading, editorial pundits is the perfect opportunity to EXERCISE YOUR MIND!

Pundits represent all factions within the social and political spectrum, as illustrated in the following list of well known pundits of the day:

  • Glenn Beck
  • Pat Buchanan
  • Ann Coulter
  • Lou Dobbs
  • Matt Drudge
  • Al Franken
  • Sean Hannity
  • Chris Hayes
  • Arianna Huffington
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Rachel Maddow
  • Bill Maher
  • Chris Matthews
  • Keith Olbermann
  • Bill O'Reilly
  • Geraldo Rivera
  • Karl Rove
  • Ed Schultz
  • Nate Silver

Interested in finding more?
Check out The Politix 50!

Tips for Tuning In  

 

Know your pundit. 

Identifiy political and social affiliations, reputations for integrity, and professional expertise.  Do the pundit's credentials make him or her qualitied to offer professional analysis, or are they simply speaking as a concerned citizen?

 

Factcheck!  

Use reliable sources to check for accuracy and spin. Need help?  Use our guide, You Do the Fact Check, to learn how and access resources.

 

Look for balance!

It's easy to listen to those we agree with.  This is a habit that is all to common in today's news consumer. Instead, make a point of looking for balance. Listen to (or read) editorials about the same event from various points of view.  Commit to considering and understanding others, even it you don't agree with them.

Should You be laughing?


Cartoon by Greg Williams. 
Click to view original full-size image.  

Satire uses humor to draw public attention to important social/political issues. In the mass media market, it present in a variety of mediums:

  • Some publications, such as The Onion, are devoted entirely to satirical news.  
  • Both Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert, with his Colbert Nation offer satirical commentary, backed by research and delivered through parody, to encourage younger audiences to critically consider issues.
  • Cartoons and comedy aimed at young adult and adult audiences, such as Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons and South Park, while covering larger themes, often touch on political and social issues.
  • Published regularly in standard news sources, editorial cartoons focus on the most controversial issues of the day.  
  • Political satire even presents in new media markets, such as Twitter (for examples, check out the twitter feeds of @BorowitzReport or @pourmecoffee).

Is following the news through satire effective? A 2007 poll conducted by the PEW Research Center indicated that regular viewers of satirical comedy shows such as those hosted by Stewart and Colbert are often more informed about current events than consumers of traditional news.

However, another study published in 2008 found reason for caution.  This study revealed what they identify as the "Stewart/Colbert Effect" which shows that while informed, many viewers were less likely to become politically engaged, perhaps because of an increased sense of alientation from mainstream politics.  

SOURCES:
Cao, X.X. and Brewer, P.R., 2008. Political Comedy Shows and Public Participation in Politics, Journal of Public Opinion, 20(1), pp. 90-99.   

Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions: What Americans Know: 1989-2007 (Rep.) (2007, April 15). Retrieved February 20, 2013, from PEW Research Center website: http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=319 

Finding Editorials

Looking for editorials?  You can find them across the media.  Take a look at:

Critical Reviews

Editorial Blogs

  • PublishaLetter.com (worldwide "letters to the editor")
  • And every pundit blog out there!

Editorial Columnists at the

USA Today | The NY Times | Milwaukee JS Online | Wisconsin State Journal

Editorial Cartoons - Learn more on our guide to Editorial Cartoons

Viewpoint Databases

Editorial Magazines

Citizen Journalism

 

 

   

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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