A great exercise to train your bias-detecting skills is to check on a high volume of outlets –say, eight to ten–across the political spectrum in the 6-12 hours right after a big political story breaks. I did this right after the release of the Nunes memo on Friday, Feb 2. This particular story provided an especially good occasion for comparison across sites for several reasons, including:
-It was a big political story, so nearly everyone covered it. It’s easier to compare bias when each source is covering the same story.
-The underlying story is fact-dense, meaning that a lot of stories about it are long:
-As a result, it is easier to tell when an article is omitting facts.
-It is also easier to compare how even highly factual stories (i.e., scores of “1” and “2” on the Veracity and Expression scales) characterize particular facts to create a slight partisan lean.
-There are both long and short stories on the subject. Comparison between longer and shorter stories lets you more easily find facts that are omitted in order to frame the issues one way or another.
-News outlets have had quite a while to prepare for this coming story, so those inclined to spin it one way or the other have had time to develop the spin. Several outlets had multiple fact, analysis, and opinion stories within the 12 hours following the story breaking. You could count the number of stories on each site and rate their bias and get a more complex view of the source’s bias.
I grabbed screenshots of several sources across the spectrum from the evening of Feb. 2 and morning of Feb. 3. These are from the Internet Wayback Machine https://web.archive.org (if you haven’t used it before, it’s a great tool that allows you to see what websites looked like at previous dates and times). Screenshots from the following shots are below:
You can get a good sense of bias from taking a look at the headlines, but you can get deeper insight from reading the articles themselves. For some sources, the headlines are a lot more dramatic than the articles themselves; for others, the articles are equally or more biased.
If you want to rank these articles (based on the articles themselves, or just on the headlines and pages below) on a blank version of the chart, I recommend placing the ones that seem most extremely biased first, then placing the ones that seem less biased. It’s easiest to identify the most extreme of a set, and then place the rest in relative positions. There’s not always a source or story that will land in whatever you consider “the middle,” but you can find some that are closer than others.
Going through this exercise is especially beneficial when big stories like this break. I know it is time-consuming to read so many sources and stories, so most people don’t read laterally like this very often, if ever (if you do, nice work!). Doing so from time to time can help you remember that people are reading very different things from you, and increase your awareness of the range of biases across the spectrum. It can also help you identify how detect more subtle bias in the sources you regularly rely on.
THE DAILY BEAST