Ad Fontes Media founder and CEO Vanessa Otero is featured in the latest episode of People Who Read People, a podcast hosted by Zachary Elwood that features conversations about human behavior and psychology.
Elwood’s research has focused on political polarization, and Otero explained how the Media Bias Chart® is a useful tool in reducing this issue. Otero explained that bias on its own is not inherently bad, and it’s important to look at the reliability of media sources, as well, in order to determine which sources should be trusted for information.
“We’re all biased,” Otero said, explaining that Ad Fontes Media mitigates bias among their analyst team by assigning a left-leaning, right-leaning and centrist analyst to rate every piece of content. “We’re asking them to be as fair. We’re not asking them to be neutral. … We’re asking them to make a call in view of all of the facts presented.
“Just trying to have as little bias is possible is so critical not just in the work we do but the work that the journalists do. We give journalists credit just for trying.”
Otero said that Ad Fontes’ media analysis is itself an exercise in reducing political polarization.
“One of the real gifts of the work that we do is … we have these unusual environments where every day somebody left, right and center – they’re all talking to each other about politics, and coming to agreements,” she said.
“That’s rare. It’s really a privilege to see people working through disagreements in good faith … really listening, having people show you their perspective and having it convince you. This happens all the time.”
Otero said the reason Ad Fontes Media exists is to bring people together, because if we can’t talk to each other about politics then we can’t function as a company nor as a country.
“I tell my analysts If we want to have peace in the world … the least we can do is give our other analysts some grace, and that peace, try to create it between us, because if we ever expect it to be out in the world, we have to model it, we have to do it, we have to practice it.”
Elwood and Otero also discuss how left and right bias is defined in a fast-changing political landscape, why Otero avoids the terms “misinformation” and “disinformation,” how language such as dehumanization and vilification is considered as part of the Ad Fontes Media content analysis methodology, and how AFM developed new AI technology to rate media for bias and reliability.