By Ad Fontes Media Staff
The interview came in response to a recent Gallup poll about Americans’ record low trust in the media. This trust has been on a decline since the mid-1970s, but there have never been more people who distrust the media than there are right now. The Media Bias Chart was born as a response to a highly partisan media moment — the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. People spent so much time fighting over how media outlets were portraying certain stories or politicians or groups of people that it became an overwhelming morass.
Vanessa recognized that people needed something to help guide them through, and she applied her background in law to formulate a methodology to apply content analysis to the news. Content analysis is a research tool used to examine the patterns within a text in a systematic way, and Ad Fontes uses it to rate news stories for concrete examples of bias and reliability in order to place them on the chart. This is a simple solution to address the need for a quick guide to media trustworthiness, or as Vanessa more eloquently stated, “…we exist because no one has time to sort through tens of thousands of information sources… we’re a reference point, [and] it’s really helpful to have a guidepost.”
Vanessa described the danger of that dissociation between people and news media. It is “not just polarization but what’s called affective polarization: the kind where it makes you dislike, distrust, or even hate folks on the other side…” and the kind that makes you think that the other side is stupid. It is hard to find common ground with an entire section of the country that your side has labeled as “stupid.” Another layer of this is confirmation bias, which is the fact that we like things that we already agree with, making it more difficult to break the cycle of mistrust.
But, “It’s not hopeless. We can do something about it,” Vanessa says. Watch the interview to learn how.
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