Bias

An inclination to make errors in reasoning or judgment that favor one outcome

Table of Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Outline
  3. Person Bias
  4. Statistical Bias
    1. Literary Digest Poll
  5. Media Bias Rating Sites
    1. AllSides
    2. Ad Fontes Media
    3. Media Bias / Fact Check
    4. The Factual
    5. Main Points
    6. Media Bias: Media Slant
    7. Media Bias: Reasoning Bias
  6. Allsides
    1. Allsides Media Bias Chart
    2. Email Exchange with Allsides
  7. Ad Fontes Media
    1. Static Media Bias Chart
    2. Interactive Media Bias Chart
  8. About Media Bias / Fact Check
    1. Email Exchange with About Media Bias / Fact Check
  9. Other Media Sites
  10. More Examples of Bias
    1. Kobach’s Biased ‘Proof’ of Illegal Voting
  11. More Examples of Non-Bias
    1. Crossfire Hurricane
    2. Georgia Investigation of Trump’s Interference in Election
  12. Bias of Lawn Bowls
  13. Issue: Is the news media politically biased?
    1. Complications
    2. Graphic
    3. Arguments that news media is politically biased
      1. Editorials express a partisan point of view
      2. Journalists tend to be liberal and can’t help slanting their reporting
      3. Partisan-leaning editorial pages are correlated with the amount of news coverage of scandals
      4. The tone of news coverage during Trump’s presidency was anti-Trump
      5. Polls indicate that people believe the news media is biased
    4. Arguments news media is not politically biased
      1. If news articles were reasoning-biased they would be logically and epistemically flawed.
      2. A newspaper’s editorial slant exhibits bias only in the inclining sense.
      3. Reputable newspapers maintain journalistic standards of objectivity and fairness
    5. Conclusions
  14. Addenda
    1. Cognitive Bias
    2. Implicit Bias
    3. Dictionary Definitions
      1. Bias
      2. Prejudice
      3. Objective
      4. One-sided
      5. Impartial
      6. Partial
      7. Synonym Discussion for Predilection from Merriam-Webster Unabridged

Abstract

  • It’s essential to distinguish between bias and an instance of bias, between a person’s bias and a biased investigation, for example.
  • The core notion of an instance of bias is that of a force drawing a process off course. That notion underlies person bias, cognitive bias, statistical bias, and even lawn bowls.
  • The nature of media bias is less clear.  Two views:
    • A newspaper’s bias is a bad thing, like a detective conducting a biased investigation.
      • A newspaper’s bias is manifest in its editorials, in the amount of coverage devoted to news events, and in the news stories themselves.
    • A newspaper’s “bias” is merely its viewpoint and not a bad thing at all.
      • A paper’s editorials express its point of view.
      • The decision about coverage is a value judgment about newsworthiness.
      • Proving a news story is biased requires showing how the story violates journalistic standards.
  • Finally, “bias” and “biased” are sometimes used as a way of dismissing an opponent’s argument without addressing its substance.

Outline

Person Bias

Here’s what bias looks like:

  • A person’s bias biases a process of reasoning or judgment, resulting in a biased conclusion.
  • For example, a judge’s conservative or liberal bias may bias a course of legal reasoning, resulting in a biased judicial opinion.
  • Thus there’s the judge’s bias, the biased reasoning, and the biased opinion.

Here’s how the diagram matches up with Merriam-Webster’s definition of “bias” in their unabridged dictionary:

  • Noun
    • unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/bias
      • 1a(1): an inclination of temperament or outlook
        • often: such prepossession with some object or point of view that the mind does not respond impartially to anything related to this object or point of view
      • 1a(2): an instance of personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment
  • Verb
  • Biased Reasoning
    • A course of reasoning or judgment is biased if it’s flawed and the flaws tend to favor one outcome over others because of a person’s bias.  The errors are thus systematic rather than random. 
    • Examples of processes of reasoning
      • Criminal investigations, congressional investigations, appellate opinions, reports by government agencies (e.g. CBO), news stories, the judging of competitions, audits, clinical trials, forensic analyses, scientific experiments, research polls, fact-checks, autopsies, arbitrations, attorneys’ closing arguments, editorials, op-eds, columns, debater’s speeches, mathematical proofs, legal motions, criminal and civil trials
  • Two Senses of Person “Bias”: Inclining and Inhibiting
    • MW’s sense 1a(1) defines two senses of person bias:
      • an inclination of temperament or outlook
      • such prepossession with some object or point of view that the mind does not respond impartially to anything related to this object or point of view
    • The first sense is used when people say things such as:
      • Everyone has biases.  Everyone is biased
      • People can overcome their biases
      • Bias isn’t necessarily a bad thing
    • In the second sense “bias” inhibits impartial reasoning rather than merely incline one to biased reasoning
  • Two Kinds of Person Bias
    • Bias skews reasoning in one direction
    • But some biases inherently skew reasoning in a fixed direction.
      • Conservative bias skews reasoning only in a conservative direction. Liberal bias skews reasoning only in a liberal direction.
    • The direction of the skew of other biases, specifically cognitive biases, depends on external facts.
      • The direction of confirmation bias, for example, depends on a person’s deeply-held beliefs.
        • Confirmation bias is the tendency to recognize, accept, and remember information supporting an existing belief while ignoring, rejecting and forgetting information that casts doubt on it.
      • The direction of groupthink depends on the beliefs of a group.
        • Groupthink is the tendency to adopt beliefs of a group you identify with
      • The direction of post hoc ergo propter hoc depends on the sequence of events.
        • Post hoc ergo propter hoc bias is the tendency to believe that an event is caused by what preceded it.

Proving Bias

View A Case of Cognitive Bias: the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate

View A Probable Case of Ideological Bias: Cannon’s Appointment of a Special Master

Statistical Bias

  • Statistical bias is a flaw in the methodology of a study that skews the data or its analysis toward one outcome.
  • Here’s what it looks like:
  • An Example: Sampling Bias:
    • In compiling a random sample for estimating the percentage of the population with property P, the probability of selecting an entity with property P should depend only on the percentage of the population that have property P and the laws of probability.
    • Sampling Bias is a flaw in the procedure for data selection that skews that probability in a certain direction.
    • The classic example of sampling bias is the Literary Digest presidential poll of 1936 that predicted Alf Landon would beat FDR in a landslide.
    • View Literary Digest Poll
Literary Digest Poll
  • The Literary Digest magazine conducted a poll to determine the likely winner of the 1936 presidential election between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Alf Landon, Governor of Kansas.  Questionnaires were mailed to 10 million people, the names obtained from telephone books, automobile registrations, and the magazine’s readership.  2.4 million people responded. (The number of respondents in a typical national election poll is in the thousands.)   43% said they planned to vote for Roosevelt.  The magazine predicted a landslide for Landon.
  • Roosevelt won all but two states.
  • The poll was biased against those without phones and automobiles, mostly Democrats. 
  • It is also thought that anti-Roosevelt sentiment was stronger among Landon supporters, making it more likely they would take the time to mail back a response
  • The bias was the selection of the sample from lists of names from telephone books, automobile registrations, and the magazine’s readership, resulting in a sample that did not include voters without phones and automobiles, mostly Democrats.
  • The bias, the selection procedure, thus biased the sample, making the resulting estimate and prediction biased.

A Case of Cognitive Bias: the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate

  • National Intelligence Estimate 2002
    • We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade. (See INR alternative view at the end of these Key Judgments.)
  • Report On the U.S. Intelligence Community’s  Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, by the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence, 2004
    • Conclusion 1. Most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community’s October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting. 
    • Conclusion 3. The Intelligence Community (IC) suffered from a collective presumption that Iraq had an active and growing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program. This “groupthink” dynamic led Intelligence Community analysts, collectors and managers to both interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusively indicative of a WMD program as well as ignore or minimize evidence that Iraq did not have active and expanding weapons of mass destruction programs.
  • The analysts, collectors, and managers were biased toward thinking that Iraq had WMDs
  • The cause of the bias was the “collective presumption that Iraq had an active and growing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program,” which led “analysts, collectors and managers to both interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusively indicative of a WMD program as well as ignore or minimize evidence that Iraq did not have active and expanding weapons of mass destruction programs.”
  • In a word, the members of the IC succumbed to confirmation bias based on their pre-analytic certainty that Iraq had WMD’s

View More Instances of Bias

A Probable Case of Ideological Bias: Cannon’s Appointment of a Special Master

  • It’s likely that Judge Cannon’s ruling appointing a special master in the Trump documents case was biased.
  • The argument:
    • The ruling is riddled with legal errors
    • The legal errors favor Trump’s side of the lawsuit.
    • The only plausible explanation of the one-sided errors is that Judge Cannon had a bias toward Trump’s side.
    • Moreover, Cannon has a conservative bent:
      • She was appointed to the federal bench by Trump
      • She’s been a member of the conservative Federalist Society since 2005.
    • Therefore it’s likely her ruling was biased.
  • Appeals Court Scraps Special Master Review in Trump Documents Case NYT
    • In a unanimous but unsigned 21-page ruling, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta shut down a lawsuit brought by Mr. Trump that has, for nearly three months, slowed the inquiry into whether he illegally kept national security records at his Mar-a-Lago residence and obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve them.
    • The appeals court was sharply critical of the decision in September by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee who sits in the Southern District of Florida, to intervene in the case. The court said Judge Cannon never had legitimate jurisdiction to order the review or bar investigators from using the files, and that there was no justification for treating Mr. Trump differently from any other target of a search warrant.
    • “The law is clear,” the appeals court wrote on Thursday. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so.”
  • From Cannon’s Opinion
    • Four Richey factors:
      • With respect to the first [Richey] factor, the Court agrees with the Government that, at least based on the record to date, there has not been a compelling showing of callous disregard for Plaintiff’s constitutional rights. This factor cuts against the exercise of equitable jurisdiction.
      • The second factor—whether the movant has an individual interest in and need for the seized property—weighs in favor of entertaining Plaintiff’s requests. According to the Privilege Review Team’s Report, the seized materials include medical documents, correspondence related to taxes, and accounting information.
      • The same reasoning contributes to the Court’s determination that the third factor—risk of irreparable injury—likewise supports the exercise of jurisdiction. In addition to being deprived of potentially significant personal documents, which alone creates a real harm, Plaintiff faces an unquantifiable potential harm by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public. Further, Plaintiff is at risk of suffering injury from the Government’s retention and potential use of privileged materials in the course of a process that, thus far, has been closed off to Plaintiff and that has raised at least some concerns as to its efficacy, even if inadvertently so. Finally, Plaintiff has claimed injury from the threat of future prosecution and the serious, often indelible stigma associated therewith.
      • As to the fourth Richey factor, Plaintiff has persuasively argued that there is no alternative adequate remedy at law. Without Rule 41(g), Plaintiff would have no legal means of seeking the return of his property for the time being and no knowledge of when other relief might become available.
    • Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED AND ADJUDGED as follows:
      • 1. A special master shall be APPOINTED to review the seized property, manage assertions of privilege and make recommendations thereon, and evaluate claims for return of property. The exact details and mechanics of this review process will be decided expeditiously following receipt of the parties’ proposals as described below.
      • 2. The Government is TEMPORARILY ENJOINED from further review and use of any of the materials seized from Plaintiff’s residence on August 8, 2022, for criminal investigative purposes pending resolution of the special master’s review process as determined by this Court. The Government may continue to review and use the materials seized for purposes of intelligence classification and national security assessments
  • From the Appeals Court Ruling:
    • int.nyt.com/data/documenttools/11th-cir/eb9858de31042399/full.pdf
    • Only the narrowest of circumstances permit a district court to invoke equitable jurisdiction. Such decisions “must be exercised with caution and restraint,” as equitable jurisdiction is appropriate only in “exceptional cases where equity demands intervention.” This is not one of them.
    • It is a familiar rule that courts of equity do not ordinarily restrain criminal prosecutions.” Douglas v. City of Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157, 163 (1943). To avoid unnecessary interference with the executive branch’s criminal enforcement authority—while also offering relief in rare instances where a gross constitutional violation would otherwise leave the subject of a search without recourse—this Circuit has developed an exacting test for exercising equitable jurisdiction over suits flowing from the seizure of property. Richey v. Smith instructs courts to consider four factors:
      • (1) whether the government displayed a “callous disregard” for the plaintiff’s constitutional rights;
      • (2) “whether the plaintiff has an individual interest in and need for the material whose return he seeks”;
      • (3) “whether the plaintiff would be irreparably injured by denial of the return of the property”; and
      • (4) “whether the plaintiff has an adequate remedy at law for the redress of his grievance.” 515 F.2d at 1243–44 (quotation omitted).
    • None of the Richey factors favor exercising equitable jurisdiction over this case. Plaintiff, however, asks us to refashion our analysis in a way that, if consistently applied, would make equitable jurisdiction available for every subject of every search warrant.
      • He asks us to ignore our precedents finding that a callous disregard for constitutional rights is indispensable.
      • He asks us to conclude that a property interest in a seized item is a sufficient “need” for its immediate return.
      • He asks us to treat any stigma arising from the government’s access to sensitive personal information or the threat of potential prosecution as irreparable injuries.
      • And he asks us to find that he has no other remedy apart from equitable jurisdiction, even though he faces no remediable harm.
    • Anyone could make these arguments. And accepting them would upend Richey, requiring federal courts to oversee routine criminal investigations beyond their constitutionally ascribed role of approving a search warrant based on a showing of probable cause. Our precedents do not allow this, and neither does our constitutional structure.
    • Only one possible justification for equitable jurisdiction remains: that Plaintiff is a former President of the United States. It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president—but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation. The Richey test has been in place for nearly fifty years; its limits apply no matter who the government is investigating. To create a special exception here would defy our Nation’s foundational principle that our law applies “to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank.”
    • The district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction in this case. For that reason, we VACATE the September 5 order on appeal and REMAND with instructions for the district court to DISMISS the underlying civil action.
  • Supreme Court
    • Supreme Court Rejects Trump Request to Intervene in Documents Case  NYT
  • Appeals Court Ruling on DOJ’s use of sensitive documents
    • Appeals Court’s Opinion
    • Trump’s defeat in the Mar-a-Lago “special master” case, explained  Millhiser Vox
    • Appeals court slams Judge Cannon: No, Trump is not above the law Sargent WaPo
    • A thorough rebuke of Judge Aileen Cannon’s pro-Trump order  Blake  WaPo
    • Appeals Court Frees Justice Dept. to Use Sensitive Files Seized From Trump NYT
    • Appeals court: Justice Dept. can use Mar-a-Lago documents in criminal probe  WaPo
  • On Cannon’s Ruling
    • Everything Wrong With Judge Cannon’s Ruling Lawfare
    • ‘Deeply Problematic’: Experts Question Judge’s Intervention in Trump Inquiry NYT
    • Trump Judge’s Bad Ruling Might Do Some Good WaPo
    • The Mar-a-Lago judge’s latest opinion is as atrocious as legal experts say it is, Harry Litman LAT
    • “She is totally in the tank”: Legal experts rip judge’s “profoundly partisan” pro-Trump ruling Salon

An Instance of Non-Bias

  • Report Criticizes Comey but Finds No Bias in F.B.I. Decision on Clinton
    • “The Justice Department’s inspector general on Thursday painted a harsh portrait of the F.B.I. during the 2016 presidential election
    • The 500-page report criticized Mr. Comey for breaking with longstanding policy and publicly discussing an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in handling classified information.
    • Nevertheless, the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, did not challenge the conclusion that Mrs. Clinton should not be prosecuted.
    • “We found no evidence that the conclusions by department prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations,” he wrote. “Rather, we concluded that they were based on the prosecutor’s assessment of facts, the law and past department practice.”
    • Mr. Horowitz repeatedly said he found no evidence that the F.B.I. rigged the outcome. “Our review did not find documentary or testimonial evidence directly connecting the political views these employees expressed in their text messages and instant messages to the specific investigative decisions we reviewed,” the report said.”
  • Horowitz found that the investigation of Hilary Clinton was not biased by the investigators’ political views.

View More Instances of Non-Bias

Media Bias Rating Sites

AllSides

Ad Fontes Media

  • adfontesmedia.com/
  • Founded 2018
  • Rates both bias and reliability
  • Evaluates news, opinion, and analysis 
  • Ratings Scales
    • Political Bias -42 to +42 (left to right)
    • Reliability 0-64 (low to high)
  • Media Bias Charts
  • Examples
    • adfontesmedia.com/new-york-times-bias-and-reliability/
      • Reliability: 42.68
      • Bias: -7.74
      • Example of an article rating
        • A State Scientist Questioned Florida’s Virus Data. Now Her Home’s Been Raided. NYT
          • “Two months in, Ms. Jones was sidelined and then fired for insubordination, a conflict that she said came to a head when she refused to manipulate data to show that rural counties were ready to reopen from coronavirus lockdowns.”
        • Published Dec. 11, 2020, Updated April 9, 2021
        • Reliability 20.44
        • Bias -17.33
    • adfontesmedia.com/fox-news-bias-and-reliability/
      • Reliability: 36.10
      • Bias: 13.13
      • Example of an article rating
        • Arizona Republic editor recalls another time Biden mishandled classified documents: ‘Someone screwed up’  FoxNews
        • Reliability 40
        • Bias 17.33
  • Methodology
    • adfontesmedia.com/how-ad-fontes-ranks-news-sources/
    • Articles are rated by three people representing left, center, right for reliability and bias.  The scores are averaged.
    • In determining the bias of an articles, Ad Fontes considers its language, its political position, and how it compares to other reporting or analysis from other sources on the same topic.

Media Bias / Fact Check

  • mediabiasfactcheck.com/
  • Founded in 2015
  • Rates both bias and reliability
  • Evaluates news, opinion, and analysis 
  • Rating Scales
    • Factual Reporting: Very High, High, Mostly Factual, Mixed, Low, Very Low
    • Bias: Extreme, Left, Left-Center, Least Biased, Right-Center, Right, Extreme
    • Credibility Rating: 0-10, based on Factual Reporting (weighed the most), Bias, and Traffic/Longevity (weighed the least). 
  • Charts
    • None
  • Examples
    • mediabiasfactcheck.com/new-york-times/
      • Overall, we rate the New York Times Left-Center biased based on wording and story selection that moderately favors the left. They are considered one of the most reliable sources for news information due to proper sourcing and well-respected journalists/editors. The failed fact checks were on Op-Eds and not straight news reporting.
    • mediabiasfactcheck.com/fox-news-bias/
      • Overall, we rate Fox News right biased based on editorial positions that align with the right and Questionable due to the promotion of propaganda, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, the use of poor sources, and numerous false claims and failed fact checks. Straight news reporting from beat reporters is generally fact-based and accurate, which earns them a Mixed factual rating.
  • Methodology
    • The bias rating is based on the following, each scored from 0 to 10 (no bias to max bias)
      • Biased Wording/Headlines– Does the source use loaded words to convey emotion to sway the reader. Do headlines match the story?
      • Factual/Sourcing– Does the source report factually and back up claims with well-sourced evidence.
      • Story Choices: Does the source report news from both sides, or do they only publish one side.
      • Political Affiliation: How strongly does the source endorse a particular political ideology? Who do the owners support or donate to?
    • Left-Right editorial bias is determined by a news source’s positions on
      • General Philosophy, Abortion, Economic Policy, Education Policy, Environmental Policy, Gay Rights, Gun Rights, Health Care, Immigration, Military, Personal Responsibility, Regulation, Social Values, Taxes, Voter ID, Worker’s/Business Rights
    • Credibility Ratings are from 0 to 10 (low to high), where
  • Quote from an email from Dave Van Zandt, Founder/Editor in Chief
    • “Yes, I would say the left-right rating is more of a political perspective. It is not a bad thing at all. This is why we have the Factual Reporting and Credibility rating. Those are more important as they look at how factual the sources are.”

The Factual

  • thefactual.com
  • The Factual uses a computer program to evaluate articles
  • An article gets a grade between 1-100% based on four metrics:
    • Site quality: Does this site have a history of producing well-sourced, highly-informative articles?
    • Author’s expertise: Does the author have a track record of writing well-researched, informative articles on the topic? Does the author focus on the topic and hence may have some expertise?
    • Quality and diversity of sources: How many unique sources and direct quotes were used in the article? What is the site rating of those sources?
    • Article’s tone: Was the article written in a neutral, non-opinionated tone or was it opinionated with emotional language?
  • The percentage grade represents the probability the article is informative.
  • See thefactual.com/how-it-works

Main Points

  • Media Slant
    • Media ratings of left-right bias or slant are based on the wording, amount of coverage, and placement of news stories.
    • The left-right bias or slant of a news source results in part from of the editor’s value judgments.
  • Reasoning Bias
    • Opinion pieces, analyses, and news reporting (especially investigative reporting) are subject to Reasoning Bias.

Media Bias: Media Slant

  • A news outlet has a left-right bias or media slant that reflects the outlet’s value judgments about the wording, amount of coverage, and placement of news stories.
  • Value judgments and the News
    • News is not simply stuff that happens. A lot of mundane things happen everyday that don’t, and shouldn’t, make it into print. News is newsworthy stuff that happens.
      • A story is newsworthy if it’s “of sufficient interest or importance to the public to warrant reporting in the media.” (ahdictionary.com). 
    • A newspaper has to decide what’s news. Deciding what’s news requires making a value judgment: judging what’s worthy of being reported.
    • Different newspapers make different value judgments about newsworthiness. Thus, newspapers differ in the stories they print and how much coverage they give to each, giving rise to left and right media slant.
  • What Drives the Political Slant of Daily Newspapers? Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro nber.org
    • Our analysis confirms an economically significant demand for news slanted toward one’s own political ideology. Firms respond strongly to consumer preferences, which account for roughly 20 percent of the variation in measured slant in our sample. By contrast, the identity of a newspaper’s owner explains far less of the variation in slant. We also present evidence on the role of pressure from incumbent politicians, tastes of reporters, and newspaper competition in determining slant.
  • A newspaper’s value judgments are not confined to newsworthiness. Newspapers have standards and policies that reflect value judgments about:
    • Verification and fact-checking
    • Sources
    • Content of
      • News stories
      • Analyses
      • Opinions
    • Taste and decency
    • Writing style
    • Ethics and conflicts of interest
    • Corrections and retractions

Media Bias: Reasoning Bias

  • A process or product of reasoning is biased if it is flawed due to a person’s bias.
  • Being products of reasoning, therefore, opinion pieces, analyses, and news reporting (especially investigative reporting) can be flawed and therefore can be biased.
  • A newspaper’s liberal or conservative slant does not imply their news stories are guilty of reasoning bias.

Allsides

Founded 2012

Allsides Media Bias Chart

allsides.com/media-bias/media-bias-chart

Email Exchange with Allsides
  • My email to allsides.com, March 24, 2022
    • As a philosopher I was surprised at your blanket assertion that everyone is biased.
    • If you mean only that everyone has an outlook or inclination, your claim is true but uninteresting.
    • If you mean that everyone has an outlook or inclination that inhibits impartial judgment, your claim needs evidence.
    • Do you mean to assert the latter claim and, if so, what research supports the claim?
    • Thanks.
  • Response from Julie Mastrine, Director of Marketing and Bias Ratings, March 25, 2022
    • We mean the former claim — everyone has an outlook or inclination. We write at length about our thoughts on bias here
    • While bias is often characterized as a bad thing (something that inhibits impartial judgment), we don’t necessarily share that view. While that can certainly be the case, our position as a company is that it’s okay to have a bias, as long as we make bias transparent and get multiple perspectives.
    • Minimizing bias can be a worthy goal for journalists, and AllSides consults with journalists to help them do that. But it’s probably impossible to eliminate bias entirely — and that’s okay. The simple fact that journalists are limited in time, resources, and space means they’ll have to privilege one piece of information, story, or point of view over another sometimes. It’s also okay to have explicitly conservative-biased or liberal-biased media, as long as it is transparent. AllSides exists in part to make those biases transparent.
    • Hope that helps.
  • My follow-up email
    • Julie,
    • Thanks for your kind reply.
    • After reviewing your methodology, I’m inclined to believe:
      • Your methodology (of editorial review, blinded surveys, third party research, and initial Q&D reviews) could be used to rate the left-right leanings of things other than news media, e.g. people (politicians, celebrities), documentaries, and nonfiction books.
      • Your rating system is opinion-based rather than criteria-based. For example if you rated Supreme Court justices you would ask people (editorial reviewers, survey takers) their opinions rather than, for example, rating the justices based on their decisions per predefined criteria.
      • What your rating system measures is the perceived political perspectives of news media rated on a left-right continuum.
    • Am I right?
    • Thanks.
  • Julie’s reply:
    • Yes, that is correct. As far as criteria, yes, it’s largely opinion based, especially for our Blind surveys. But for Editorial Reviews, our panelists are guided by the Types of Media Bias guide that I wrote to help them know what to look for. So we are rating perceived political perspectives, but we do provide some objective criteria to panelists as to what different types of bias look like.
    • Thanks for your questions!
  • My final email:
    • Actually one last thing.  This is a point rather than a question.
    • In discussing dictionary definitions of bias in allsides.com/blog/what-media-bias you remark that:
      • “You may notice that in some dictionaries, a negative touch is added to definitions of bias.”
    • Which got me thinking about the use of especially in definitions, such as:
      • A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment. 
    • I found the answer at merriam-webster.com/help/explanatory-notes/dict-definitions.
      • “The sense divider especially is used to introduce the most common meaning subsumed in the more general preceding definition.”
    • So for the definition “a preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment”:
      • The most common meaning is:
        •  A preference or an inclination that inhibits impartial judgment. 
      • The less common, more general meaning is:
        •  A preference or an inclination

Ad Fontes Media

Founded 2018

  • Ad Fontes Media rates the reliability as well as the bias of news sources.
    • Static Media Bias Chart
      • Rates bias on the horizontal axis and reliability on the vertical axis.
    • Interactive Media Bias Chart
      • Rates both websites (icons) and articles (points)
      • Also rates TV and podcasts.
      • Rates bias on the horizontal axis from -42 to +42 and reliability on the vertical axis from 0 to 64.
      • Vertical Axis Categories
        • Original Fact Reporting
        • Fact Reporting
        • Complex Analysis of Mix of Analysis and Fact Reporting
        • Analysis or High Variation in Reliability
        • Opinion or High Variation in Reliability
        • Selective or Incomplete story / Unfair Persuasion / Propaganda
        • Contains misleading info
        • Contains inaccurate / fabricated info
      • Search tool enables you to drill down to particular articles and shows (but limited to 5 searches per day)
Static Media Bias Chart
Interactive Media Bias Chart

About Media Bias / Fact Check

Founded 2015

  • About Media Bias / Fact Check mediabiasfactcheck.com/about/
    • Founded in 2015, Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC) is an independent website that has promoted awareness of media bias and misinformation by rating the bias, factual accuracy, and credibility of media sources, large and small. Media Bias/Fact Check relies on human evaluators to determine the bias of media sources and the level of overall factual reporting through a combination of objective measures and subjective analysis using our stated methodology.
Email Exchange with About Media Bias / Fact Check

My Email of Nov 21, 2022

Dear Editor,

I’m a philosopher (Phd Brown) currently working on the concept of bias.

Some instances of bias are certainly bad things, e.g. a judge’s biased ruling in a criminal trial — where the judge’s bias affects his ruling.

Is the same thing true of left-right editorial bias?

Consider your NY Times bias rating of Left-Center.

Does this mean that the opinions of the NYT editorial board members bias their editorials, like the judge’s bias affecting his ruling. That kind of bias would be a bad thing.

Or does your bias rating mean that a certain number of NYT editorial positions are classified as Left by your categorization scheme in mediabiasfactcheck.com/left-vs-right-bias-how-we-rate-the-bias-of-media-sources/. If so, it seems, a bias rating of Left-Center is not by itself a bad thing like the judge’s ruling. Indeed, it seems, the word “bias” in this case means “point of view.”

Thanks,

Jim Lamb

Reply Nov 22, 2022

Hi Jim,

Yes, I would say the left-right rating is more of a political perspective. It is not a bad thing at all. This is why we have the Factual Reporting and Credibility rating. Those are more important as they look at how factual the sources are. There are many left and right sources that are factual, but simply report from one-side. I think it is important for people to know what side they are on so they can look at counter viewpoints. BTW, I love philosophy, especially the areas of critical thinking and valid arguments. We try to use this when reviewing sources. 

Sincerely,

Dave

Dave Van Zandt
Founder/Editor in Chief
Media Bias Fact Check LLC

Other Media Sites

  • The Factual thefactual.com/blog/
    • With everything becoming politicized, the news increasingly caters to political extremes and is seen as biased by 83% of people.
    • In contrast, The Factual is building a community where people who want to understand the whole story can easily get the facts – all for a single affordable subscription, with zero ads.
    • We are applying the knowledge gained at Stanford, IIT Madras, and MIT, to build the best news experience and make it easy to be well informed. Join the unbiased movement and help people trust the news again.
  • The Factual uses a computer program to select and rate news articles on topics in the news. It also rates news sites based on the articles it’s rated.
  • Founded 2019, Acquired by Yahoo 2022
  • Reporters Without Borders rsf.org
    • Our goal: to leave no breach of freedom of information unreported. Discover our world press freedom ranking, our latest investigation reports as well as our publications produced every day by our regional offices, in connection with our network of correspondents in 115 countries around the world.
  • Fair fair.org/
    • FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints. As an anti-censorship organization, we expose neglected news stories and defend working journalists when they are muzzled. As a progressive group, FAIR believes that structural reform is ultimately needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting and promote strong non-profit sources of information.
  • Media Matters for America mediamatters.org/
    • Media Matters for America is a web-based, not-for-profit, 501 (c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.
    • Launched in May 2004, Media Matters for America put in place, for the first time, the means to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation – news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda – every day, in real time.
    • Using the website mediamatters.org as the principal vehicle for disseminating research and information, Media Matters posts rapid-response items as well as longer research and analytic reports documenting conservative misinformation throughout the media. Additionally, Media Matters works daily to notify activists, journalists, pundits, and the general public about instances of misinformation, providing them with the resources to rebut false claims and to take direct action against offending media institutions.

More Examples of Bias

Kobach’s Biased ‘Proof’ of Illegal Voting
  • Kris Kobach, former Secretary of State of Kansas and former Vice Chair of the defunct Election Integrity Commission, has made debunked claims of voter fraud, supported Trump’s claim that millions voted illegally in the presidential election, and implemented strict Voter ID laws in Kansas.
  • On 9/7/2017 Breitbart published an article by Kobach in which he alleged to have proven that thousands of people voted illegally in New Hampshire. But his “proof” was fallacious, as analysts have pointed out. 
  • Kobach’s argument was thus flawed. Moreover, it’s likely the flaws resulted from Kobach’s bias toward the existence of voter fraud, in light of his debunked claims, other public statements, and his implementation of strict Voter ID laws in Kansas.
  • It’s thus likely that Kobach’s article in Breitbart is biased.
  • View Slides on Kobach’s ‘Proof’

More Examples of Non-Bias

Crossfire Hurricane
  • Review of FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation by the DOJ IG, Dec 2019
    • “We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced Priestap’s decision to open Crossfire Hurricane.”
    • We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to seek FISA authority on Carter Page.
    • “Finally, we also found no documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivations influenced the FBI’s decision to use CHSs or UCEs to interact with Trump campaign officials in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
Georgia Investigation of Trump’s Interference in Election
  • Georgia judge skeptical of claims of political bias in 2020 election probe WaPo
    • The judge presiding over the grand jury investigation into possible election interference by Donald Trump and his allies expressed skepticism Thursday over arguments from Republicans that the prosecution, led by a Democratic district attorney, was politically motivated.
    • Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert C.I. McBurney  issued a decision rejecting a request from 11 of Georgia’s 16 Republican would-be electors who sought to disqualify the prosecution team because of political bias. Prosecutors say these electors may have been part of a plan to try to cast electoral college votes for Trump in Georgia and other states despite Joe Biden’s victory. Lawyers for the electors deny any wrongdoing, citing a pending court case over the Georgia election at the time they were certified.
    • The ongoing inquiry, McBurney wrote, “is inherently ‘political’ in the simple and unremarkable sense that politicians and leaders of a specific political party are alleged to have undertaken efforts to defeat the will of the Georgia electorate.”
    • A prosecutor who takes on such a case, he wrote, “is not automatically biased and partisan — and subject to disqualification — because of the common political affiliations of the subjects (and targets) of the investigation.”

Bias of Lawn Bowls

  • A lawn bowl is biased, i.e. flattened on one side so that its center of gravity is offset. The bias causes the bowl to curve, the greater the bias the greater the curve.

Issue: Is the news media politically biased?

Complications
  • Different senses and kinds of bias
    • Person Bias vs Reasoning Bias
    • Inclining Bias vs Inhibiting Bias
  • Distinction between one-sidedness and bias
  • Editorial slant
  • Newsworthiness and value judgments
  • Different kinds of articles: news reporting, analysis, opinion pieces
Graphic
Arguments that news media is politically biased
Editorials express a partisan point of view
  • A paper’s Editorial Point of View, or Editorial Slant, is the official opinion of the paper, set forth in its editorials. 
  • First Objection
    • A process or product of reasoning is biased only if it violates the canons of rationality because of person bias.
    • Like a lawyer’s closing argument, an editorial may be one-sided but perfectly rational, in which case it’s not biased. 
    • Therefore, the fact that a paper’s editorials take a political stand does not logically imply they’re biased.
    • This NY Times editorial presents a valid deductive argument that shows no sign of bias:
  • Second Objection
    • A paper’s editorial point of view doesn’t mean its news reporting is biased.  Reputable newspapers have strict policies on the separation of news and opinion.
      • Washington Post Policies and Standards
        • “The separation of news columns from the editorial pages is solemn and complete. This separation is intended to serve the reader, who is entitled to the facts in the news columns and to opinions on the editorial and “op-ed” pages.”
  • Kinds of Articles in the News Media
    • News Reports report newsworthy events
    • Feature Articles explore news stories in more depth or cover related topics.
      • News Analysis, Fact-Checks, Timeline, Background, Text of Documents, Opinion Polls, Videos, Photos, Graphics, Interviews, Personality Profiles, Historical Parallels, Maps, Expert Opinion, Primer, Explainer, Retrospective, Follow-up
    • Opinion Pieces set forth opinions and arguments, make value judgments and normative statements
      • Editorials: official opinion of the newspaper, written by the editorial board.  Editorials set forth the newspaper’s point of view.
      • Op-Eds and Columns: written by regular and guest columnists
      • Letters to the Editor: letters written by the general public.
Journalists tend to be liberal and can’t help slanting their reporting

A Pew Research Poll found that reporters are more liberal than the population at large

  • Objection
    • A person’s point of view doesn’t mean he’s incapable of being impartial in conducting an investigation. 
    • People can, and do, overcome their biases.
Partisan-leaning editorial pages are correlated with the amount of news coverage of scandals
  • Newspaper Coverage of Political Scandals, published in The Journal of Politics
    • journalistsresource.org/studies/society/news-media/news-bias-political-scandals
      • Partisan-leaning editorial pages are strongly correlated with biases in the amount of reportorial coverage of scandals. Democratic-leaning newspapers devote significantly more attention to scandals involving Republican politicians than scandals involving Democrats, and Republican-leaning newspapers do the opposite. This apparent bias holds for scandals both local and national in origin.
      • On average, a news organization with a higher degree of editorial endorsements for one political party will devote 26% more reportorial news coverage to a scandal involving a member of the opposite party.
  • Objections
    • A paper may devote a large amount of coverage to a scandal because of its newsworthiness rather than its editorial point of view, e.g. The Washington Post’s coverage of the Watergate Scandal
    • Correlation doesn’t prove causation
      • A and B’s being correlated proves neither that A causes B nor that B causes A
The tone of news coverage during Trump’s presidency was anti-Trump
  • News Coverage of Donald Trump’s First 100 Days
  • The tone of a news article is judged from the perspective of the subject. Negative stories include stories where the subject is criticized directly or where an event, trend, or development reflects unfavorably on the subject.
  • Second Objection: A negative headline may be more objective than a neutral headline.
    • Headlines for Same Story (WaPo)
      • Fox News: Trump tells Congressional leaders 3-5 million ‘illegals’ cost him popular vote
      • Las Vegas Review-Journal: Trump insists voter fraud cost him popular vote
      • New York Times: Trump repeats lie about popular vote in meeting with lawmakers
      • Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump repeats unsupported claim that voter fraud skewed election tally
      • Washington Post: Without evidence, Trump tells lawmakers 3 million to 5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote
      • Politico: Trump repeats debunked voter fraud claim at meeting with Hill leaders
      • ABC News: Trump repeats unsubstantiated claim about voter fraud during election
      • CNN: Trump talks replacing Obamacare, reiterates unsubstantiated voter fraud claims
      • USA Today: Trump revives false claim that illegal ballots cost him popular vote
      • Slate: Trump, again, falsely claims he lost the popular vote because of millions of fraudulent votes
      • New York Daily News: President Trump still pushing unconfirmed claims that voter fraud cost him the popular vote
      • Business Insider: Trump repeats debunked claim that voter fraud caused him to lose popular vote to Hillary Clinton
      • New York Post: Donald Trump brings up bogus voter fraud claims — again
      • Associated Press: Trump wrongly blames fraud for loss of popular vote
Polls indicate that people believe the news media is biased
  • Bias Perceived in News Coverage, February 2012
  • Six in 10 in US See Partisan Bias in News Media, April 2017
  • Voters Say Media Still Anti-Trump, January 2017
  • Objection
    • According to the Gallup poll, most Americans say the media is “often inaccurate.”  Since there’s no evidence for this claim, the belief that the media is biased may also have no basis in fact.  The key question is not how many people believe the media is biased, but  why they believe the media is biased.  If they have good reasons, what are they?
Arguments news media is not politically biased
If news articles were reasoning-biased they would be logically and epistemically flawed.

If news articles were reasoning-biased they would be logically and epistemically flawed, making false or unsupported claims, cherry-picking the evidence, distorting the facts, drawing unwarranted conclusions, and so on.  There’s no evidence that news articles are in deficient in this way.

A newspaper’s editorial slant exhibits bias only in the inclining sense.
  • A newspaper has to decide what’s news. That decision is a value judgment: judging what’s newsworthy.
  • Different newspapers make different judgments about worthy of being reported. The result is differences in the stories they print and how much coverage they give to each, giving rise to left and right slant.
  • A newspaper’s editorial slant exhibits bias only in the inclining sense.
  • Its slant does not imply that its news reporting, opinion pieces, and analyses are guilty of reasoning bias.
Reputable newspapers maintain journalistic standards of objectivity and fairness

Reputable newspapers maintain journalistic standards of objectivity and fairness, keeping a Chinese Wall between news reporting and the editorial page

Conclusions
  • The matter is subtle and complex
  • The burden of proof is on those who claim media bias.
  • The arguments considered fail to establish the news media is politically biased.
  • Reasoning bias is hard to prove since it requires showing that
    • the process violates the canons of rationality,
    • any logical flaws in the process result from person bias rather than from sloppy reasoning.

Addenda

Cognitive Bias

Theory of Cognitive Bias

Examples of Cognitive Bias

  • Confirmation bias
    • Tendency to recognize, accept, and remember information supporting an existing belief while ignoring, rejecting and forgetting information that casts doubt it. 
  • Groupthink
    • Tendency to adopt beliefs of a group you identify with
  • Self-serving bias
    • Tendency to attribute success to your abilities and efforts, and failure to external factors
  • Sunk-Cost Effect
    • Tendency to continue investing in something even though it’s failing
  • Gambler’s Fallacy
    • Tendency to believe that the probability of an upcoming random event is affected by the preceding sequence of random events
Implicit Bias
  • plato.stanford.edu/entries/implicit-bias/
    • “Implicit bias” is a term of art referring to relatively unconscious and relatively automatic features of prejudiced judgment and social behavior. 
    • For example, imagine Frank, who explicitly believes that women and men are equally suited for careers outside the home. Despite his explicitly egalitarian belief, Frank might nevertheless implicitly associate women with the home, and this implicit association might lead him to behave in any number of biased ways, from trusting feedback from female co-workers less to hiring equally qualified men over women.
  • scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-think-about-implicit-bias/
    • The tendency for stereotype-confirming thoughts to pass spontaneously through our minds is what psychologists call implicit bias. It sets people up to overgeneralize, sometimes leading to discrimination even when people feel they are being fair.
  • kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/research/understanding-implicit-bias/
    • Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.  
Dictionary Definitions
Bias
  • Relevant dictionary meanings of bias:
    • Person bias
    • Instance of person bias
    • Bent, tendency, trend, inclination
    • Statistical bias
  • American Heritage
    • A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment.
    • An unfair act or policy stemming from prejudice.
    • A statistical sampling or testing error caused by systematically favoring some outcomes over others.
  • Merriam-Webster
    • an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially :  a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment :  prejudice
    •  an instance of such prejudice
    • bent, tendency
    • deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates
    • systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others
  • Merriam-Webster Unabridged
    • an inclination of temperament or outlook, often, such prepossession with some object or point of view that the mind does not respond impartially to anything related to this object or point of view; prejudice
      • <a strong liberal bias>
    • an instance of personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment
    • bent, tendency, trend. sometimes :  inclination
    • statistics a tendency of an estimate to deviate in one direction from a true value (as by reason of nonrandom sampling)
  • Oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/bias
    • prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair
  • Princeton’s WordNet
    • a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation
  • Dictionary.com/browse/bias (Random House Unabridged Dictionary)
    • a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned
    • Statistics. a systematic as opposed to a random distortion of a statistic as a result of sampling procedure.
  • Collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/bias (Penguin Random House)
    • a particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice
    • Statistics: a systematic as opposed to a random distortion of a statistic as a result of sampling procedure
  • Collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/bias (Webster’s New World College Dictionary,)
    • a mental leaning or inclination; partiality; bent
    • Statistics: any systematic error contributing to the difference between statistical values in a population and a sample drawn from it
Prejudice
  • unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/prejudice
    • 1a(1) : preconceived judgment or opinion :  leaning toward one side of a question from other considerations than those belonging to it :  unreasonable predilection for or objection against something
      • <showing prejudice for/against one side or another>
    • 1a(2) : an opinion or leaning adverse to anything without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge
    • 1b : an instance of such judgment or opinion :  an unreasonable predilection, inclination, or objection
      • <a prejudice against new methods>
    • 1c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics
      • <racial prejudice>
  • ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=prejudice
    • 1.a. The act or state of holding unreasonable preconceived judgments or convictions:
      •  “This is not actually a volume of the best short stories … These are just the stories that I like best, and I am full of prejudice and strong opinions” (Ann Patchett).
    • 1.b. An adverse judgment or opinion formed unfairly or without knowledge of the facts:
      • a boy with a prejudice against unfamiliar foods.
    • 2. Irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular social group, such as a race or the adherents of a religion
  • oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/prejudice
    • Preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience:
      • English prejudice against foreigners
      • ingrained religious prejudices.
    • Dislike, hostility, or unjust behavior deriving from unfounded opinions:
      • accusations of racial prejudice.
Objective
One-sided
Impartial
Partial
Synonym Discussion for Predilection from Merriam-Webster Unabridged
  • Predilection indicates a previous liking or temperamental predisposition 
  • Partiality indicates a disposition to favor a person or thing, sometimes unfairly or with partisanship or undue fondness
  • Prepossession implies a fixed idea or notion, especially a value judgment, that dominates and is likely to preclude objective judgment of something seeming counter to it 
  • Prejudice indicates a preconceived notion, a judgment before evidence is available, or an unreasoned prepossession, often an unfavorable one marked by suspicion, dislike, or antipathy
  • Bias may indicate an imbalance or distortion in judgment with a resulting unreasoned and unfair inclination for or against a person or thing

Is the news media politically biased: Quick Take

  • View Paradigm Case of Bias
  • The analysts, collectors, and managers who produced the 2002 NIE were biased toward thinking that Iraq had WMDs. Their bias was a bad thing.
  • The ΝY Times is said to have a liberal bias. In fact, the media-rating organizations Ad Fontes Media, Allsides, and Media Bias/FactCheck give the NY Times a “bias rating” of LEFT-CENTER.
  • Assuming the NY Times has a liberal bias, is that bias a bad thing like the bias of the managers and staff who worked on the NIE? Or is the Times’ “bias” merely its “point of view,” reflected by its editorial page and its value judgments about what’s newsworthy?
  • Correspondence with the media-rating companies and an analysis of their methodologies reveal it’s the latter.
  • There are thus two relevant senses of “bias”:
    • Primary Sense
      • An outlook, perspective, opinion, inclination, or preference that inhibits objective judgment.
    • Secondary Sense
      • An outlook or point of view
    • View Dictionary Definitions

View full Bias