Skip to main content

World Languages

Questions for Detecting Media Bias

Just as media outlets in the United States have varying levels of quality and varying reputations for completeness, accuracy, and balance, so too do news outlets in other parts of the world. Similarly, you may find both state-owned and opposition news outlets and/or new outlets that are marketed towards and espouse a particular political leaning. You will need to ask questions of individual articles and the news sites as a whole in order to attempt to detect bias or inaccuracies.  This is definitely a challenge when reading in a foreign language, but the more you read in your new language, the easier it will become!                

Detecting Media Bias

What type of content is this?

Is it a news article? An investigative report? An opinion piece? An editorial? An “advertorial”?

Who is the publisher and what are their affiliations?

Are they sponsored by an outside organization or publication? Do they have a political or religious slant? (Hint: you might not be able to tell from just one article).

Follow the money! (ABC is the network that produces World News Tonight, but ABC is owned by Disney. Can World News Tonight run a completely un-biased story about sexism in Disney films?)

How did the journalist get his or her information?

Was he or she an eyewitness? How many people were interviewed and quoted? Are they named? If they are government or corporate officials is their title given? If the source is a document who produced it and when?

Is the main point of the piece proven by the evidence?

With the exception of a straightforward breaking news story (think: “this just in, fire destroys downtown lightbulb factory.”) most news stories have a thesis or try to make a point (think: “officials in Flint, MI knew about lead in the drinking water.”)

What conclusions are being drawn? Is there enough evidence to support the case being made? Are alternative views given a chance to make their case? Does the journalist acknowledge what is unknown or uncertain?

Does the tone and content of the headline match what the article is about and the conclusions drawn?

Be wary of “clickbait” in online media outlets. Online newspapers generate ad revenue when you click on a headline to read the full article, so they will often write provocative headlines that make claims that are actually contradicted in the article. Media outlets that do this frequently are generally considered to be less reputable than those who are tamer with their headlines.

Headlines can also be used to convey approval or disapproval.