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News and Media: 7. Understanding Bias in the Media

Is There Bias in the News Media?

“The biases the media has are much bigger than conservative or liberal.
They're about getting ratings, about making money, about doing stories that
are easy to cover and keeping us in an uproar.”   W.W. Adams
Do you think this is true?
Do you think that the media is biased?
Do you think you could spot biases in the media?
This guide is designed to get you asking questions about how and why the media choses to show what it does.


When viewing a media story, consider some of the following questions.

  • Why has this media outlet chosen to run a particular story?

  • Have parts of the story been given more coverage whilst other parts have been ignored?

  • Are other outlets covering this story? Are these outlets covering the story in the same way?

man in black and white checkered dress shirt sitting on black office rolling chair

Is that an Agenda I see Before Me?

It is important to consider what might be influencing media outlets to choose what they report and the way they report it.

Might some (or all) of the following shape what we see on our screens?

  • Ratings.
  • Target demographics.
  • The influence of other media outlets.
  • The personal biases of the owners of media corporations.
  • Influential sources.
  • Advertisers.
  • Public-service concerns.
  • Powerful interest groups.

Therefore, considering the influences outlined above, we might want to consider the question: does the media set the agenda or does it have its agenda set for it?

white paper

Check Your Biases at the Door.

black flat screen tv turned on displaying yellow emoji

Are we biased in the way we think about people or events?

Can we recognise these biases in ourselves or are they hidden?

The Learning for Justice site is a fantastic resource for understanding biases. It also links out to a page developed by Project Implicit which allows you to test for your hidden biases.

Making Headlines - if it bleeds, it leads!

printing machine

Making headlines...

  • Why have they chosen to lead with this story and not another?

  • Is the story sensationalist?

  • Do different news outlets lead with different stories?

The Camera Never Lies - but please get my best side!

person holding camera

Images can have a huge influence on how we might think about people and events. 

  • What sort of image has the media outlet used?
  • Does it show the person (or persons) in a good or bad light?
  • Have they shown the person from above or below, from in front or behind? Why have they done this?
  • Don't forget to look at the captions that accompany still and moving images. 

Follow Marianna Spring who covers disinformation and social media with the BBC


Media Bias/Fact Check - Search and Learn the Bias of News Media

Media Bias Fact Check aims to identify biased or deceptive news and media practices.  

Media Bias Fact Check

Is Language Biased? One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter.

Look at the way language is used by media outlets. 

For example: are people that take to the streets, described as rioters, protestors or demonstrators?

When does a crowd become a mob?

On January 6th, 2021, media outlets reported on a group of people entering the Capitol building in Washington. One news outlet described the people as a mob. Other news outlets claimed that this mob laid siege to the Capitol. Another news outlet used the headline Protestors Enter Capitol Building. Why is there a difference in the use of language when describing the same event?

How does the use of language influence our perceptions of people and events?

What's in a Name? Or, Trust me, I'm a Doctor!

In the media, men who are medical doctors or hold a PhD are often introduced as Dr., whilst women with the same qualifications are introduced by their first name. Why do you think that is?

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