#s-lib-banner-imgSkip to Main Content
From Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Click on article to access full text.
While consumers of news media may express a desire for journalism free from political and commercial agendas, most media professionals agree that complete objectivity is impossible. When a political belief or commercial interest distorts the reporting of an event, the news outlet may be accused of media bias. Accusations of media bias can be leveled at a television station that chooses not to cover negative news regarding its parent company, a newspaper that uses loaded language to frame certain political debates, or a website that provides positive reviews in exchange for advertising revenue. Biases do not need to be expressed explicitly to be present in news media. Newsroom editorial decisions may also distort coverage of an issue in a biased manner.
Studies indicate that news media consumers are more likely to choose and trust news sources that reinforce their political beliefs. Some media analysts argue that this behavior provides news outlets with an economic incentive to produce biased reporting. Others contend that the biases of advertisers can motivate a news outlet to produce more moderate programming in the hope of seeking a more diverse audience. Media studies primarily focus on political biases that fall into liberal and conservative categories, but cultural biases can reflect loyalties beyond this ideological dynamic, including preferences for specific economic systems, religious traditions, and codes of conduct. Several media watchdog groups, such as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Accuracy in Media (AIM), and Media Matters for America, aim to provide Americans with a better understanding of media bias functions. These media watchdog groups are aware of their own political biases and acknowledge those leanings in their mission statements. Heightened partisanship during the 2010s has led to increased charges of media bias and dwindling confidence in news media. In survey results published by Gallup and the Knight Foundation in 2018, 66 percent of American adults maintained that news media does a poor job of distinguishing between fact and opinion, a notable increase from the 42 percent that expressed such sentiments in 1984. The report also found that fewer than half of respondents (44 percent) could identify a news source they considered objective.