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What is Media Bias and Where does It Come from?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Media bias is a perceived notion that the press has and is pushing a specific viewpoint, instead of reporting news or airing programs in an objective way. Such bias often refers to media as a whole, such as a newspaper chain, or a given television or radio network, instead of individual reporters or writers of television shows.

It is almost impossible for any network or journalistic publication not to be accused of some bias. Subtle things like word choice, time limits on programming, and sponsors may all suggest that the organization isn't neutral. Each individual who reports or writes the news also has to work hard to guard against revealing his or her own opinions. These opinions can reveal bias simply through word choice or inflections and tone of voice when delivering news.

One form of media bias is the failure to include varied points of view on a story. Often, this may be viewed as failing to include the opposite viewpoint, but it would be virtually impossible to include all viewpoints on a particular issue, since people approach issues from more than two directions. For example, those belonging to fringe political parties like the Libertarians or Green Party, often feel their viewpoint is not adequately represented in journalism.

This failure to represent all sides of the story may not be intentional bias, however. News stories may simply not have the time to cover all points of view, and may stick to classic “sides,” such as left and right, in an attempt to curb media bias. The media can still technically be biased since it cannot represent all points of view.

Some media bias is quite blatant. In fact, some stations or programs are known for presenting the news in a way that clearly takes a defined position. This is true of programs like the 700 Club, which interpret the news from a conservative Christian viewpoint. Some countries also present bias in their programming when the government controls the media.

In China, for example, certain programs are allowed, while others may not be, and certain stories may be written while others must be ignored. This is an attempt to control how the population thinks about the world, which helps to sustain the government’s control of the people. Other countries also present news in ways slanted toward a particular set of ideals. Several Islamic countries, for example, control the media and slant it to glorify religious ideals. This is often the case in theocracies.

Another example of media bias that tends to occur in Islamic countries, and in the US as well, is the presentation of facts that shows a national versus international bias. In most cases, when key world issues are discussed in presentation of the news in the US, these issues are typically discussed in terms of how they are perceived by Americans rather than how they are perceived by the world.

Many people find it quite interesting to watch news reports from countries other than their own, which now widely available on different cable networks. These stories tend to differ greatly from those presented by traditional US media, although they too may have some bias. An Irish news station might examine US decisions in relationship to how this affects Ireland, for example. British news stations often take a more global view, but they may still show some bias.

One of the advantages to global communication as it now exists is that people do have access to a wide range of views. No matter where someone lives, he or she can probably read blogs from Sweden, listen to radio news from the Middle East, read Chinese newspapers, or watch television that critiques their society. This access has a way of counteracting media bias because it allows for people to examine news themselves, in greater context. Some people prefer media that is upfront about its bias, however, because it presents information to them that reinforces their own opinions.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon1002672 — On Jan 21, 2020

I feel that this article is biased because it chooses to reference the 700 club as an example to illustrate Conservative bias, when Conservative bias is clearly in the minority as bias towards the Liberal agenda is in almost every other program.

By anon314292 — On Jan 17, 2013

"Often British news stations take a more global view."

That is really untrue. The BBC has widely been criticized for its unwillingness to broadcast news about the Gaza relief campaign. Sky News reporting is particularly abhorrent and extremely biased!

By anon301813 — On Nov 06, 2012

I am a Muslim living in an Islamic country. I would like to point out that the part about Islamic countries being biased towards Islam is not true. In fact, most Islamic countries tend to use western ideas and programs, and the proof of that is our Islamic society nowadays.

People are so intensely affected by western culture to the point where when you walk down the streets, you'd think you were in America or wherever.

I just wanted to share that because I think it's an unfair allegation. I'm not happy with the fact that Islamic countries are being brainwashed by the media, and losing their identity. However, I'm stating the facts as they are. Best of luck to all.

By anon154986 — On Feb 22, 2011

This is a very interesting text. I'm doing this subject as a presentation for my english class and this helped me a lot. Thank you very much!!

By WGwriter — On May 23, 2008

Hi Ellen,

It really depends upon who you watch, and what type of show it is. For instance CNN has correspondents that support Clinton, McCain and Obama. Rachel Maddow, who comments on Keith Olbermann's left- biased "Countdown" is neither for or against either Democratic candidate.

In recent weeks, as counts have inevitably turned in Obama's favor, given his 2 to 1 state win, and his achieving a majority of delegates, reports are more in Senator Obama's favor. Some reporters will go where the story is, which is that the nation is proudly nominating its first African American candidate for the slot of President. When Clinton was up in the numbers and appeared to be a shoe in for the nomination, she clearly had more favorable press coverage.

What I find fascinating is the recent praise of Senator Clinton coming from clearly "right" biased reporters. People who are unapologetic in their support of the Republican party such as Pat Robertson and Bill O'Reilly, are now talking about the greatness of Senator Clinton. Many believe this is a deliberate move to confuse viewers and lengthen the democratic nomination process so that neither candidate can claim victory and begin campaigning for the general election.

By ellengladney — On May 23, 2008

it appears that unless a woman reporter supports Obama she does not get the TV spot. could it be that women who are unbiased are being shut out because they are not Obama supporters? It seems that supporting Obama is the cool thing and the necessary thing for a women reporter to do to get the job.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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