While news articles – both online and in print – are regarded to be less biased and more objective than opinion pieces are, it’s important to remember that these articles are still representations that might contain some bias within them.
Media Smarts, Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy, provides a few suggestions as to what you might look for when analysing a news article for the first time.
To start to develop your understanding as to what you might search for, download the Bias in News Sources lesson from Media Smarts. If you scroll to Page 4 of the pdf, you will find a heading ‘How to Detect Bias in the News’ (alternatively, you can search for ‘How to Detect Bias in the News’). For each of the items in that section, make your own summary of the information. You can also include any of the information below if you would like to.
Selection & Omission
When comparing stories, it’s always important to consider what facts, statistics, quotes, and ideas have been selected for use and what ones have been deliberately omitted from the story.
The earlier a story is in a newspaper, or the more prominence that it has on a website, the more important it appears to the audience.
Similarly, the more important information is expected to be placed at the beginning of a story.
Are expected to summarise the most important feature of an article. The tone or language use in a headline can often reveal the newspaper or website’s stance.
Word Choice and Tone
The tone of the language used, such as an aggressive tone or a solemn, sad tone, can influence the emotional response of an audience towards a story.
The choice of images, and sometimes the lack of an image, can impact the audience’s response as much as a headline. If there is an image with your article, what impression does it provide of the event or the people who feature in the image?
Names & Titles
The title given to a person can clearly influence the audience’s response to them, particularly through the connotations associated with the title.
For example, an Australian soldier in an overseas war zone is often referred to as a “peace keeper”. This phrase has very different connotations than do phrases such as “militia”, “guerilla”, or “sniper”.
Numbers can be phrased in different ways in order to make an event sound bigger/smaller.
For example, the same event can be described in two ways – “over 100 people injured” or “only minor injuries were sustained”.
What sources have been quoted?
Which sources are heard first and for the longest?
Whose voice is not heard?