Proving Media Bias With Computer Analysis

You don’t hear the words “liberal bias” from a liberal unless it’s accompanied by a mocking, sneering tone. To them, the mainstream media plays it straight. They’re only willing to concede a problem insofar as it comes from corporate ownership. When it comes to politics, though, they’re pretty sure the country’s leading newspapers and TV broadcasters are calling it as they see it.

Nevermind how ludicrous this belief is on the face of it; now researchers are setting out to prove media bias with the use of computer algorithms. Cornell scientists have completed a survey of 275 news outlets, using the quotes of President Obama as a way to judge whether one can determine the ideological leanings of an outlet going solely on which quotes they choose to use. And, according to the study’s authors, it was very easy to do just that.

“Readers might experience very different personalities of the same politician, depending on what the news outlets they follow choose to quote from that politician’s public speeches,” said co-author Christian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil.

After analyzing the patterns, the scientists found that there was “systemic bias” in the way news organizations chose to pull quotes from politicians. And while the study surveyed outlets that claimed to be objective as well as those that rallied behind a particular ideology, it did not delve into context. That makes the study’s conclusions all the more fascinating, and it’s why the left finds it so easy to deflect accusations of bias. Lester Holt doesn’t need to stand up in front of the country and say, “Well, let’s see what these loony Republicans are up to today.” The bias comes out in which quotes are heard, which clips are shown, which stories are covered, and which questions are asked.

We may be entering into a new day in the news business. One where outlets no longer try to pretend as though they are objective. Fox News, for all its detractors, may well turn out to be a radical pioneer in a new age of information. No one has to watch that channel and wonder, wait, is this completely objective? You know what you’re getting. You watch because you want your news delivered to you with that slant.

One might argue that it would be better to work on removing the liberal bias from the “mainstream” outlets, but that is a fantasy. Editors and reporters and owners and writers all come to the table with their own preconceived ideas. Try as you might, you’re never going to separate the activist from the journalist. The next best thing is to be up front about the activism – up front about the politics – and then let viewers watch or read with the understanding that they are getting a certain view of the world. For those that worry the nightly news would turn into MSNBC, that channel’s dismal ratings should indicate otherwise. No, they would probably not change at all, and that’s what’s scary.

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