Media, Internet & Censorship

How Media Works

London Guardian open journalism: Three Little Pigs advertisement
"This advert for the Guardian's open journalism, screened for the first time on 29 February 2012, imagines how we might cover the story of the Three Little Pigs in print and online. Follow the story from the paper's front page headline, through a social media discussion and finally to an unexpected conclusion."

Amy Goodman Talks about the Media
Understanding How the Media Works

Information Overload?

National Media

Local Media

Social Media


example: social media in politics
Fact Checks &
Media Bias
Media Matters.orgPolitical Right claims MM has a Liberal bias — This site claims media itself as a Liberal bias
NOTE: There's another list of media links at the bottom of the page on the Huffington Post (Scroll to the bottom.)
NEW!! Here is a site that reports on the media's coverage of the news.

newsweek-cover-we-are-all-socialists-revised-for-accuracy3.jpgCritique: Left/Right or Neutral?

Media Bias in US
Noam Chomsky: Media Bias
(Question: Is Noam Chomsky a neutral source of information? What is his bias?)
Determining Bias: Prager University
(Question: Is Prager University a neutral source of information? What is their bias?)
What is biased reporting? (An opinion based on current events.)

The Foundation for Critical Thinking: Detecting Media Bias

Please Click here to read a recent article on the impact of political bias innews coverage.

Detecting Media Bias

from FAIR (Monitoring Fairness in Media & Reporting since 1986)
Media has tremendous power in setting cultural guidelines and in shaping political discourse. It is essential that news media, along with other institutions, are challenged to be fair and accurate. The first step in challenging biased news coverage is documenting bias. Here are some questions to ask yourself about newspaper, TV and radio news.

Who Are the Sources?

Be aware of the political perspective of the sources used in a story. Media over-rely on "official" (government, corporate and establishment think tank) sources. For instance, FAIR found that in 40 months of Nightline programming, the most frequent guests were Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, Elliott Abrams and Jerry Falwell. Progressive and public interest voices were grossly underrepresented.
To portray issues fairly and accurately, media must broaden their spectrum of sources. Otherwise, they serve merely as megaphones for those in power
  • Count the number of corporate and government sources versus the number of progressive, public interest, female and minority voices.
  • Is there a lack of diversity? What is the race and gender diversity at the news outlet you watch compared to the communities it serves? How many producers, editors or decision-makers at news outlets are women, people of color or openly gay or lesbian? In order to fairly represent different communities, news outlets should have members of those communities in decision-making positions. How many of the experts these news outlets cite are women and people of color? FAIR's 40-month survey of Nightline found its U.S. guests to be 92 percent white and 89 percent male. A similar survey of PBS's NewsHour found its guestlist was 90 percent white and 87 percent male.
  • The media you consume should reflect the diversity of the public they serve.
  • From whose point of view is the news reported?
    Political coverage often focuses on how issues affect politicians or corporate executives rather than those directly affected by the issue. For example, many stories on parental notification of abortion emphasized the "tough choice" confronting male politicians while quoting no women under 18—those with the most at stake in the debate. Economics coverage usually looks at how events impact stockholders rather than workers or consumers.
  • Those affected by the issue should have a voice in coverage.

Double Standards?

  • Does the media hold some people to one standard while using a different standard for other groups? Youth of color who commit crimes are referred to as "superpredators," whereas adult criminals who commit white-collar crimes are often portrayed as having been tragically led astray. Think tanks partly funded by unions are often identified as "labor-backed" while think tanks heavily funded by business interests are usually not identified as "corporate-backed."
  • Expose the double standard by coming up with a parallel example or citing similar stories that were covered differently. Do stereotypes skew coverage?Does coverage of the drug crisis focus almost exclusively on African Americans, despite the fact that the vast majority of drug users are white? Does coverage of women on welfare focus overwhelmingly on African-American women, despite the fact that the majority of welfare recipients are not black? Are lesbians portrayed as "man-hating" and gay men portrayed as "sexual predators" (even though a child is 100 times more likely to be molested by a family member than by an unrelated gay adult—Denver Post, 9/28/92)?
  • Educate journalists about misconceptions involved in stereotypes, and about how stereotypes characterize individuals unfairly. What are the unchallenged assumptions? Often the most important message of a story is not explicitly stated. For instance, in coverage of women on welfare, the age at which a woman had her first child will often be reported—the implication being that the woman's sexual "promiscuity," rather than institutional economic factors, are responsible for her plight. Coverage of rape trials will often focus on a woman's sexual history as though it calls her credibility into question. After the arrest of William Kennedy Smith, a New York Times article (4/17/91) dredged up a host of irrelevant personal details about his accuser, including the facts that she had skipped classes in the 9th grade, had received several speeding tickets, and—when on a date—had talked to other men.

Loaded Language?

  • When media adopt loaded terminology, they help shape public opinion. For instance, media often use the right-wing buzzword "racial preference" to refer to affirmative action programs. Polls show that this decision makes a huge difference in how the issue is perceived: A 1992 Harris poll found that 70% said they favored "affirmative action" while only 46% favored "racial preference programs."
  • Challenge the assumption directly. Often bringing assumptions to the surface will demonstrate their absurdity. Most reporters, for example, will not say directly that a woman deserved to be raped because of what she was wearing.
  • Does the language give people an inaccurate impression of the issue, program or community?
  • Is there a lack of context?
  • Coverage of so-called "reverse discrimination" usually fails to focus on any of the institutional factors which gives power to prejudice—such as larger issues of economic inequality and institutional racism. Coverage of hate speech against gays and lesbians often fails to mention increases in gay-bashing and how the two might be related. Provide the context. Communicate to the journalist, or write a letter to the editor that includes the relevant information.

Headline/Story Mismatch?

  • Usually headlines are not written by the reporter. Since many people just skim headlines, misleading headlines have a significant impact. A classic case: In a New York Times article on the June 1988 U.S.-Soviet summit in Moscow, Margaret Thatcher was quoted as saying of Reagan, "Poor dear, there's nothing between his ears." The Times headline: "Thatcher Salute to the Reagan Years."
  • Are stories on important issues featured prominently? Look at where stories appear. Newspaper articles on the most widely read pages (the front pages and the editorial pages) and lead stories on television and radio will have the greatest influence on public opinion.
  • When you see a story on government or corporate officials engaged in activities that violate the law or the Constitution buried where it won't be seen, that's a problem. Important issues should get prominent coverage.

Media Awareness Alliance

The Media Awareness Alliance is a Canadian non-profit that has been pioneering the development of media literacy and digital literacy programs since its incorporation in 1996. Members of its team have backgrounds in education, journalism, mass communications and cultural policy. They promote media literacy and digital literacy by producing education and awareness programs and resources.

authenticating online information
Traditionally, when looking for information, we would seek out reputable sources such as an established newspaper or book publisher. We tend to trust material published by public institutions, written by experts, or recommended by information specialists such as librarians or teachers. As well, such traditional resources had "gatekeepers"—editors, fact checkers or peer reviewers—to make sure the material was accurate. The job of these gatekeepers was to weed out incomplete or erroneous information, as well as lies and hoaxes. But the Internet is different. In most cases it has no such gatekeepers: anyone and everyone can appear to be an "expert." So to get the most out of the Internet, students need to learn two things: first, how to find good information online; and second, how to evaluate the information they find.

When you think you've found what you're looking for, the next step is to evaluate the information. How can you determine if the source is legitimate? There are several questions you can ask. For instance: What is the purpose of the Web site—Has it been created to provide information, or promote its own products? The information you find on a pharmaceutical company site, for example, may be quite different from that offered by a government health agency. Ask yourself:
  • What kind of Web site is this? What is its purpose: To inform? To sell? To entertain? To persuade?
  • Is it a commercial Web site? A personal home page? An educational site? How can you tell?

Approach the Internet with healthy skepticism. Ask the right questions about the information you encounter online:
  • Who is the source?
  • What am I getting?
  • When was it created?
  • Where am I?
  • Why am I there?
  • How can I distinguish quality information from junk?

The 5 W's (and 1 H) of Cyberspace

(John Stewart Interviews are Optional/Not Required Viewing)
John Stewart/Daily Show Talks Media with Rachel Maddow, MSNBC
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
John Stewart/Daily Show Talks Media with Chris Wallace, Fox News
Part I
Part II

Identifying Bias in the Media
The following ideas drawn from Media Awareness Network&
Bias through selection and omission:
An editor can express a bias by choosing to use or not to use a specific news item. Within a given story, some details can be ignored, and others included, to give readers or viewers a different opinion about the events reported. If, during a speech, a few people boo, the reaction can be described as “remarks greeted by jeers” or they can be ignored as “a handful of dissidents.” If a reporter ignores facts that tend to disprove the claims of one side or the other, or that support the beliefs of one side or the other, that’s bias. To catch this kind of bias you'll have to be knowledgeable about the particular subject. If you know the various points of view on an issue, then you'll recognize when one side is left out. Bias by omission can occur either within a story, or over the long term as a particular news outlet reports one set of events, but not another.
Bias through placement:
Newspaper stories are usually written in a pyramid style, that is, the most important facts are supposed to appear early in the story, with each paragraph a little less important than the previous paragraph. Newspapers use that style for two reasons: (a) so that editors, editing a story to fit the available space, can cut from the bottom up, and (b) so that the average reader will get the most important facts. Editors know that, the farther down you go in a news story, the fewer readers you have.
Bias through headline:
Many people read only the headlines of a news item. Most people scan nearly all the headlines in a newspaper. Headlines are the most-read part of a paper. They can summarize as well as present carefully hidden bias and prejudices. They can convey excitement where little exists. They can express approval or condemnation.
Bias through photos, captions and camera angles:
Some pictures flatter a person, others make the person look unpleasant. A paper can choose photos to influence opinion about, for example, a candidate for election. On television, the choice of which visual images to display is extremely important. The captions newspapers run below photos are also potential sources of bias.
Bias through use of names and titles:
News media often use labels and titles to describe people, places, and events. A person can be called an "ex-con" or be referred to as someone who "served time twenty years ago for a minor offense." Whether a person is described as a "terrorist" or a "freedom fighter" is a clear indication of editorial bias.
Bias through statistics and crowd counts:
To make a disaster seem more spectacular (and therefore worthy of reading about), numbers can be inflated. "A hundred injured in air crash" can be the same as "only minor injuries in air crash," reflecting the opinion of the person doing the counting.
Bias by source control:
This bias can be seen when a reporter uses such phrases as “experts believe,” “observers say,” or “most people think.” Quoting an expert by name does not necessarily add to the credibility of a story, because reporters can choose any “expert" they want. The same goes for the use of politicians or “man on the street” interviews. Experts in news stories are like expert witnesses in trials. If you know whether the defense or the prosecution called a particular expert witness to the stand, you know which way the witness will likely testify. And when a news story only presents one side, it is likely the side the reporter supports.
Bias by spin:
Party spokespeople who talk with reporters usually want to convince reporters that their position is correct. This has come to be known as “spin.” Spin involves tone, the part of the reporting that extends beyond hard news. It's “subjective comments about objective facts.” When politicians and experts are offering more than one interpretation of an event or policy, notice if the reporter favors one over the other. Many news stories do not reflect a particular spin. Others summarize the spin put on an event by both sides. When a story reflects one to the exclusion of the other, this is “bias by spin.”
Bias by labeling:
Attaching a label to one group, but not to the other; or using more extreme labeling for one group than the other. Identifying a one person or group as an "expert" or as independent. The power to label politicians, activists and groups is one of the media's most subtle and potent powers. Labels then to tell you as much about the person applying them as about the subject being labeled. Classifications matter.
Tagging of some politicians and groups with extreme labels while leaving other politicians and groups unlabeled or labeled with more favorable terminology is bias. Terms like “women’s rights group,” or “civil rights advocates,” don’t always reflect the group’s political agenda. Groups tend to choose labels that portray them in the most favorable terms, such as “free-speech activists,” or “prolife activists.”
Bias by word choice and tone
Showing the same kind of bias that appears in headlines, the use of positive or negative words or words with a particular connotation can strongly influence the reader or viewer.
What Isn't Bias
You may come across stories that you believe fit one of these eight definitions of bias. But, they still may not qualify as examples which you should criticize. With some narrow exceptions explained later in this section, you want to identify bias that occurs in news stories and which favors the liberal view over the conservative perspective.
What isn't bias falls into three broad categories:
  1. Editorials or opinion columns
  2. Stories or statements that make the conservative side look bad, but are accurate
  3. Non-policy stories on a specific event that don't have to be balanced
Newspaper, radio and television station editorials are supposed to take a point of view. The same goes for columns which appear on the op-ed page and commentaries on television news shows. Don't equate a front page news story with an editorial. They are very different items. You should stick to analyzing news stories. They are supposed to be unbiased presentations of the news. When they are biased, the reporter is not doing his job. Editorial and column writers, in contrast, are supposed to take a point of view. They are under no obligation to be fair or balanced. The only exception: If you are interested in showing that a newspaper's editorials are consistently liberal, or advocate liberal policies more often than conservative ones. Similarly, you can analyze the columnists run by your local paper if you want to prove that contrary to the paper's claim or public perception, they do not balance out.

Example of Media Bias?

(read first comment below)
A reader accused Huffington Post of writing "sensationalized" headlines in order to attract clicks from readers. (Clicks help determine numbers of readers and, in turn, effect costs for advertisers.)


"Another classic example of HuffPost's increasingly disingenuous and deliberately misleading form of "journalism." Sensationalist teaser headline on the front page to get you to click on the article: "HUGE Solar Blast Races Toward Red Planet" (emphasis added), which is of course accompanied by a super-dramatic (and presumably exaggerated/inaccurate) visual aid. Once you give them their "click" on the article, you see a headline that is significantly more subdued. And then you read the article. Here is an actual quote from this article about the "huge" solar storm: "The eruption did not appear severe or extreme, but 'middle of the road, all things considered' said space weather chief Bob Rutledge at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration." Classic. Have you no shame, HuffPost? I mean really. This is why I am relying on HP less and less for my news, other than "News of the Weird," which, not surprisingly, they actually show quite a talent for -- a la the National Inquirer, whose journalistic standards they seem to be emulating." — theragingmoderate

The Internet Archive

The I
Internet Archive
Internet Archive
nternet Archive is being established by a San Francisco non-profit that is creating a digital library and an e-book lending library. They describe themselves this way: "The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public." The archives contains information from the web, from television, film, audio and video, texts and software. It was established in 1996.

Internet Archive Home Page
Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive
Discussion of the 9/11 Television News Archive
Audio from FAA on 9/11
NBC Coverage of 9/11 Memorial, Vice President Biden
DateLine 9/11 Retrospective
President George Bush, 9/11
Peter Jennings, ABC News 9/11
9/11 Was it a Conspiracy? BBC
Helping Out, 9/11

A library of news coverage of the events of 9/11/2001 and their aftermath as presented by U.S. and international broadcasters. A resource for scholars, journalists and the public, the library presents one week (3,000 hours from 20 channels over 7 days) of news broadcasts for study, research and analysis, with select analysis by scholars.

What is Social Media?

Impact of Social Media