Media Bias

June 7, 2000
November 3, 2000

People complain about media bias all the time, but sometimes you can prove it in a way that even the skeptic has to admit there is something to the charge. A few years ago before I attended a meeting with newspaper editors, I did a word search on key terms used in their newspaper. When the question of bias came up, I merely quoted the frequency of word usage to make my point.

An article in National Journal did a similar search of politically charged terms in media articles written during a 90 day period. The results demonstrate a bias when it comes to the usage of these terms.

The phrase "partisan Republican" turned up 85 times. By contrast, the term "partisan Democrat" only appeared 58 times. The terms "hard right" and "far right" appeared 683 times, while the terms "hard left" and "far left" appeared just 130 times.

When searching for the term "extreme right," the search was interrupted because the term exceeded the limit of more than a 1,000 documents. By narrowing the time period, the search came down to 212 mentions for "extreme right." During that same period of time, the term "extreme left" was used 58 times.

I invite you to do your own search and check the results. Often the differences are even more lopsided than these. The last time I did such a search on the local newspaper, I found that the term "far right" was used frequently, while the term "far left" was never used. One has to wonder about the world view of reporters who feel free to classify various people and groups as "far right" but never find any person or group that deserves the term "far left."

Words have an impact, and sometimes we can discover the perspective of those writing stories by the way they use those words.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.