Millions are turning to dodgy ‘news’ channels to confirm their biases
By Jeff Browne
Fox News has always been a whipping boy of the liberal media ecosystem because of its generally blatant partisanship during prime time and because of studies that show its viewers often aren’t as informed on current events as are viewers, readers and listeners of other “mainstream media.”
But when reporters on the news side of Fox News began acknowledging President Trump’s loss in the Nov. 3 election, the president started steering viewers to other conservative networks — specifically NewsMax and One America News — that have parroted the president’s baseless claims of election interference, claims that have been thrown out of every court in which they’ve been introduced, including this week in the U.S. Supreme Court.
As we have stated many times in this space over the past four years, Quill and Scroll’s founding principle, “truth,” dictates that we urge scholastic media to cover news with an unwavering commitment to that principle, and not to any particular political philosophy. To that end, we are nonpartisan.
But that doesn’t mean that journalistic output is binary, that one news outlet is just a different side of the same coin as another outlet, and that the only difference is the “slant” they put on the news.
That’s why we urge students and their advisers to look at resources such as Media Bias Fact Check. There you can check out what kind of bias a news outlet might have, but also whether that outlet is reliable in the news that it presents. It also provides information about the news outlet’s ownership, and if that may influence its coverage. It also includes categories for conspiracy sites, pseudo-science and satire.
For example, if you go to Media Bias Fact Check, you can easily search for One America News and NewsMax. On the other end of the spectrum, you can also find entries for CNN, MSNBC and hundreds of print publications. Researchers at MBFC analyze the choice of stories, words and other factors to determine if an outlet is biased, and then they research to see if that outlet has passed fact checks of its work.
This is what their entry for NewsMax looks like:
The arrow indicates bias, while the chart below it indicates reliability and credibility. NewsMax’s entry then provides a detailed explanation for their rating, including links out to fact checks on their reporting. As you can see, NewsMax has a solid conservative bias, and if you read more, you’ll find that they have some credibility, but they’ve also failed a few key fact checks, including lies about the recent election and Trump’s claims of fraud.
MBFC gives Fox News a similar rating as NewsMax, but the areas of disinformation differ. For Trump’s new favorite network, MBFC moves that yellow dot to the “Extreme” right, and drops the credibility rating to “LOW.”
OK, but what about those notoriously liberal networks, CNN and MSNBC?
It turns out CNN is almost as far to the left as NewsMax and Fox are to the right, and that MSNBC is about the same as CNN, though in both cases, the “MIXED” rating on reliability comes from the networks’ opinion shows skewing the overall rating.
So where can student journalists go to find reliable material for their own reporting? On MBFC, simply click on the navigation button “Least Biased” and you’ll see a list of more than 100 news organizations led by the Associated Press and the News Literacy Project.
The most remarkable thing about the “Least Biased” list is the number of local newspapers, news sites and news channels. And yet those are the news outlets that we tend to read the least in these hyper-partisan times. And the Los Angeles Times recently argued that the “death” of local news has exacerbated our polarized political climate.
In the end, student journalists should be covering their schools, their peers and their communities, so there shouldn’t be a great reliance on national outlets to help you with your research. Besides, so many of those organizations are biased, even if just slightly. Rely on proven reliable local journalism. In a democratic republic that requires an informed citizenry, you and your local reporters may be the last line of defense against propaganda and disinformation.