Media Bias and Critically Evaluating Information

By Tory Thorkelson

In 2016, Vanessa Otero created a chart showing how biased various media sources available in the US were (see: http://www.allgeneralizationsarefalse.com/). While there was some disagreement about how she categorized the various media outlets like Infowars, for example (see: http://www.businessinsider.com/infowars-chart-media-organizations-2016-12 ), the fact that this chart sparked off a debate raises our awareness of where we get our information from and how it is controlled by the groups that provide this information for public consumption.

This was the starting point for getting my business communication students to do the same thing for their country’s media (South Korea, in most cases) for which no similar charts seem to be available.

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Step 1: Show a video like “Who owns the media”

 

Possible Questions:

Who are the top media sources in America?

How serious is it that this small group of companies owns most of the well-known media sources?

How independent are the media in your country?

Step 2: Hand out the 2016 and 2018 versions (Charts 1.0 and 3.1 on the website listed above) of Otero’s charts. Have students circle or underline the names they recognize. Now, have them research terms like Liberal, Conservative, Neutral, Biased, Propaganda, Fabricated, Partisan, Left, Right and any other terms that are mentioned on the charts that they may not know. As follow up, have them research one outlet from each category of the charts so they can see what made Otero categorize them this way.

This website/worksheet might help:

http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/resources/educational/handouts/broadcast_news/bw_bias_in_the_news.cfm

Step 3: Hand out a blank version of the Media Bias chart (available on the Otero website above) and ask students to make a chart for the media outlets used by their friends, family, classmates and members of their society to hand in a week or so from today’s class.

Step 4: Have them bring a copy of their chart to class and discuss it with a group of classmates or present it to the class.

Questions:

  • How does your chart agree with or differ from your classmate’s?
  • Did you find the same sources or different ones? Did you out all of the media outlets in the same places? Why or why not?
  • Did they have any news sources you did not? If so, where would you add them on your chart? Why?

Step 5: Hand out a list of media sources and/or a report on the media in their country to see if they included all of them on their chart and if they agree with the analysis of their media after doing this project (see links below).

Ultimately, this activity probably will not change your students’ minds about their favorite sources of information but it will hopefully make them reconsider how their favorite sources may be tailoring or changing their version of the news to suit the biases of their main audience(s) rather than just telling their stories based on the facts and nothing but the facts in all cases.

Sources/Resources:

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