The ultimate search for a least-biased news source
Everyone has their go-to news sources, but are these sources giving us reliable news or just what we want to hear? It is difficult to find an answer to that question, as many sources are tainted with preconceived opinions. The best option is to search for the most objective news source. Though objectivity depends on multiple factors, including our own beliefs; a person’s viewpoint on a certain topic could easily influence what they believe to be truthful. For example, if a person's favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate, then they might automatically assume that the best ice cream flavor is, in fact, chocolate. Whereas, another person’s favorite type of ice cream is cookie dough, so they believe that the greatest flavor of ice cream is, you guessed it, cookie dough. Neither of these people may be correct, but because of their own opinions weighing in on their thoughts, they strongly trust that they are right. This is exactly the same mindset that we approach with any other situation, including news. But when it comes to news, it is extremely important to be informed in an unbiased manner. This could mean reading articles on both sides of the spectrum or finding the ‘most objective news source’; which is precisely what we have done.
To discover the most impartial news source, we gathered sources most viewed by the Stevenson community members and some others we considered to be interesting to rank based on their known biases. We used this interactive media bias chart as a resource to determine the position of each news source. We chose to evaluate a mix of news sources with varying biases, the following sources we chose are : The Hill, Fox News, New York Times, New York Post, National Review and CNN. When looking at each source, we noticed that they all had similar headline stories about the approval of the 1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 relief bill. So we chose this as our specific story to evaluate from each site. The articles we evaluated are linked here: National Review article , The Hill article , Fox News article , New York Post article , CNN article , and New York Times article. After picking our sources, we created our own ranking system to decide the overall objectivity of each article. By deciding what the main components of an objective article are, we selected our categories to help us evaluate:
Headline/titlePoints: 1(biased and exaggerated) – 5 (factual and straightforward)
Tone of article/language used 1 (persuasive and leading) – 5 (factual, not at all persuasive)
Quotes used and who is being quoted1(only quotes people who are of a specific party/group) – 5 (diversified group of people being quoted with different opinions)
Viewpoints provided: 1(talking from one point only) – 5 (showing all opinions on specific matter)
Facts included: 1 (small number of actual facts, and not clearly detailed) – 5 (article is primarily fact-based and has great detail)
A headline that is controversial or unclear will most likely be attractive to the reader, which is the reason news sources may utilize this to get people’s attention. However, it does not serve in an objective delivery of information. All of the articles we encountered had simple and accurate titles earning 5 points each.
Tone and language of the article is another factor that we took into account. The tone of an article or language used can be biased by using words that subtly discredit an opposing viewpoint. The tone will determine if the use of various angles is objective or rather an attempt to prove some views as false or incorrect. One random example is these two simple sentences: The jury decides that the criminal is guilty. The jury decides that the defendant is guilty. Though there is only a one-word difference, the first sentence implies that the author thinks that the defendant is guilty even before the verdict is announced.
Multiple viewpoints in one article allow for a better understanding of the full picture around the topic. Quotes are a great way to show multiple viewpoints because they allow for a direct understanding of a specific viewpoint. We wanted to find a new source that provided multiple perspectives in the interest of creating a non-biased report. When reading the CNN article, we found multiple quotes shown; but are they relevant to the story? The use of quotes is not the significant part, but rather how the quotes help to add information and perspective to the story. The unsuccessful use of quotes, with the apparent rationale to skew readers to a side earned CNN a 3 out of 5.
Each component may affect the complete objectivity of the article. In short, what we were looking for was a diversity of factual information.
As totaled above, the article from The Hill received the best score in our ranking system with a sum of 24 points. The headline reads, “House approves $1.9T COVID-19 relief in partisan vote.” This introductory sentence is straightforward and factual, it does not try to convey a certain opinion. The Hill article went on to receive a perfect score for the tone of the article/language used. The author of the article didn’t employ unnecessary words in order to convey emotion in the mind of the reader. In the categories of quotes used and who is being quoted, and viewpoints provided the article was granted 5 points for each. Out of all of the other articles, the article by The Hill showcased the most opinions on Biden’s American Rescue Plan and supported that information with a number of votes from both democrats and republicans as well as quotes from each side. For the final category of facts included the article earned a score of four out of five. Though it included an assortment of opinions, it didn’t incorporate as many facts on the bill as expected. These combined scores add up to a total of 24 points, the highest number out of all the articles evaluated.
It is important to remember that even though we tried our best to look at these articles objectively we might have missed some details. Another note — a common news source is Apple News, but Apple News is a compilation of stories from many different news sources.