Jens Erik Gould is Editor in chief and co-developer of The Knife Media.
The public’s trust in the news media is waning, and many in the industry have suggested that solving the problem of "fake news" will help. While it's certainly important to detect inaccurate reporting and fabricated news stories, it is just as crucial, if not more so, for journalists and news consumers to reduce spin, bias and faulty reasoning. These distortions are more prevalent in established media outlets than substantial factual errors. They’re also often more difficult to identify, affecting many people's understanding of the facts when they don’t even know it. For this reason, The Knife Media, led by Rosa Laura Junco and Jens Erik Gould, focuses on identifying and analyzing these distortions so that people can be more aware of them.
This is important because media distortion creates numerous problems in our society:
The upside is that by spotting distortion and consciously choosing higher quality information, we can foster more of these very things — critical thinking, civil discourse and democracy. Jens Erik Gould and The Knife team like to put it this way: people read the "Nutrition Facts" labels on their food to know if what they're eating is healthy. But there's currently no equivalent for the information people consume, even though it affects their decisions and behavior on a daily basis. So, how can people discern the quality of their news? That's where The Knife Media's ratings come in — they make invisible biases visible.
The Knife’s ratings quantify how objective — or not — each news report is, so that news consumers can know the quality of the information they're about to consume, and choose accordingly. If people want to read a top news story — on anything from a Trump tweet, the Russia investigation or a sexual misconduct allegation — they can know before they even begin which news outlets have the most objective coverage. They can also see a full breakdown of the words and sentences that contained bias, so they learn how to spot these distortions on their own.
A process that measures objectivity can't be haphazard or based on opinion. It needs to have scientific standards, and that's what makes The Knife's rating system unique. Multiple experts analyze every word, sentence and paragraph for spin (language that is subjective or vague), slant (cherry-picking information to favor one point of view) and logic (the degree to which conclusions are based on sound and valid reasoning). The team then determines the overall total integrity of each article using The Knife’s proprietary process, which was developed by Rosa Laura Junco, Jens Erik Gould and other members of The Knife team.
Having these ratings helps consumers become more empowered to proactively choose the type of news they wish to support. Our news forms the basis for how we perceive the world, and we use it to make important decisions in our daily lives. We'd all be better off if that information were more objective.