State-run news outlets are known for strong bias that portrays their governments favorably, and opponents negatively. That’s not a surprise given that these agencies are part of the government. Yet many times, while their articles feel biased, the slant isn’t that easy to spot — unless you know where to look for it. The writing itself tends to be more data-based than that of traditional, corporate-owned media outlets in the U.S. and other countries, which use more sensational language and blur the line between fact and opinion. Instead, state-owned media coverage often omits key data that, if included, would provide a more thorough understanding of a story. Take a look at five recent examples.
1. TASS (Russia)What they reported: The head of Russia’s anti-doping organization said Russia plans to “tighten responsibility” for athletes that use prohibited performing-enhancing drugs and anyone who facilitates doping. TASS also reported that Russia passed a law in November 2016 that would fine people who “encouraged” athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs. (Jan. 25, 2018)
What’s missing: In December, the International Olympic Committee bannedRussian athletes from competing at this year’s Winter Olympics. A July 2016 investigative report concluded that the Russian Ministry of Sport systematically manipulated drug tests to protect Russian athletes who doped. Russia’s November 2016 law came after this report was made public.
Why it matters: TASS’ article suggests Russia is truly concerned about eliminating cheating, rather than reacting to international scrutiny and possible sanctions. This paints Russia in a more favorable light, while the rest of the world is portraying it as dishonest.
2. Rodong Sinmun (North Korea)What they reported: North Korean state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said the U.S. was making “extremely unusual military moves targeting” North Korea. It mentioned U.S. ship movements, an “anti-terror” special ops force to be sent to South Korea during the Winter Olympics, and an upcoming ICBM test launch by the U.S. (Jan. 25, 2018)
What’s missing: The media outlet didn’t say how regularly the U.S. performs these kinds of moves. The U.S. said it has performed annual joint military exercises with South Korea for about forty years. Media outlets reported that the U.S. has sent “anti-terror” special ops to the Olympics at least twice since 2004. The U.S. reported it test launched ICBM missiles multiple times last year and in previous years.
Why it matters: Not pointing out that the U.S. performs these sorts of military maneuvers on a regular basis may support the viewpoint that it is attempting to provoke North Korea, and therefore, the U.S. is to blame for any tensions between the two countries.
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Jens Erik Gould
Jens is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News