State-run news agencies are often known for being biased in favor of the government they serve. So if you’re looking for the latest news about the Trump-Putin meetings, you might think a Russian state-owned news outlet, such as RT, may not provide the most balanced coverage. (In this case, you’re correct.) Does that mean that independent outlets will typically provide less slanted reporting by comparison? Not this time
Of the four articles we analyzed, Politico’s coverage was the most slanted, but only by one percent. Politico earned a 79 percent slant rating, followed by RT with 78 percent, and CNN ranked third with 73 percent. (In The Knife’s rating system, the more an article emphasizes only one point of view, the higher its slant rating). So you’re not necessarily getting more balanced coverage with an independent outlet — you’re just getting a different bias.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison. Bear in mind that both articles stem from the following quote regarding alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election: Trump said he believes that Putin “means it” when he said “he didn’t meddle.”
Depending on your political views, one of these perspectives may more agreeable to you. But there’s a downside either way, because neither provides the full picture. There may be validity to both perspectives, and there may be others beyond these two that could afford a more complete understanding of the story.
Another downside in these articles is that the bias is mostly supported by opinion, not by data. So it leaves many unanswered questions, such as: Given Trump has addressed the Russia issue many times, why are his comments so important now? Does it have something to do with the recent indictmentsmade in the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Does Trump’s opinion of Putin materially affect the U.S. investigations into alleged Russian interference and, if so, how? How specifically would Trump’s position expose the country to future attacks?
That’s the thing with bias: you walk away from an article with a strong impression, but you’re not exactly sure what it stands on. Maybe the people pushing certain perspectives in the media win, but in these bias battles, readers take the greater loss.
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