Immigration has been a highly debated issue in America since its earliest days. And to stay informed on hot ticket issues, many Americans look to the media to inform them of how our policies affect their daily lives. No matter how diligent a consumer of the media thinks they may be, it is important to be able to detect bias and check the facts. With every issue brought to the forefront, whether via primetime or print, the powers that be are trying to get their particular point across. Due to the nature of our current administration, media involvement in elections and day-to-day reporting has been highlighted.
However, when trying to persuade Americans that a particular group or party has their best interest sometimes the reports stray from the facts. Two news sources that lean in completely opposite directions are Breitbart News Network and Slate. Current events that illustrate a myriad of bias between these two polarized sources include the murder of Mollie Tibbetts and the travel ban to some countries associated with the practice of Islam. Slate is an online magazine that covers news and current events with a perspective that is far left. Breitbart News Network is an American news and opinion website which displays far right or conservative viewpoints. (Allsides)
Bias by spin involves media being reported in a way that carries an undertone highlighting a particular idea or side. In this case, liberalism or conservatism. Breitbart Analysis The Case of Mollie Tibbetts recently rose to popularity this year and the conversation about American immigration laws continued. Upon reading an article presented by Breitbart News Network titled, Autopsy: Illegal Alien Allegedly Stabbed Mollie Tibbetts to Death, it became apparent what type of bias was displayed. Due to the fact that most modern consumers of media merely glance over the headlines, it is important to keep them informative and factual. In this case, the title is informative and factual, but the tone behind the words chosen does set up even the most unbiased reader to feel a way. Using the phrase, illegal alien, instead of the alleged murder’s name appeals to the emotions of Americans who may feel strongly about stricter immigration laws.
The word autopsy is also used in a way that makes the article seem more official, truthful, or even scientific. One may read this and simply believe everything they have read is true and unbiased due to the words in the title. Switching out someone’s name for a negative description for their immigration status seeks to dehumanize said individual. Right after the title is a mugshot of the alleged murderer, Cristhian Bahena-Rivera, next to a selfie of Mollie Tibbetts. The selfie of Mollie has her smiling from ear-to-ear while the photo of Cristhian Bahena-Rivera includes him in what looks like a prison outfit. (Binder, Breitbart.com)
Directly under this photo is a caption that says, “The illegal alien accused of murdering 20-year-old college student Mollie Tibbetts allegedly stabbed her to death, an autopsy report reveals.” This statement while true is arranged in a way that is charged with undertones of negativity towards Bahena-Rivera. The word autopsy is used again to inform readers that this article is presenting scientific or factual evidence. John Binder, the author of this particular article, omits Bahena-Rivera’s name once again and uses the phrase, illegal immigrant. It could possibly be true that Cristhian is here without proper documentation but there is no evidence in the article up to this point that explains this. Later in the article, Binder, goes on to report that the farm owner where Bahena-Rivera worked failed to properly verify his status upon hiring him. Binder keeps the farm owner anonymous which takes blame away from him and his particular inaction. Binder could have maybe investigated this issue further and reported if this was the first time the farm worker hired someone without a thorough screening first. (Binder, Breitbart.com)
Slate Analysis After analysis of the Slate Magazine article, we can deduce that there is a bias by spin. At the end of the article, Elliot Hannon displayed their bias by adding in opinion and portraying it as fact. Hannon writes, “President Trump has consistently and purposefully tried to paint all undocumented immigrants as criminals, conflating families fleeing poverty and violence with members of the gang MS-13.” The use of the word all implies that the statement is a proven fact. Elliot then goes on to portray Fox News and Trump Administration in a negative light by mentioning that both parties were reporting on this case instead of the pending criminal case against Trump and his associates. (Hannon, Slate.com)
This article should be about the untimely death of a college student but instead has turned into an anti-Trump article. If a publication were truly objective, it would not spin the reader to think a certain way or not support a particular publication. In this case, we can see that Hannon is not supportive of conservative viewpoints. Elliot insets many subjective statements about the administration that are not necessarily related to the case. Within the article, there is a screencap of the Fox News webpage labeled, “Fox News Priorities,” insinuating that conservatives are not prioritizing the death of Mollie Tibbetts. (Hannon, Slate.com)
Bias by story selection could be defined by a news media outlet choosing specific stories to express a particular nonpartisan view or push a certain agenda which does not reflect objectivity. Slate Analysis On April 24, 2018, Mark Joseph Stern reported about the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the travel ban issued by our current Administration. This story was strategically selected as a way to steer readers in a certain direction. Slate magazine furthers the idea that the Trump Administration is biased negatively towards Islam. This could sway consumers to not use objectivity when evaluating certain stories. Within this particular article, there are many words that are added and placed to strengthen bias by selection. This includes describing the order as “hastily crafted, poorly drafted.” These are not words that are synonymous with nonpartisan reporting. (Stern, Slate.com)
Breitbart New Analysis The headline reads, “Travel Ban Countries: U.S. Imported Foreign Population Nearly 4X the Size of Beverly Hills.” We can detect that this story was selected in order to appeal to affluent consumers. It appears to their fear that the United States is becoming overpopulated by immigrants. Binder then goes on to explain his headline by providing statistics that America has allowed immigrants from the travel ban countries to permanently settle in the US. Towards the end of the article John Binder adds commentary that, “since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there have been at least 580 individuals convicted of terrorism with 380 of those individuals being foreign-born.” This could be seen as fear mongering and adding to discrimination of people that practice Islam by grouping them with terrorism when there are extremists from all types of religious backgrounds. So to focus on one religion is not objective reporting and shows bias by selection. (Binder, Slate.com)
Bias by omission includes reporting that fails to display the facts on a story in order to portray a certain side in a favorable light. Slate Magazine Analysis While reading both articles we can see that Slate Magazine does not aim to inform its readers on both sides. It does include both sides which at the surface does seem unbiased. However, we can infer the bias by how the opposing side is portrayed. Slate magazine made sure to include comments and statements that were not reflective of facts. The article about the travel ban did not even include any information about the point of views from a right centered news source. And in the Mollie Tibbetts article, there is an image depicting the conservative outlet, Fox News, with negative comments that followed. (Slate.com) Breitbart News Network The bias by omission is quite apparent when it comes to Breitbart New Network. They do not include a liberal viewpoint. When they look for another perspective they use reports from Fox News. In both aforementioned articles, John Binder omits a liberal side which could sway a consumer to think that an opposing viewpoint or liberal approach to media is not only unimportant but irrelevant. When reporting the facts, all perspectives should be presented and left to the readers to analyze and decide which they agree with. (Breitbart.com)
In a world where the citizens of America are looking to get their news delivered as fast, frequent and convenient as possible, the media has a duty to present unbiased news. However, this is seldom the case. We have built most of our media on sensationalism that garners high ratings. Instead of presenting events in a clear and nonpartisan way, we have seen that there are many different types of bias to convince people that one side is better or more knowledgeable than the other. Maybe if readers supported or demanded a more impartial method of reporting our media would be delivered without bias. So where do we go from here and how do we improve? There may not be a solid answer but there could be ways of improvement. Sites that check the facts or detail the bias within individual media sources are a great place to start. Maybe if Americans realized how biased their news was they could make an effort to view a wider variety of sources. Freedom of speech is a right that is as old as America itself but there are no clear rules that restrict media on what they can and cannot report on. These rules are supposed to protect citizens from the government. But who is going to protect our interests when it comes to reporting and media?