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An Experimental Evaluation of Readers' Perceptions of Media Bias
Unformatted Document Text:  Media Bias - 3 An Experimental Examination of Readers’ Perceptions of Media Bias There has probably been concern about the possibility of bias in news media for as long as there have been news media, for an obvious reason: if people rely on information for reasoning, then whomever controls the information has the potential to control the people’s decision-making. Examination of possible media biases and their potential consequences has tended to follow two distinct branches. The first is the examination of the content of news media, whether by rhetorical, critical, or content analytic procedure. Much of this research focuses on the coverage of American presidential campaigns: for instance, D’Alessio and Allen (2000) found 59 published content analyses of presidential campaigns from 1948 through 1996, covering specific media including newspaper articles, TV news stories, news magazine photos, and even the expression on newscasters’ faces as they read the candidates’ names. Other content analyses examine the coverage of campaigns for house, senate or local races (Fico, Clogston & Pizante, 1986), or the coverage of women (Davis, 1982; Luebke, 1985), black Americans (Martindale, 1985) or fundamentalist Christians (Key & Moy, 2002), to name a few. In each of these studies the researchers examined the content of news reports seeking the measure the degree to which they are balanced, or "equal" in treatment to all sides of an event or issue, with the presumption that a lack of balance is an indication of some form of bias. The results of these studies are mixed. Although coverage of presidential campaigns seems reasonably balanced, at least as far as the major party candidates are concerned, conclusions on other issues often tend to bear out the perspective of the researcher in question: the right wing Media Research Center regularly reports having discovered liberal biases even as the left wing organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting returns the favor in terms of conservative biases. Less thoroughly developed is the second branch of the consideration of media bias, that of examining the perceptions of bias in various media by their audiences. While actual biases can be consequential in their influence on users of media, their effects can be moderated though training in media literacy and the evaluation of incoming messages. If users perceive inordinate bias, however, regardless of whether reports are genuinely biased or based on simple misinterpretation, the perception of bias discourages the use of news media. There is good reason to believe that

Authors: D'Alessio, Dave.
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Media Bias - 3
An Experimental Examination of
Readers’ Perceptions of Media Bias
There has probably been concern about the possibility of bias in news media for as long as there have been
news media, for an obvious reason: if people rely on information for reasoning, then whomever controls the
information has the potential to control the people’s decision-making.
Examination of possible media biases and their potential consequences has tended to follow two distinct
branches. The first is the examination of the content of news media, whether by rhetorical, critical, or content analytic
procedure. Much of this research focuses on the coverage of American presidential campaigns: for instance, D’Alessio
and Allen (2000) found 59 published content analyses of presidential campaigns from 1948 through 1996, covering
specific media including newspaper articles, TV news stories, news magazine photos, and even the expression on
newscasters’ faces as they read the candidates’ names.
Other content analyses examine the coverage of campaigns for house, senate or local races (Fico, Clogston &
Pizante, 1986), or the coverage of women (Davis, 1982; Luebke, 1985), black Americans (Martindale, 1985) or
fundamentalist Christians (Key & Moy, 2002), to name a few. In each of these studies the researchers examined the
content of news reports seeking the measure the degree to which they are balanced, or "equal" in treatment to all sides
of an event or issue, with the presumption that a lack of balance is an indication of some form of bias.
The results of these studies are mixed. Although coverage of presidential campaigns seems reasonably
balanced, at least as far as the major party candidates are concerned, conclusions on other issues often tend to bear out
the perspective of the researcher in question: the right wing Media Research Center regularly reports having discovered
liberal biases even as the left wing organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting returns the favor in terms of
conservative biases.
Less thoroughly developed is the second branch of the consideration of media bias, that of examining the
perceptions of bias in various media by their audiences. While actual biases can be consequential in their influence on
users of media, their effects can be moderated though training in media literacy and the evaluation of incoming
messages. If users perceive inordinate bias, however, regardless of whether reports are genuinely biased or based on
simple misinterpretation, the perception of bias discourages the use of news media. There is good reason to believe that


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