Thursday, February 13, 2020

#44 / Messed Up By Media

A friend of mine sent me a chart that purports to provide guidance on media bias in online media. Objective guidance! The idea is that it is actually possible to penetrate through media bias, and to reach some sort of objective and unbiased understanding of the news. That is certainly an intriguing idea. We are ever more aware that the president isn't completely wrong when he talks about "fake news." Some call it "junk news." There is a lot of that going around, and much of the information we get, and that we use to make all sorts of important decisions, reflects the source of the news, more than the reality of what is being reported. 

The organization that has produced the chart above (which is updated frequently) is called Ad Fontes Media. The woman who started the organization is named Vanessa Otero. Otero is "a practicing patent attorney in the Denver, Colorado area. She has a B.A. in English from UCLA and a J.D. from the University of Denver. She is the original creator of the Media Bias Chart, and founded Ad Fontes Media in February of 2018 to fulfill the need revealed by the popularity of the chart–namely, the need for a map to help people navigate the complex media landscape, and for comprehensive content analysis of media sources themselves." 

That biographical information about Otero comes from the Ad Fontes' website. That website also informs us that the "Ad Fontes" name is not intended to reference "advertising." According to the Ad Fontes' website, "'Ad Fontes' is Latin for 'to the source,' because at the heart of what Ad Fontes Media does is look at the source—analyze the very content itself—to rank it. We are not measuring consumer opinions, clicks and views, or 'user engagement.' Plenty of other companies do that in order to sell ads, and we think that is part of the problem we face in the current media landscape."

In the video below, Otero explains her chart, and how it can be used. Bottom line, if you trust her ranking methodologies, you can trust news from the sources near the top and near the center of her always updated chart. These are the news sources that Ad Fontes believes to be relatively unbiased, reliable, and accurate.

Making use of the chart does require some work, of course, but for those who post news items to social media accounts, it probably is a good idea to check out the possible bias of your source of news, when you are thinking about passing a news item along to others. 

Ad Fontes is not your only option, either. Click this link, for instance, to find out about "NewsGuard," an online service which promises to provide users with "detailed ratings of more than 4,000 news websites that account for 95% of online engagement with news, [with] ratings displayed as icons next to links on all the major search engines, social media sites, and platforms."

It may be that we should think about using the Ad Fontes chart, or NewsGuard, or similar services, in the same way that prudent persons wear "protection" before engaging in sex with unfamiliar partners. 

Safe news. Safe sex. Two good ideas!

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