Many media outlets do not properly label content. You can be easily deceived by media bias when you think you’re reading news, but are actually reading someone’s opinion or analysis.
These guides can help you learn how to spot the difference.
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News: What happened.
Analysis: What happened and why — writer considers facts and draws conclusions.
Opinion: What I think about what happened.
How to Spot the Difference Between News, Analysis and Opinion: Examples
- attributes information to a source
- uses quotes, cites source
- describes what is objectively observable (something was said, something happened)
- a truly balanced and unbiased piece includes a quote from the other side (in this fictional example, the perspective of law enforcement. Another perspective could be from a bystander or another organization who has a different account of what happened)
- explains what events may mean
- someone with experience, knowledge, and background considers evidence and interprets events
- conclusions are drawn based on evidence (they may or may not be accurate conclusions)
- offers judgement, viewpoint, belief, feelings, or statement that is not conclusive (notice the writer does not directly describe what happened)
- language is colored by subjective spin words and phrases
Julie Mastrine is the Director of Marketing at AllSides. She has a Lean Right bias.
Note: This piece was updated Oct. 9, 2020 after an AllSides reader sent feedback about implicit bias in the "News" example. They wrote:
The example assumed that the organization making the statement was unbiased and that their assertion that protesters had not become unruly was true. I know it is just a hypothetical example, but a poor one —particularly in the current environment — because it displays bias in favor of "civil liberty"-type organizations [that are] against law enforcement. “Civil liberty" organizations are essentially attorneys or agents for those who feel their rights have been violated. The have a fiduciary responsibility to get the best deal for their client...period. Whether their client is right, wrong, lying or otherwise is irrelevant to that responsibility.
Law enforcement has been given a black eye by anecdotal instances that frequently don’t stand up under full statical and context analysis. That is why the cops are often acquitted or not even charged when all of the facts and unedited body-cam footage has been reviewed.
I know that wasn’t the point of the article, but I suspect there are precious few situations where law enforcement has used tear gas unprovoked against peaceful protesters. I think you could have used a more likely example to make the same point.
This is an important point in our current landscape. My intention with the "News" graphic was to demonstrate how quotes can be written without spin; reporting on a quote doesn't necessarily endorse the viewpoint of the organization giving it. To be truly unbiased, the reporter would have to include the other side as well — in this fictional example, a quote from law enforcement or a bystander perhaps arguing protesters had indeed become violent/unruly, or from a group that has a different account or perspective on what happened. The piece has been updated to include this!
- Julie M.