The Biden Administration placed new restrictions on oil and gas companies operating out of the Gulf of Mexico after settling with a coalition of environmental groups seeking to protect the endangered Rice whale species. Coverage of the story from Fox News (Right bias) framed the new restrictions exclusively through the voices of those critical of the new rules.
This specific case provides a great example of how biased media outlets can utilize subtle reporting tools and decisions to slant the presentation of a story.
In the article, Fox included a photo of President Biden superimposed over a sign reflecting gas prices at nearly $7.50 a gallon.
The caption of the photo reads: “The average price of gasoline hit $3.85 per gallon on Tuesday, up more than 7% month-over-month, according to AAA data.” So, the image that Fox used in the article is not reflective of current gas prices, and if readers skim over the caption of the image, the graphic may mislead them into thinking that gas prices are currently higher than they truly are. In addition, the image of Biden in front of the inflated prices may imply to readers that Biden is the sole or primary reason for the high price of gas.
The graphic is commonly used in Fox News articles. An older article using the same graphic captioned it: “Chevron gas station in Menlo Park, California, US, on Thursday, June 9, 2022,” indicating the gas prices shown in the photo are from over a year ago. The average gas price in Menlo Park, California as of the publishing of this article is right around $5.30.
By displaying Biden next to an image of high gas prices and reflecting gas prices as higher than they are, Fox News presents an anti-Biden skew.
This anti-Biden bias is hammered home in the article's subheadline, which reads: “Biden admin targeting oil and gas sector 'at a time of continued inflation with prices rising at the pump,' industry group says.”
Bias by Viewpoint Placement
This article was featured at the top of Fox News’ homepage on Aug 22, 2023. Prioritizing an article that presents Biden’s energy policy in a negative light as the most important article that day demonstrates bias by viewpoint placement and story choice.
In the Fox News piece, quotes from the president of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) made up close to half the article. The only other direct quotes came from the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Vice President of Upstream Policy. The NOIA and API are energy trade associations representing companies that the Fox article determines will be negatively impacted by new regulations, which will impose speed limits, visibility mandates, curfews for sailing through a protected region of the Gulf where the endangered Rice whale is known to inhabit, and more.
By quoting only these organizations and omitting any comments from the Biden administration or environmental organizations, Fox News displayed bias by omission.
While quoting individuals who will be negatively impacted by a regulatory decision is important, the article does not provide any quotes from sources in favor of the new regulations.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Sierra Club, and the National Marine Fisheries Service are all mentioned in the Fox News article as either advocating for or enforcing the new restrictions on behalf of the endangered species, but nobody from these organizations is quoted, nor is there any indication that the reporter made an attempt to contact any members of these organizations.
Had a member of one of these organizations been interviewed for the article, it would have balanced the perspective of those against the restrictions with the perspective of those in favor, allowing readers to understand both the pros and cons of the new rules. The positive impact — the protection of an endangered whale species — would be presented alongside the negative, increased regulations on oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico, giving the reader an unbiased view.
The proponents of the new regulations would most likely have noted that the Rice whale is one of the “world’s most endangered baleen whales,” according to the Marine Mammal Commission, with an estimated population of 51.
But Fox News did not offer a balanced view, instead connecting the actions of a Democratic president with a potential increase in energy prices.
Through unbalanced viewpoint placement and photo bias, Fox News provides readers with the narrative that this Biden energy policy is bad with no redeeming qualities. Whether the policy is good or bad is an opinion of the writer and should be labeled as such rather than presented as objective news reporting.
But by employing biased techniques such as viewpoint bias, slant, and photo bias, a reporter is able to present a heavily unbalanced and opinion-driven story as regular news.