About

I’m a practicing patent attorney in the Denver, Colorado area, and I have a B.A. in English from UCLA and a J.D. from the University of Denver. I’m not a journalist by training, and I don’t claim to be one. So why should you listen to me about the quality of news sources? You shouldn’t. In fact, you shouldn’t listen to anyone who tells you that you should think or believe a certain thing a certain way.

But you’ve come to my site to find out what I have to say about the news anyway, so I’ll lay out a few reasons why you could choose to value my assessments. Consider them and then determine for yourself whether this information is valuable to you.

One reason is that I’ve been thinking about, studying, and writing about media assessment and categorization for the past couple of years. That’s not a long time, but given that the present media landscape is unlike anything that existed before, the very concept and field of systematic “media categorization” in the digital era is nascent, so I submit that there aren’t a lot of experts in it yet (there are some, but not as many as in well-established fields). Journalists themselves are engaged in figuring out how to report better in this new landscape; I’m focused on defining what the landscape IS.  I believe the field of media categorization will need to be developed over the coming years so readers can cope with all the information available now. I hope to contribute to this endeavor significantly.

Another reason you could value my assessments is that my formal educational training is in English and law, which is focused on analytical reading and writing. That is a key kind of training one could reasonably rely on for the work of analyzing a large amount of written material.

Another reason is that in my profession as a patent attorney, I have a lot of practice explaining a technical, involved idea through words and pictures, so that someone who initially doesn’t understand the idea can grasp it quickly. I decided to explain the media landscape in pictures and my original media ranking chart resonated with a lot of people very quickly. Popularity alone doesn’t make something right or good, but I respectfully submit that I am making a good faith effort to substantiate something popular (a picture of the media landscape) with something that is right and good (extensive research, data, and analysis that backs up the rankings). I’m working to convey hard concepts about what is in our news to people of all levels of knowledge about the news, and especially to those with very little knowledge about the news.

I’m aware that there are others who are working on these and related issues, and I am aware that there is much that I do not know. The most extraordinary thing this project has done for me personally is connect me to the people who have done good work in this field, and to others who haven’t, but who have really good ideas. I have been able to improve this chart over a few versions because many thoughtful, intelligent, and kind people have engaged with me in discussions about the nuances of categorizing the news. I seek to improve the quality of this work, so I read each comment and consider them carefully (and respond eventually!) Please bring your well-supported ideas to the table. I’m not stubborn. And bring your suggestions for other ways you would like to see this information presented. I’ll do my best to  make it happen.

I look forward to tackling the hard questions about how we can navigate the media landscape, and come out better for it, with you.

——————–

Before I made that media chart, I wrote about other stuff too. Here’s what I originally wrote about the title of this blog.

All generalizations are false, including this one. –Mark Twain*

Really, just MOST generalizations are false. Don’t get me wrong–generalizations are often useful and necessary as a language construct–but ideas that are summed up in absolute terms (especially the ones that include the words “always,” “all,” “never,” and “none”) are usually easily disproved.

Often, much of our civic discourse is reduced into brief generalizations, analogies, platitudes, pithy statements, or–worst of all–memes.** Many ideas are short on words due to the nature of the mediums on which they are written. Social media posts and bumper stickers only hold so many words, after all. Briefly stated ideas are fine sometimes, but the danger of using them as the basis of arguments is that they often fall apart under scrutiny. Even seemingly innocuous statements like “Freedom isn’t free” and “It doesn’t matter what other people think,” though well-intentioned, are just not logically sound. Just because something sounds clever on a bumper sticker or a meme doesn’t mean the underlying idea is true. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it can also be the soul of bad arguments. Unfortunately, people try to convince each other of the truth of their opinions through generalizations, and they wonder why they seldom work. Here, I’ll do my best to take a deeper look at some briefly-worded arguments and sayings that make me sigh with exasperation, and patiently deconstruct them.

I’ll also post about other topics I get excited about. This can include a lot of things, so there won’t be just one thematic structure to all these posts. I’ll discuss politics, religion, sports, relationships, interpersonal communication, networking and public speaking, and sometimes law, because I am a lawyer and I can’t help it.

Thanks for reading and thinking.

*The internets attribute this quote to Mark Twain, which I found disappointing because I swear I thought of it on my own as well. I quote him here for the purposes of integrity, and I suppose Mark Twain’s thoughts were floating around in the ether when I stumbled upon them.

**Note: The author finds the use of memes completely appropriate for the purposes of non-argumentative humor. Like, any use of cats to make a joke on a meme is perfectly acceptable and hilarious.

54 thoughts on “About

  1. I love your writing and I would like to get updates. Do you offer an email subscription?

    1. Thanks! Working on it!

  2. […] Above is an interesting and potentially useful chart on the reliability of news. You can find the maker’s musings here. […]

  3. Great minds can sometimes think alike. You in relation to Mark Twain. Sometimes the great ideas can be thought of by multiple people at different times independent of each other.

  4. Hey Vanessa!
    If you have a minute, I’d love to talk with you about featuring your news chart and AGAF on a “call to action” website I’m developing. Thanks for what you do!

  5. I also came up with the “All generalizations are false” few years ago, and only now I’m realizing it’s Mark Twain’s. According to the rule of acceptance, since few people in different times and places thought of something, it must be true.

    Thank you for the interesting blog.

  6. While my experience with the news sources you include largely matches yours, I wonder if it would be possible for you to also include some information / credentials about yourself on your blog.

    1. Thanks for the reminder–I know that was missing. I’ve updated my about page.

  7. Hi Vanessa – someone shared your “Chart, Version 3.0” with me, which I think is great. Just wanted to thank you for taking on a thankless task — this sort of reasoned, dispassionate approach is in such short supply these days, and I really appreciate the work you’re doing to try to make sure people have good information. Thanks!

    1. Hi Frank! Thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate it!

  8. Hi Vanessa,
    I would love to use The Chart, Version 3.0, in an article I’ve written. The article is entitled “Five Easy Steps to Speaking Out.” It will be published on my local Democratic party website, as well as some local Indivisible sites and shared via Facebook. Do I have your permission to use the image with a link to your excellent article?
    Thanks!
    Michelle

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Yes, you have my permission. Thanks for checking!

      Vanessa

  9. Hey Michelle,

    Have you thought about how Plato’s Divided line informs your work? His hierarchy, starting with Eikasia, Pistis (Opinions) and progressing toward Dianoia, and Noesis (Knowledge), contains similarities to your approach. A philosophical approach like this might offer additional insights as you refine your taxonomy of categorizations. I see that your work is already informed by your background in English (textual interaction and characterization), Law (principles of admissibility), and practice (Patent Adjudication). If your approach is informed by some other historical and theoretical approaches, I and I’m sure many of your readers would be interested in those insights.

    Cheers,
    Max

    1. Hi Max. I haven’t thought about that, but I am looking for additional philosophies and approaches that can inform my work. There is much to draw from. I’ll certainly read up on Plato’s Divided Line, and perhaps we can discuss it more in the future. Cheers!

  10. I think I’ve found somebody who thinks just like me. (Suggests the risk of “confirmation bias”)

  11. The term “hyper-partisan” strikes me as counterproductive and borderline inaccurate for your purposes. On my first exposure to the chart, it undermined your credibility with me, because it’s inherently hyperbolic and sounds pejorative. I wonder if “consistently partisan,” “strictly partisan,” or “predominantly partisan” might better suit your meaning. “Expressly” and “overtly” also come to mind, but those are categorical terms that denote an admitted purpose rather than a degree of partisanship within a spectrum. As an example, I think MotherJones.com is relatively reliable while also being overtly partisan. FOX News is strictly partisan but not expressly so (i.e., “Fair and Balanced” is a false claim). So to me, “hyper-partisan” sounds much more applicable to FOX than to MotherJones. (Disclaimer: my impression of MJ largely derives from reading Kevin Drum, who is expressly partisan but also strives to be fair.)

    1. Fair criticism. Will consider in future revisions.

  12. Great stuff!! Thank you Vanessa, for a ton of useful and lamentably necessary information about the media, news-gathering and reporting, information dissemination, biases, public perception of all this, etc. I studied journalism in the ’80’s, and since then it has changed in many ways, and the public has changed in many ways, mainly due to the way social media have reshaped our realities and our minds, but nevertheless there are aspects of human nature that haven’t changed, which makes this endeavor of yours so valuable! These days, I keep using the quote usually attributed to Santayana: “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” In the context of your blog, “Those who aren’t aware of norms of reality outside of their bubble are condemned to be manipulated, even without their knowledge.” Thanks again! Keep it up! Kudos!

    1. Thanks so much!

  13. Hello,
    We are covering “Fake news” and media literacy a lot in our 8th grade classes at my middle school. Can we present the chart to our students?

    1. Yes you may. Thanks for asking!

  14. Very good work. I guess we all appreciate the paradox that “All generalizations are false” is a kind of generalization.

    Clearly, we could do more to drive our citizens to higher level of critical thinking. Your work goes a long ways towards this goal!

  15. I would like to send you some information on press bias. I don’t use social media. May I please have an e-mail address by which to send it? Thank you.

    1. Sure. Go ahead and send it to mediabiaschart@gmail.com

  16. Hi Vanessa,
    I’m planning to do an activity with University students where they create their own Media Bias Chart, take a picture and possibly share. In preparation for this, I hope to take your blank chart and print it out on cloth, create some magnets of the New Source Logos and then attach them to a magnetic whiteboard. I wondered if you would be willing to share your Logos or point me to a good source. Also do I have approval to print out the blank chart on cloth? Thank for considering!

    1. Hi Sue,

      Yes, you have my permission to do print it out and use it for that exercise. The magnets are a good idea. I’ll e-mail you a hi-res image without a watermark. If you remember, drop me a note to let me know how the activity goes!

      Vanessa

  17. […] sources. I found an excellent new blog titled All Generalizations are False, in which the author, Vanessa Otero, systematically breaks down news sources according to their relative biases and level of analytical […]

  18. Great resource and discussion. I’ve been sharing it with friends and foes 🙂 Discussion gets better when we all know where we’re coming from.

    I’ve only recently been turned on to Axios and have been finding it very useful – so was glad to spot it in the green sweet spot.

    I’ll be curious to see if/when/where teen vogue will fit into the chart.

    Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks! I’ll have Teen Vogue in future versions.

  19. I came here to debunk and then possibly ridicule your work, but find instead that I am a fan.

    When assessing bias of the various media entities do you make a distinction between the ‘news’ side of the operations vs the ‘entertainment’ shows? Example: on FNC Bret Bier vs Hannity? Of the available options I am most drawn to Fox because I feel they do the best job of presenting both sides of issues. The guests they have on to present the Liberal view have solid, strong, well-articulated opinions. I don’t feel that CNN does so.

    Don Putnam

    1. Don, this is one of my favorite comments. Thanks for being open to my analysis. I don’t so much make a distinction between “news” and “entertainment,” but more between fact, analysis, and opinion reporting. You and I would probably agree that Bret Baier is more fact-reporting-focused and Hannity is much more opinion-focused. The prominence and popularity of Hannity and Fox & Friends (also very analysis and opinion-focused) is what weights Fox News so heavily down into the opinion (and lower quality) categories.

      Regarding the balance of bias, I agree that Fox does have liberal guests, but they are outnumbered significantly by conservative ones. You can find conservative guests on MSNBC (and even contributors–Steve Smith, Michael Steele and hosts–Nicole Wallace, Joe Scarborough, Hugh Hewitt), but they are outnumbered by liberal ones. CNN’s balance of guests, contributors, and hosts is a bit more balanced than either, but the liberal ones do outnumber the conservative ones by a bit. I think most liberal viewers of CNN were surprised to see how influential and prominent KellyAnne Conway, Corey Lewandowski, and Jeffery Lord were during and after the election.

      Anyway, thanks for contributing to the conversation.

  20. Very useful and works to codify information biases that people may have already developed on their own. I would love to see this chart or something like it used in high school classes related to government!

    1. Hi Chip–
      You’ll be happy to know that many educators are using this for critical thinking exercises. Anyone who disagrees with the exact placement of the sources need not worry too much that children are being “indoctrinated,” though. Most educators do exercise that have students rank sources based on their own arguments.

  21. Vanessa,

    I applaud your genuinely herculean efforts here. I will also admonish that “fact” checking sites may not all be what they appear. Daily we are artfully bombarded with propaganda cloaked in “facts”. The entities engaged in these activities are becoming ever sophisticated in their presentation. You might share the message that people should avoid following your chart, or any other source , as if it were written in stone. We both know how people prefer to follow instead of taking the effort to lead.

    Your methodology works if the meta-data on which you rely is trustworthy. As I mentioned earlier, these sources are also suspect. The foundation of all this becomes one built on sand. You would need to submit all of your sources to the same matrix you created for the news sources in order to validate them. That would require a new mountain of non-parametric statistics to wade through. You could use some help from an honest statistician.

    The other way to sort this mess is to use a proxy that is somewhat easier to quantify: science. Odds are if the news source has a bias in this realm, it will flow to all other areas of their reporting. I personally see the world through the lens of a scientist, but that is also faulty since even science is under siege by those seeking to sway our minds. IF a qualified panel of scientists could convene, perhaps some of the bias could better be identified. You would need a group of scientists who are not funded by the political whims of society. We are seeing way too much bias in academia.

    In the long run it may be much better to teach society and especially youth to be jaded towards most information they see. Teach them to become classically educated such that they can individually identify poor quality information. In short, encourage society to be thought leaders instead of followers of any particular ideology. Yes I realize that is a big task, but the alternatives are shaky.

    My personal view from the framework of science? Move the NYT and Washington Post down and to the left. Their science reporting is weak. I do blame much of this on journalists who are not scientifically competent. Cheers!

    1. Sorry for the delay in responding. I typically have about 50 pending comments at any given time, and I try to respond to each one where a response is appropriate. The longer ones take me longer to get to since I am also writing other things.

      I don’t really disagree with the points you raise. I try to be as clear as possible that my chart is not set in stone, or some kind of absolute truth. By the rest of the comments on here, you should be readily able to tell that nearly everyone questions some aspect of it–even those who are fans. I understand that for these rankings to be reliable, it would require a “mountain” of data; I’m working on compiling such a mountain. I think that would actually be more reliable than using the proxy of science, because I think there are more factors that correlate with a propensity for bias than just acceptance of scientific principles.

      Many teachers at the high school and college level have reached out to me to use this chart in their classes. You should be encouraged to know that pretty much all of them do not teach it as “the truth,” but use the taxonomy as a basis to conduct critical thinking exercises, so that they can identify poor quality information themselves as you suggest.

      Thanks for the comment.

  22. Vanessa,
    Loved this explanation of who you are and why you set up this site!
    Honest assessment, trying to be unbiased. Have to love that.

    1. Thanks so much!

  23. I’d love to have you come guest lecture at DU about your methodology and findings. I look forward to hearing from you!

  24. Timely and useful categorization Vanessa. Hats off to you for taking the time to create a framework… I know this is an evolving frame to categorize news media. As a faculty, I struggle to get my students to think critically, be informed, read, care about what is happening in the world, and evaluate the information they come across…your tool looks like a good starting place. Hope we can educate the younger generation about media bias and create an awareness about the need to analyze what they are fed in the social media as well. Thank you.

    1. Thank you! I’m heartened that educators are tackling this problem head-on, and I’m optimistic that future generations can become better prepared to deal with our new information environment.

  25. This is a great example of critical thinking.
    In addition to helping us all gauge where sources are coming from,
    I think could be a great way to explain to students how to check sources for bias.

    Merci beaucoup!

    1. Thank you!

  26. Hi Vanessa, a friend posted our chart on FB recently, and I am very impressed. Thanks for doing this! I am writing about critical thinking on my blog. Is it okay if I post your chart and use part of your explanations(giving you credit for it)?

  27. Where would you place RT on your chart? Or did I overlook it?

    1. I’m going to have a whole post about RT. The main reason I don’t have it on there is because it is not a US-based news source. I only have BBC and Daily Mail on there (UK publications) because they have such a large international audience. More to come, but generally, I would not advise relying on RT as an reliable source.

  28. Hi. I love this chart. Thanks you for putting the effort into this.

    Sometimes I have a tough time locating the source I’m trying to vet, but I generally get there. A supplementary list of sites, alphabetical with coordinates of the placement would be of good use.

    Some do *seem* to be missing. So, recognizing that this may include things I just haven’t found yet, I’d love to see you add:

    Salon,
    Forbes
    Pro Publica
    Newsweek
    Inquirer
    Defense One Today

  29. I’ve enjoyed reading the back story on your development of the Media Bias Chart. The earlier comment by Don P reflected my own motivations for visiting allgenearlizationsarefalse.com. I am heartened and intrigued by your analysis and willingness to engage in civil discussion. Many friends, family and acquaintances have acknowledged a personal animosity towards Trump that precludes them from any discussion that does not begin with the premise that he “stole the election.” My political leanings are Conservative; neither Republicans nor Democrats can truly claim the title. I now subscribe to CRTV, a streaming service created by Mark Levin. I still channel surf to Fox, CNN and MSNBC (bad to worse) for news updates and occasional analysis. No source is complete, and all operate with mixed motivations. I understand that journalism was never as pure as I once believed, but I didn’t think that partisanship would make it this bad.

    1. Thanks, Sharon. I appreciate your willingness to engage in civil discussion as well!

  30. This weighs exactly zero until you guys share your actual names, who funds the “research”, and show all the data you used to collect the information for this “chart”.
    The fact that you have gone to great lengths to hide who you are is in itself a huge red flag.
    If you are legitimate, it’s not coming across very well at all.

    1. Hi there! It’s not my intention to be opaque. I think you’ll find the answers you are looking for at this FAQ section:

      http://www.allgeneralizationsarefalse.com/faq/

  31. This is fabulous work, and I hope you’ll continue to update it. I linked to it for a FB friend who relies on pretty much everything in the bottom right quadrant for his news and unfortunately he dismissed it as “biased.” Not sure how to respond to that. 🙂

    1. Thanks! I’d invite him to fill out a blank version of the chart, available here: http://www.allgeneralizationsarefalse.com/high-resolution-file-formats-for-full-chart-and-blank-versions-of-news-quality-chart/ This invitation is often preferable to arguing.

      Also, see my response to this Frequently Asked Question:

      Don’t your political leanings make this chart inaccurate, wrong, or untrustworthy?
      I don’t necessarily think so, but of course you may disagree. Say, for example, you think that all the sources in the “Neutral” column should be shifted over to “Skews liberal,” or that “the whole chart should be shifted over one column to the left,” which is a common suggestion I hear from people with conservative leanings. If we did that, and then you agreed that the relative placements of the sources were then generally accurate, you could still find this chart useful. Similarly, if you find you disagree slightly with placements of a few sources, but you find the overall taxonomy (system of categorization) helpful, you can still use the chart as a tool to have meaningful discussions with others about quality (on the vertical axis) and bias (on the horizontal axis).
      Then again, if you rely on sources in the bottom left and right corners, and think they should be placed top middle, with all other sources else pushed to one side of the chart and no sources on the other side…well, I might have trouble convincing you of anything.

  32. I very much appreciated this chart and love the idea of a blank one for acquaintances to fill as they see fit if they can’t agree on the current placings. This in itself would be a wonderful learning tool for them, and for those of us that have a difficult time seeing the world through their understanding.
    Thank you for taking the time to do this. You are very wise and generous to fill this gap in our knowledge.

    1. Thanks, Judith!

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