Frequently Asked Questions:
Where would you rank ______ on the chart?
If it’s not on there, it’s because I haven’t ranked it, or haven’t ranked enough stories within it to give it a meaningful rating. It takes a while to do this. However, I am taking requests for ranking on future charts. Just leave a comment with a requested news source.
Aren’t you biased?
YES. I am biased just like any other human. There are no unbiased humans. While it is not possible to eliminate bias in anything written or created by a human, it is possible to keep that bias and expression of it within appropriate levels for the medium. In the medium of news sources, most people view “minimal bias” as best and most appropriate. In The Chart’s medium, which is “news source categorization,” most people also view “minimal bias” as best and most appropriate. Therefore, I am striving to implement mechanisms to minimize effects of my own biases.
Ok, but what are your political leanings?
Short answer: I consider myself to be moderately liberal, with much appreciation and understanding of conservative positions and motivations. Long answer: well, if you are really interested in my political views, let me tell you everything you wanted to know and more here.
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.
Are you doing anything to try to reduce the effect of your political leanings in future versions?
YES. These are works in progress, but the steps I am implementing include:
- Relying mostly on quantitative measures derived from the sentences that make up headlines and articles
- Incorporating feedback and criticism from thoughtful commenters
- Including rankings from people with different political opinions and deriving averages from those rankings
- Creating a ratings rubric to allow other contributors to submit rankings on a common scale
Who funds this?
Me! And as of lately, some of you! I recently started offering image licenses and prints of the chart for those who are inclined to support this ongoing work, but other than that, I’m not currently funded by anyone. I’ll let you know if that changes, because I am working on developing a broader study based on my methodology and additional tools based on the chart. Those things take some time and money, but for now, it’s mostly time rather than money.
I don’t plan on ever selling ads on my site, because 1) you all are super skeptical of the influence of companies who advertise (which is fair) and 2) the abundance and types of ads on a site can itself be an unfavorable indicator of quality and/or bias. They don’t necessarily indicate lower quality or increased bias, but say, for example, a site has ads for doomsday preparation supplies. That site might have incentives to stoke fear among its audience in its articles. A site that has ads for health products with dubious claims might have incentives to undermine scientific articles. I don’t sell ads because I want minimize potential bad incentives here.
Wait, who are you?
Apparently some people were very unsatisfied by my explanation on my About page because I didn’t include my last name (it’s Otero). I’m pretty easy to find on The Google because, as I said on the About page, I’m a patent attorney in Denver, and there aren’t too many of us. I promise there is more information about me and my views on this blog than anyone would be interested in, but if you somehow still find me an enigma you can also find and follow me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/vanessa.otero.9619 and Twitter @vlotero. The reason you have never heard of me before is because I AM NOT FAMOUS. I continue to be shocked by how popular this chart has become.
What is your methodology for ranking these sources?
Everything I have written about this is here.
Where is your data that backs these rankings?
The data I have compiled so far is in my own spreadsheets and notebooks. I do not have a study that documents and reports my data because 1) I didn’t start this project as a study (see methodology posts referenced above) and 2) my current data set that I have developed since the beginning of this project is still incomplete and insufficient to satisfy standards of academic rigor. However, I am developing a study and an accompanying paper that will hopefully form the basis for ongoing data-driven content analysis and display.
Why is CNN ranked there? I think CNN should be _______.
Isn’t it too simplistic to rank political bias on a left-right spectrum? What about libertarianism? And what about Reason (a libertarian publication)?
If you think about political dimensions beyond the left-right divide, you are a more astute political observer than most. I use the left-right dimensions because most Americans, whether sophisticated or unsophisticated, recognize that at least these dimensions exist. They exist, in part, by virtue of our two-party system. I recognize that there are additional dimensions, and that many people who are very politically engaged have room for nuance outside of the left-right dimensions. For further reading, I recommend this article on the dimensionality of Trumpism by Prof. Maxwell Stearns of The University of Maryland Law School.
RE: Reason Magazine:
Reason is a pretty unapologetically libertarian publication. I know libertarians like to think of themselves as centrists because of the whole “socially liberal/fiscally conservative” policy positions, but there’s pretty broad consensus among Democrats and Republicans that Libertarians’ governing policies align with Republicans more than Democrats. This consensus, I believe, has arisen because any Libertarian-friendly politicians in elected positions (there aren’t many, but, for example, Ron and Rand Paul) typically identify as or caucus with Republicans. Also, Libertarians in government tend to not be super interested in implementing new laws (less government!) that would actually protect or advance progressive policies. I believe this is why liberals/progressives/Democrats tend to not vote for Libertarians, while some Republicans do. But notice that I don’t have Reason ranked as the most conservative (left-to-right) publication. And if I ranked individual articles on there, there would certainly be some that would rank farther to the left because of the particular political issue being discussed.
Will you rank international sources?
Perhaps one day in the future, but that will require a full team and international collaborators. If you have read through my posts about ranking bias, it is really specific to our countries political issues and politicians. You essentially need people who are very familiar with their own country’s political issues to rate their own media’s bias about those issues. To the extent a few European sources are included on this current chart, they are only ranked to the extent they address US political issues.
What about comedy and satire?
I have avoided it so far because the sarcasm adds such different linguistic factors, and the shows are in such a different format that each of those considerations require some different dimensions, or at least different categories in the vertical taxonomy. Many current satire and comedy shows do skew liberal or are hyper-partisan liberal, as most observers would likely agree. I have it on my list of suggestions for the future, though.
What do you think of MediaBiasFactCheck.com?
I think it’s a useful site for getting a general sense of partisan bias. The moderators evaluate at least five articles from each site as part of the rating. Additionally, they crowd-source votes on bias, which can skew the results depending on who the site happens to attract. At the moment, their ratings show CNN to be just as far left as MSNBC, and I don’t think that’s quite right. Another useful site is allsides.com. They also allow people to vote, but they ask the voter to rate their own bias as well. A nice thing about Media Bias Fact Check is that they have tried to rate hundreds of sites–I think they are over 1000 now, so that obviously includes very obscure ones. It’s quite a bit of work, and overall I think that it’s a great resource.
I am trying to provide an extra dimension of rating with the quality axis. Most media evaluation right now is limited to left-right bias ratings and “fact-checking.” However, as you know, there is much more to quality than just fact checking. Stay tuned–I’m trying to fill that void.
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