When it comes to the propagation of a free society, a value that is not too far behind is the institution of a free press. The ability of holding our leaders to account for the decisions and moves they make depend heavily on the ability to garner data on such aspects, and a press that is unhindered by the state is very instrumental to that. But when it comes to media outlets providing such information, there is the sense among many that journalists are very biased toward news and analysis that line up with their political point of view…which has led to the impression that the mainstream media has a decidedly modern liberal bent in reporting the news (polling consistently shows this impression – http://www.gallup.com/poll/176042/trust-mass-media-returns-time-low.aspx?g_source=MEDIA&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles). Is such a thing the case?
A 1986 study conducted by political scientists Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman, and Linda Lichter surveyed journalists at various media outlets and found that the large majority of them were well to the left of the general public on various issues (abortion, affirmative action, social services and LGBT rights to name a few). They compared such attitudes with their coverage of said issues and concluded that it tended to reflect their own attitudes and education. In his 2002 book Press Bias and Politics, Jim A. Kuypers (academic specializing in communication studies) of Dartmouth College looked at over 100 mainstream American papers and found that the majority of them tend to favor modern liberal viewpoints. Those who felt that they voiced alternative viewpoints tended to feel isolated and marginalized (https://web.archive.org/web/20080205062048/http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewCulture.asp?Page=/Culture/archive/200209/CUL20020917b.html). A joint study conducted in 2008 by Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that viewers believed that media bias of a modern liberal bent could be found at various television media networks (http://www.journalism.org/files/legacy/The%20Early%20Campaign%20FINAL.pdf).
Taken together, there very much seems to be a noticeable bias in the manner in which news is reported by journalists. This shouldn’t be a surprise though, as people in general tend to put more emphasis on those aspects that fit in with their world view…otherwise known as confirmation bias (http://www.beinghuman.org/article/confirmation-bias). A free press isn’t immune to such a flaw any more than a regulated one is, but it has the best manner of managing it as information is more readily available for the populace at large to able to catch such issues. Therefore, that is perhaps the best answer in dealing with the supposed problems of bias or “fake news” (though why third-party websites get more flak than mainstream media organizations for passing around half-truths or falsehoods I haven’t the foggiest idea)…be open to news reports from all angles of knowledge and understanding. That ability to question everything and be open to all manners of inquiry is valuable to dealing with such noise, and only comes in a society that values such decentralized methods of understanding. Let us hope our society can stay that way.