Although the free press has been regarded as one of the pillars of democracy because of its role in promoting transparency across the different branches of the government, as well as in ensuring that government activities and social issues reach the consciousness of the public, critics have noticed the propensity of news and media organizations toward bias or partiality in reporting supposed facts and covering stories.
This article briefly explores and discusses the different types of media bias. Take note that some of these types can also correspond to the sources or causes of partiality of news and media organizations.
The Different Types of Media Bias
1. Commission: Permitting errors or false assumptions that support a specific point of view. An example would include misrepresenting or misinterpreting data or statistics, or misconstruing the statements made by a person or organization.
2. Omission: Deliberately ignoring other sides of the stories, other facts, or another side of an argument to promote an agenda by promoting a one-sided story, highlight a specific point of view or endorse a certain idea.
3. Gatekeeping: This type of media bias involves either highlighting stories or facts that support a particular agenda while ignoring opposing sides or using and quoting one-dimensional sources to highlight further a particular story. Hence, this is similar to bias by omission
4. Placement and Burying: Placing stories that are aligned with the personal stance of the editors on prominent sections of the medium while burying unaligned ones in less-prominent sections. Examples include front-page placement and social media sharing decisions.
5. Spin: Reframing, repositioning, or modifying a story or the surrounding facts to emphasize an idealized issue or divert attention from negative issues. Spinning intends to influence the perception of the audience and results in a bias interpretation of a situation.
6. Concision: Pertains to the tendency to report stories as a concise as possible due to limitations in editorial space or airtime, thus resulting in failure to cover and present a multidimensional approach to reporting.
7. Sensationalism: Using exciting or shocking stories, languages, or visuals at the expense of accuracy to overhype an issue and generate public curiosity. A modern example of this type of media bias includes clickbait headlines.
8. Mainstream Bias: Some news and media organizations have the tendency to report and focus more stories that are being covered and reported by other organizations while burying non-mainstream ones. This is also demonstrated through extended coverage.
A Note on the Causes and Types of Media Bias
Bias in media can also reflect different types of prejudices or preconceived unfavorable feeling or negative evaluation or opinion toward a certain person based on his or her group or sociocultural membership.
Some types of bias in the media are intentional. A number of editors and reporters have the propensity to deliberately commit partiality because of their personal stances. However, some incidents of bias are unintentional.
For example, cognitive biases result from the inability of a media person to demonstrate objectivity and make necessary judgments because of the limitations of his or her cognitive processes. These limitations may be due to predefined preferences or having a certain frame of mind that unconsciously affects the way a particular story is presented.
Another example is when a reporter lacks competencies in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data or facts, thereby resulting in misinterpretation and misrepresentations. This results in an ineffective and inefficient presentation of a story, issues, or the surrounding facts.