The search for credible news is more of a quest than a rule-governed practice.
News sources are perspectives, and perspectives will be determined either top-down, in one-party states, or bottom-up, in more open societies.
In an open society like ours, that bottom-up factor is a market with both producers (i.e., publishers) and consumers (i.e., you and me).
Social media offer (seemingly) free services in which consumers dictate the news they recieve while being manipulated by clickbait and the social media’s underlying motive to keep the consumer watching. Publishing media serve markets, but online ones can choose the markets they serve, and this can change when owners change or when their choice of markets to serve changes.
Here’s an example based on the news media aggregator Real Clear Politics, which I have been using as a neutral source from which to access a fair sampling of political perspectives, as discussed in a previous post (searchable from my Home page) “News Is There for Anyone Who Knows How to Look for It”.
Compare the position of Real Clear Politics (RCP), then and now.
The bias-ranking web-site http://www.newsprim.com has moved RCP‘s ranking from center-right and more centrist than the business news media (The Economist, Bloomberg, Forbes, Wall Street Journal) to just right of them, a distinctly less centrist position.
I noticed this because I had already noticed that RCP‘s staff-written articles (as opposed to the ones they aggregate from other media across the political spectrum) had taken on, in my judgment, a more overtly partisan tone, and no longer sounded like articles from Politico or The Hill.
I then looked up RCP on the Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC) web-site (https://mediabiasfactcheck.com), pictured below. This is a web-site that first came to my attention when a number of students in last year’s 2nd Semester Dual Enrollment American Government class cited it in establishing the credibility of their news sources.
I know the picture’s too small to read; it’s just there so you’ll recognize it if you go to the web address given above and, once there, search on “Real Clear Politics”.
This is what MBFC finds in the full entry:
MBFC rates RCP “as Right-Center biased based on source selection that leans right”,
as “Mixed for factual reporting due to use of multiple sources who have failed fact checks”.
as selecting “slightly more [articles] that are published from right leaning sources, however both sides are represented”
that staff-written articles show a right leaning bias in wording and story selection”
Founded n 2000, it changed ownership in 2007, and again in 2015.
Now, of course, Media Bias Fact Check is itself a published web-site, that is, a perspective whose neutrality, editorial stance, and ownership can be questioned and can change.
A good sign: it has a lengthy, open, and transparent “About” page which discusses its organizational background, principles and methodologies, as well as their limitations.
In general, expect some variation in judgment between different credible media monitors. It’s not an exact science.
There is no single, authoritative voice on neutrality and fairness. One must always triangulate between multiple credible sources that keep one another honest. It’s comparable to the peer-review system that does a similar job in academic publishing.
Neither is foolproof, but both uphold standards preferable to the free-for-all of partisan bickering that follows no rules or standards.
Again, it’s like the rule of law, which is never perfectly realized. But the difference between a society that adheres to it as well as can be expected and one that pays it no heed is stark.
I will talk in an upcoming post about some general rules-of-thumb to help distinguish credible sources from the others out there.
Your media portfolio needs as much scrutiny as your stock portfolio, your health, or your car. Go in for regular check-ups!