A new media bias chart released by Ad Fontes Media is making some dubious claims about which news sources are the most biased. The chart scatters a wide array of web, podcast, and TV sources across two dimensions: news and reliability on the vertical axis and bias on the horizontal axis. A wide variety of outlets and personalities are accounted for, everything from Pod Save America to BBC to the Wall Street Journal and beyond.
Despite claims by Ad Fontes Media that its analysts are “balanced with right, left, and center self-reported political viewpoints” some of the chart’s findings are dubious at best. For instance, it lists Reuters as a centrist, fact-reporting outlet. However, just this past summer, Reuters displayed a blatant double-standard about what types of protests were at risk of spreading Covid-19. Reuters claimed that Black Lives Matter protests would not lead to spikes in Covid-19 cases but that protests in favor of Cuban liberation risked exacerbating the Covid-19 spike. How is an outlet that acts as a lobbyist for the socialist dictatorship of Cuba a “centrist, fact-reporting” source?
In addition to Reuters, other outlets such as NowThis, Teen Vogue, and Vice are categorized as only “skews left” and are a mix of fact reporting and analysis when in reality, these outlets put out extremist content frequently. Just recently, NowThis put out climate propaganda on behalf of the Biden administration. Vice insisted that Marines were actually neo-nazis while also advocating for controversial vaccine passports and downplaying valid arguments against them.
When it comes to right-wing media sources, the chart plays fast and loose in terms of who they list as “extreme.” According to Ad Fontes Media, conservative outlets and personalities such as Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Ben Shapiro and Fox News as a whole are all borderline propaganda sources that are nearly on par with Alex Jones of InfoWars.
So where is Ad Fontes media getting the data to support the bold claims they make with this chart? According to its website, “Ad Fontes Media has a team of over 40 paid analysts who rate individual articles, episodes, and shows of news sources. They are politically balanced left, right, and center, and come from a range of personal and professional backgrounds.” Other than their own internal analysts, no other sources or oversight is listed.
The trouble with this is that the Media Bias Chart is taught in classrooms across the country. In fact, its website has an entire section dedicated to resources teachers can use for their curriculum.
The program promises to educate students on the following:
- To determine veracity by learning how to rely on the best guideposts in our information ecosystem
- To identify contemporary left, center, and right positions on political issues, which is necessary for detecting bias in the news
- To practice skills in reading comprehension, developing habits in comparing and contrasting, and thinking critically
- To become familiar with – and quickly decode – common rhetorical, partisan, and “click-bait” devices employed to influence and persuade readers
- To grow into responsible news consumers and citizens by discerning the reliability and bias of the news and information they encounter
- To rate news sources and content according to our proven methodology
How can a company that has so failed at identifying its own bias teach America’s youth about how to identify it themselves?