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5 Easy Ways to Avoid Bias in Journalism
What does it mean to have bias in journalism?
Journalistic Bias is when a writer’s opinion is projected through an article on purpose or by accident. We are all human and all have opinions. Writing without an opinion is surprisingly difficult. After all, what topics are out there that we don't either agree or disagree with?
Writing without bias - a certain view on a topic - is trying to deliver information without putting our personal opinions into delivering the information.
5 ways to avoid it
1-Watch your language!
Never add your opinion. News is not opinionated; it is a statement of the facts. Never say “I think,” never use language like “it may/might/could,” only use words of certainty unless it is a direct quote.
2-Write with less adverbs.
An adverb is a part of speech which modifies a verb: slowly, apparently. Adverbs in journalism tend to bring out more of a writer’s opinion by adding how things happened. Sometimes it is okay to do so, but it is usually a way journalists slip up and unknowingly show their own opinions. Here's a quick example:
“John apparently gave his apology on Tuesday…” Apparently? He either did or he didn’t. Using a word like apparently suggests the writer does not believe the information he/she was given.
3-When writing on a topic of multiple opinions (like politics) make sure each side of an argument has been represented.
When writing about the minimum wage increase, I wrote an article and made sure I interviewed business owners and managers from both small companies and large companies to show how the increase affected each scale of business, both the bad and the good. Both sides made great arguments. It is the job of the writer to let the reader make up their minds with good, accurate information from each side no matter what the writer thinks.
4-Try to spend equal amounts of writing time and space on each side of a topic.
Don’t let the article argue 75% one way and 25% the other. Try as best to make the time you spent even for both sides. A good idea is to read through your article and count how many paragraphs you spend on each side. If three paragraphs make one argument and only one paragraph makes the counter argument, you have your answer.
5-Along with number 4, don’t over quote one side.
In order to make sure each argument of an issue is represented equally, make sure the number of quotes on each side adds up. Only quoting one side can show the reader where the writer spent the most time. If you can tell what the writer tends to agree with, it's a skewed article.
Imagine a scale
A good way to imagine a well written article clear of bias is to imagine a scale. Do both sides equal the weight of each other in your article?
A reader should come away from your article feeling mutually/equally informed according to each argument or each side especially when dealing with politics. A reader should come away from your article without feeling persuaded, but given equal information.
Not to pick on Fox News, but here is an example from youtube on a few obviously skewed (biased) moments: