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Evaluating Information

Finding Real (Unbiased) News

News Bias Chart

So, where can you find "real" news? That is, news with no bias toward one side or the other. The graphic above is Version 3.0 of the original created by Vanessa Otero in 2016 and it focused on where news sources fell on the then current political spectrum. It gives one perspective on where news sources fall with respect to their leanings.

Ms. Otero explains:
In my original news chart, I wrestled with the questions of what made news sources “good” and came up with some categories that generally resonated with people. I ranked sources on a vertical axis with those at the top ranked as “high quality” and those at the bottom as “low quality.” I characterized the sources, from top to bottom, in this order: Complex, Analytical, Meets High Standards, Basic, and Sensational/ Clickbait. This mostly works, because it results in sources regarded as high-brow or classy (e.g., The Atlantic, The Economist) being ranked high on the axis, and trashy sources (e.g., Addicting Info, Conservative Tribune) being ranked low, and most sophisticated news consumers agree with that. However, the vertical placements ended up causing me and others some consternation, because some of the placements relative to other outlets didn’t make sense. 

I’ve reordered the chart to value fact-reporting articles as the highest quality and everything else lower, even though there is some really excellent analysis out there. As a baseline, news consumers should understand when something is news (fact-reporting) and when it is not. On the new chart, the sources with the best analysis, but little reporting are at the top, but right under the sources that are comprised of high percentages of reporting articles. The most opinion-driven sources are at the bottom. There’s room for other things at the bottom below pure opinion, which can include sources that are sensationalist, clickbait, frequently factually incorrect, or which otherwise don’t meet recognized journalism standards. The Chart, Second Edition: What Makes A News Source “Good?”​

Information about Version 3.0 can be found at "The Chart, Version 3.0: What, Exactly, Are We Reading?"

Below are good sources for legitimate news. There are databases provided by Memorial Library, Wire Services, Press Agencies as well information concerning the Ethics of Journalism.

Ethical Journalism

The Ethical Journalism Network suggests five core principles of journalism:

  • Truth and Accuracy
  • Independence
  • Fairness and Impartiality
  • Humanity
  • Accountability

Library Databases

News Agencies

From the Dictionary of Media and Communication Studies, 9th Edition:

The invention of the news agency’, wrote Anthony Smith in The Geopolitics of Information (Faber, 1980), ‘was the most important single development in the newspaper industry in the early 1800s, apart from the rotary press.’ The early agencies – Reuter, Havas and Wolff – carved up the world into spheres of activity in much the same way as imperialist nations parceled out ‘Third World’ territories between them.

In 1869 the major agencies signed the Agency Alliance Treaty. Reuter was ‘granted’ the British Empire and the whole of the Far East; Havas, a French agency, was granted Italy, Spain, France and the Portuguese empire; and the Germany-based Wolff received Austria, Scandinavia and Russia. America was awarded jointly to Havas and Reuter.

Today, some of the most important news agencies are Reuters, Associated Press, Press Association, AFP, Itar-Tass, Xinhua and Bloomberg. Out of the traditional, print-centered news agencies have developed international television news agencies distributing TV news material around the clock, both ‘raw’ footage and complete news stories ready for transmission.

Concern has focused on the role of international news agencies in giving world news a Western ‘slant’ through the operation of news values reflecting the ideology of Western nations’ news flow; that is, on the degree to which that flow is mediated and the dominant direction of that flow. What has been termed raw news flows from the periphery to the centre, but on the way it becomes cooked news – constructed according to Western production criteria; similarly, the flow of information from the centre to the periphery is almost invariably cooked and shaped according to Western news values.