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Stereotypes in the Media  

Last Updated: May 8, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Biases Explained

Bias presents itself in all media, including the news, commericals, etc.  Understanding what types of bias exisit is key to detecting both deliberate and systematic biases.  Below, you will find common biases for which all consumers of media should be watching:

Situational biases surface when audiences encounter a news story and are related to both conceptual and contextual variance.  Detecting these biases depends on readers/viewers being self-aware.

complexity (conceptual)
The news attempts to frame stories using the standard six-question rubric of "who, what, when, where, why and how."  The complexity of real life (particularly when it comes to ideological issues) rarely conform to this neat standard. Readers may fail to consider nuiances when stories are presented starkly.

geography (contextual)
Geographic location can have a huge impact on how certain stories are received and perceived by audiences. The local of a story determines cultural and social issues such as diversity.  Audiences located outside of that local may have different reactions to the same story.

definitions (contextual)
Shared language is not necessarily shared meaning. Words take on different meanings depending on context of use and the background/culture of the reader/viewer.

distraction (contextual)
Audiences are subject to distraction.  Television and radio news is often delivered in such a rapid fire manner that there is little time to stop and consider stories thoughtfully.  Print media provides greater opportunity for contemplation, though as this more traditional formats move online, the sheer quantity of information available becomes a distraction.

stereotypes (conceptual)
By nature, people develop their understandings based on classifying and categorizing knowledge. Stereotypes develop as a way of understanding groups and situations of which we are not a regular part.  These stereotypes can affect the way in which we perceive a story (and can be used by journalists to that effect).  


The Critical Audience

The Non-Critical Thinker

"It's true if I/we believe it's true"

"It's true if it supports my arguement."

The Critical Thinker

"I/we want to believe it, but it may be wrong."

"My own biases make me believe some things are true that are not."

"It may not support my arguement, but it makes me think and is worth considering."


What to watch for...

first person point-of-view that personalizes comments with words like "I" or We"
superlatives, such as "always," "never," "must"
belief statements that include "I believe" or "I think"

inflammatory language designed to anger or excite.

judgement statements that attack rather than report

    • accusations that use words like "they" or "you"
    • overuse of qualifying adjectives and adverbs

solution suggestions using words like "could," should," "must"


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