The Student News Site of Black River Falls High School

BRFHS Paw Print

The Student News Site of Black River Falls High School

BRFHS Paw Print

The Student News Site of Black River Falls High School

BRFHS Paw Print

Say Goodbye to Bias!

Barrack Obama is a SOCIALIST!  Sarah Palin is a BACKWATER HICK!  Nancy Pelosy is a CRAZY CAT LADY!  John McCain is a WAR MONGER!  Yeah, we’ve all heard and seen these various statements online, but how many of them are true?  Be careful what you believe, because the internet and media are full of bias and skewed facts.

History teacher Paul Rykken has a definite view of bias in American politics and has been educating high school students on the bias in American media for over 30 years.

“All media is biased, technically, because any storytelling involves a point of view based on what is chosen, how it is framed, what sources are used, etc.  It can be very difficult to tell if a new source is biased,” said Rykken, “Educating yourself on the various media outlets is the best thing you can do for yourself.  A person has to arm themselves with knowledge — otherwise it is easy to get duped.”

As Mr. Rykken said, bias is everywhere, and the American public is particularly apt to be caught up in it. 

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“Most American’s watch the two main outlets of news media in America, Fox and MSNBC, both of which have their own tendencies,” said Rykken, “Because of this, Americans can fall into false sense of security and do not fully expose themselves to all point of views.  The term used to describe this occurrence is selective exposure.”

So, how can one tell if their main news outlet is bias?  Well, here are five things to watch out for:

  1. The news source has the word “liberal” or “conservative” right in the source’s name or web address.  For those of you using conservapedia and liberal-pedia … I suggest finding another source of knowledge that doesn’t tell you that Fox News is the only new network you can trust, or that the opposite of the TEA Party is the Coffee Party.
  2. The news source you are viewing “brings down” other news sources.  An (sarcastic) example would be “PBS is a socialist organization meant on brainwashing American youth though Sesame Street and Barnie, among other programming.”
  3. Bias by perspective is one of the most common forms of bias.  Don’t fall for it!  There are hundreds of ways to word a headline, and thousands of angles to take pictures from!  If an article headlines reads “Thousands of deer slaughtered in November hunt” you’re going to get a different impression than “Successful hunting season leads to large deer harvest.”
  4. If you see statistics, double check them.  Often times the media “bends” these statistics to favor their “side.”  There are two sides to every coin.
  5. Where does the information come from?  The words of a thief are different than those of the victim.  Media has a tendency to skew towards the extremes. 

So what can you do to avoid falling into the trap of bias?  Rykken has few suggestions.

“Vary your sources.  If you get caught up with selective exposure you will most certainly have only a partial view of stories,” said Rykken. “For example, if a person only watches FOX, they’re not going to get a full picture, and the same would go for MSNBC.  Also, reading news is probably better than always only watching it.”

“Watch news shows that offer both perspectives, and focus on less issues.  This will allow the stories to have more depth as they develop.  And read – reading gives you the ability to analyze the information you’re taking in, and therefore is an excellent way to detect bias.”

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Say Goodbye to Bias!