Selection Bias in Mainstream Media

by gritgrit21 on April 21, 2017 - 3:58pm

Selection Bias in The Main Stream Media

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A huge issue with main stream media outlets is focusing on stories that fit that stations’ narrative and disregarding the stories that do not. Main stream media is supposed to provide factual information about relevant events happening domestically and abroad to inform the viewer on the situation, and to reflect prevailing currents of thought (Chomsky, 1997). The issue with selection bias in the main stream media is that it distorts reality by not reporting on stories that are happening because it does not fit the stations’ narrative and/or agenda. Fox news has trumped all other news stations in views and in ratings consistently over the last three months because it more accurately reflects the reality of most americans, whereas deteriorating outlets like CNN focus solely on stories that fit their dwindling narrative (Katz, 2017).

Fox News is far from perfect and is guilty of selection bias as well, but they are the only news network to even discuss controversial topics like the potential dangers from mass immigration from the Middle East. Back in February when Donald Trump implied that an incident took place “yesterday” in Sweden, the media had a field day ripping into him because no specific incident happened “yesterday”. However, the next day in the muslim-majority borough of Rinkeby, Stockholm, there were massive riots setting several cars and police cars on fire. Fox News was the only news station to report the riots (Fox News, 2017). No other news station reported on these riots because it does not fit the liberal media’s narrative that Sweden does not experience any problems with refugees. CNN has never reported on the increase in rape statistics in Sweden for the same reasons (Government Offices of Sweden, 2017).Unfairness would be seen as a vice in virtue ethics. The media rips Trump for making a mistake by saying “yesterday”, but when problems do occur they remain completely silent or give minimal attention to the situation. This unfairness is ethically immoral by virtue ethics’ standard.

Sometimes we hear the same story over and over again and we think to ourselves, there must be something else going on, isn’t there? Well, there is. A media outlet will spend days highlighting a story that fits their narrative and suppress another story that does not. An example of this is when a decade old video of Donald Trump came out in which he talks about women in an inappropriate manner. After the video surfaced several women came out and accused Donald Trump of sexual assault, the most well known being of thirteen year old Katie Johnson. Not to say these allegations are not important, but it turned out that the cases were either fabricated, dropped, or had no substantial proof in a court of law (Parry, 2016). Even though they were fabricated the liberal mainstream media spent days and even weeks focusing on the allegations because it fit their “Trump is a sexist” narrative. At the same time factual evidence of Hillary Clinton breaking the law surfaced, but the liberal media spent much less time on this story. Seven times less coverage to be exact (Berrien, 2016). When a presidential candidate is caught breaking the law, you should be informed at length, regardless of your political view and channel. Spending seven times more coverage on alleged accusations rather than factual evidence of criminal activity shows the media's bias when choosing stories.

The liberal media will blow the smallest irrelevant story out of proportion to further their political agenda, in this case attacking Donald Trump for an expensive Secret Service bill. Now I am in no way saying President Trump is above criticism, but it is an issue when a media outlet creates a problem from nothing because it loses credibility and trust. Under 18 U.S. Code 3056, american law requires the President of the United states, his immediate family, and others to be under the protection of the Secret Service at all times (Cornell University Law School). Last February when a pricey Secret Service bill was leaked, the liberal media went to town on Donald Trump. CNN conducted several interviews trying to attack Trump for his and his families expensive protection not realizing this is how it has always been. We did not see any backlash from the liberal media when Obama’s children were under protection, but since it falls into the narrative that “Trump is horrible with money,” it makes the cut. As previously stated, unfairness is considered a vice in virtue ethics. It is not right to attack one President and his family and not any prior President for the exact same bill. In an interview on CNN, host Don Lemon gets visibly frustrated when a guest called out the station for “fake news” by creating a story out of nothing as it is U.S. law and completely out of Trumps hands (Feldman, 2017).

“Slanted Objectivity? Perceived Media Bias, Cable News Exposure, and Political Attitudes” by Jonathan S. Morris shows that fragmentation amongst different news outlets leads to different realities for different people depending on what news station you watch. Her studies show that Republicans believe the media bias is towards Democrats and Democrats believe the media bias is towards Republicans (Morris, 2007). This arrogance is what isolates the two parties into their political bubbles and polarizes the population. The solution to this problem would be to watch news outlets opposing your political view with an open mind to understand both sides of the spectrum. Another important solution is too never rely solely on the mainstream media, you are able to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. “Cable news dream team” by James E. Ellis shows us that mainstream media, right or left, make more profit the more viewers tune in. Wether you like the candidates or not, having controversial people like Trump and Clinton run for office will attract attention. Cable News stations will often exaggerate the situation solely to attract eyes because the more eyes they get, the more money they make. This is a problem because instead of reporting objective truth, cable news can turn into an entertainment outlet that spins stories to attract attention. This is immoral for any news station to do according to virtue ethics. Manipulation is a vice and humans should never be used as a means to an end.

The solution to dealing with biased news is simple: boycott “fake news”. Being in a free country we have the privilege of having information at our fingertips and being able to choose where we get our information from. Business works on a supply and demand basis, if society deems a news channel unreliable they will decrease demand by taking their service elsewhere, which decreases supply, slowly fazing out “fake news”. This selection process is ethical according to utilitarianism because it will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

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Works Cited

Chomsky, Noam. "What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream." What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream. Z Magazine, Oct. 1997. Web. <   199710__/>. 20 Apr.   2017.

Katz, A.J. "Fox News is Cable’s Most-Watched Network For 15 Consecutive Weeks."     TVNewser. TVNewser, 18 Apr. 2017. Web.. < 20 Apr. 2017

O’Reilly, Bill. O’Reilly Factor. YouTube. 21 Feb. 2017. Web. <>. 20 Apr. 2017.

"Facts about migration and crime in Sweden." Government Offices of Sweden. N.p., 2017. Web. < 20 Apr. 2017.

Parry West Coast Correspondent For, Ryan. "EXCLUSIVE: Troubled Woman with a History of Drug Use Who Claimed That She Was Assaulted by Donald Trump at a Jeffrey Epstein Sex Party at Age 13 MADE IT ALL UP." Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 09 Nov. 2016. Web. < 20 Apr. 2017.

Parry, West Coast Correspondent For, Ryan. "EXCLUSIVE: Trump's 13-year-old 'rape Victim' Dramatically DROPS Her Case. Woman Withdraws Legal Claim She Was Assaulted at Jeffrey Epstein Sex Party." Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 05 Nov. 2016. Web. < 20 Apr. 2017.

"18 U.S. Code § 3056 - Powers, Authorities, and Duties of United States Secret Service." LII / Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School, n.d. Web. <>. 20 Apr. 2017.

Feldman, Josh. "CNN's Don Lemon Abruptly Ends Segment After Panelist's 'Fake News' Complaints (UPDATED)." Mediaite. Mediaite, 18 Feb. 2017. Web. < 20 Apr. 2017.

Morris, Jonathan S. "Slanted Objectivity? Perceived Media Bias, Cable News Exposure, and Political Attitudes." Ebsco 88.3 (2007): 1-23. Web. < 20 Apr. 2017.

Smith, Gerry. "Clinton-Trump Is Cable News' Dream Team." Ebsco. N.p., 2016. Web. < Apr. 2017.


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