Media Bias

THE AD FONTES BIAS CHART

The compnay Ad Fontes Media is a Colorado-based media watchdog organization primarily known for its Media Bias Chart (above) which rates media sources in terms of political bias and reliability. The organization was founded in 2014 by patent attorney Vanessa Otero with the goal of combating politial polarization. Ad Fontes Media uses a panel of analysts across the political spectrum to evaluate articles for the Chart.

They rate the news for reliability and bias to help people navigate the news landscape. Ad Fontes is Latin for “to the source,” because at the heart of what Ad Fontes Media does is look at the source—analyze the very content itself—to rate it. They have created a system of news content ratings that has beneficial applications for all stakeholders in a healthy news media landscape, including consumers, educators, journalism outlets, researchers, advertisers, and social media platforms. Because They rate the content of news sources themselves, you can find references to the term  “content analysis” throughout their website. They are not measuring consumer opinions, clicks and views, or “user engagement.”

TEST RATINGS & RELIABILITY

See what a particular media rating is by Ad Fontes. Click here and enter the name of the website or publication you want to get a bias rating for. You will then be given an explanation of the media. You will be given a Reliability Score and a Bias Score. Reliability scores for articles and shows are on a scale of 0-64. Scores above 24 are generally acceptable; scores above 32 are generally good. Bias scores for articles and shows are on a scale of -42 to + 42, with higher negative scores being more left, higher positive scores being more right, and scores closer to zero being the most neutral and/or balanced.

(We can report that many readers have contacted us saying they have trouble with the rating scores of some of the media Ad Fontes has rated in above tests. What do you think? Does Ad Fontes have a bias in creating their Media Bias chart?)

EXPLORE FURTHER VIA ANOTHER WEBSITE

Explore the Media Chart and its listings more fully through the work of Professor Maxwell Stearns, the Venable, Baetjer & Howard Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and an Advisor to Ad Fontes Media. He’s a prolific legal scholar and has blogged about the Media Bias Chart twice before. He has written insightful theories about why news sources across the spectrum fall where they do, and why each of the two dimensions of the chart — reliability and bias — are important.

In the above post he takes a deep dive to posit answers to a question he has gotten from many people who have followed the evolution of the Media Bias Chart: why the overall shape of the sources on the chart changed from a Gaussian (i.e., “bell curve”) shape to more of an inverted “V.” You can see this curve pronounced in the three Ad Fonte charts he provides in this fascinating blog. (His post on the Ad Fontes media chart is on his brilliant blog called Blindspot we encourage readers to visit for comments on law, politics and culture far above the usual stuff we hear all day)

If you like deep and thoughtful analysis, Sterns work with Ad Fontes will be interesting to you. Sterns looks at new ways of grouping the data on the chart. Mignt these groupings actually represent segments of the electorate, might be one worthwhile question worth asking. Sterns superimposes four colored rectangles over the Ad Fontes Media chart above. The keys to the colors are the following: the top rectangle of green encloses news; the larger rectangle below this represents a fair interpretation of the news; the orange rectangle below the yellow one encloses the data representing unfair interpretations of the news and the red rectacle at the bottom of the chart represents media that is rated material rated high in bias scores defined as “nonesense and damaging to public discourse” in Sterns’ classifications. Another way of looking at the Ad Fontes data suggested by Sterns is in via the below overlay of the Ad Fontes bias chart. A method of defining groups within forms. Below, more of a capture of inside data via horizontal forms. As compared to the above overlay of one of Sterns groupings over the Ad Fontes bias chart.

LIMITATIONS AND PROMISES

The Ad Fontes Media site/company was created by a lawyer in Colorado. So far, there are complaints to us that the ratings are off. The staff of Ad Fontes is biased themselves. Including the CEO and founder of the company. Yet, can bias ever be avoided even when creating a service that measures bias? I think this is the great limitation of a bias and reliability rating system like Ad Fontes. How does one escape bias when one lives within a particular culture, media and technology?

The promise, it seems to me, is the promise of something far more than a media bias chart. If bias in creating the chart and data can be as close to unbiased as possible. If one can create data as close to the top ranking on the chart of pure news. In other words, if the creators of the chart could create a system that attempts to steer clear of current biases.

Anyway, let’s assume we can obtain the best data as to groups related to the various media analyzed by Ad Fontes, assume it is as much unbiased pure news or unbiased facts as possible. The potential of a chart like this, with the correct overlays imposed over it, might in fact represent new political party groups. Are Sterns’ overlays the right ones? Or, movements towards the right ones? Are there better ideas for connecting data in the various sections of the chart?

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NOTES

Thanks to readers who have provided a few more media bias charts.

Media Bias/Fact Check

All Sides Media Bias Ratings

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