By Andrea Karshan
Newspapers and political publications sometimes leave out facts necessary to present a balanced picture of a situation, endorse candidates, and express personal opinions of the writers to push their political agendas and ideologies. Through my experience as a journalist, I learned the importance of writing an article that isn’t biased. I saw how certain political publications, even the one I worked for, sometimes publish articles with a political spin in an attempt to shape the reader’s opinions. Authors often write articles through a certain lens, and with a certain agenda.
Partisan media can polarize viewers. The partisan media outlets do this by presenting a slanted view of the news. This slanted view supports the already biased opinions of the viewer who is watching or reading like-minded media. The effects of partisan media last, at least for the short-term.
In the media, we often see a conservative or liberal agenda behind a political piece. Sometimes new outlets as a whole are labeled conservative or liberal because they are known for leaning towards those opinions in their content. An example of such media would be Breitbart, which is considered a conservative media outlet that is favored by right-wing viewers. Democracy Now!, on the other hand, is a considered a liberal media outlet and is favored by left-wing viewers.
Breitbart is a conservative news outlet, which is one of the top 1,000 most popular websites on the Internet according to Alexa. Breitbart was founded in 2007 and has been recently accused by the Southern Poverty Law Center of shifting towards the Alt-Right. The Alt-Right, according to the SPLC, “is a loose set of far-right ideologies at the core of which is a belief that “white identity” is under attack through policies prioritizing multiculturalism, political correctness and social justice and must be preserved, usually through white-identified online communities and physical ethno-states”. SPLC says that Breitbart is so biased that the writers come up with racist conspiracy theories.
Democracy Now! is a liberal news media outlet. It claims to be “independent” news,but most of its articles are left-leaning. Democracy Now! says it is the voice for the ordinary people, grassroots organizations, and those not heard by corporate media. They do not accept advertisers, corporate underwriting, or government funding.
Breitbart and Democracy Now! are a biased source of news because they don’t focus on the whole truth, but rather the truth as they want others to see it. Both publications often leave out facts in their articles that might cause the viewer to disagree with their publication’s political agenda. They present a one-sided view of the story that doesn’t utilize all the sources on the topic. In an article, they will present experts that support the angle they are promoting in the article. Opposing voices are often muted. Also, the writers of the publications, Breitbart, in particular, are known for having their personal biases. The writers integrate those biases into the fabric of their writings. For example, if a writer is a strong pro-life advocate, it is often hard for them to write an unbiased article about abortion.
When comparing Democracy Now! and Breitbart’s account of Melania Trump’s speech in Pennsylvania you get two very different accounts. One could say, Democracy Now!’s article was criticizing Melania and Donald Trump because of the facts they put in and left out. Breitbart’s article was promoting Melanie and Donald Trump because of the facts they put in and left out. Both articles are reporting on the same event, but both paint a different picture because both publications are trying to push a different ideology. They both have a different agenda.
As you enter Breitbart’s website before the presidential election in November, you will immediately get a pop-up advertisement telling you to vote for Donald Trump. The article about Melania Trump’s speech in Pennsylvania, Melania Trump: I Want Our Children to ‘Dream Freely of Love and a Family of Their Own, is about how she would be a great role model as the first lady. It also states that Melanie Trump says during the speech, “I want our children in this country, and all around the world, to live a beautiful life, to be safe and secure.” It goes on to say how MelaniaTrump praised her husband Donald Trump.
On the contrary, Democracy Now!’s article, Melania Trump Would Tackle Cyberbullying as First Lady, which covers the same event was much different. Their article mentioned that Melania Trump said in the speech that she would tackle cyberbullying as the first lady. They said that she seemed to ignore that her husband, Donald Trump, was a bully online. And the Donald Trump and his supporters were antisemitic and sexist on social media.
So in Breitbart’s article, the news outlet used it as an opportunity to promote Donald Trump, who supports their right-wing ideology. And in Democracy Now’s article, the news outlet attacked the opposing ideology. Both news outlets wrote their stories with an angle to support their ideologies and biases.
In 12 Facts About the FBI Investigation of Hillary Clinton’s Emails, Breitbart presents evidence against Hillary Clinton regarding her emails. The article also presents evidence against Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s aide, and her husband, Anthony Weiner. It doesn’t paint James Comey’s actions towards Hillary Clinton in a negative light, it just reports on them, leaving out the intense level of scrutiny he came under for notifying Congress of the new email findings.
Democracy Now! in James Comey Under Fire as FBI Begins Probe of Clinton Emails instead shifts the focus from Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner to James Comey. This article focuses on the criticism Comey received for his announcement about the emails.
While Breitbart blames Hilary Clinton for the email scandal, Democracy Now! shifts the blame to James Comey. Breitbart in an attempt to make Clinton look bad focuses the article on damning her and leaves out any information that might excuse her. Democracy Now! tries to make a claim by Comey against Clinton look baseless by focusing on the reprimand he received for it.
Breitbart in Rigged System: Hillary Had ‘Agreement’ Preventing Bernie from Criticizing Her – Breitbart states that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had an agreement that Sanders wouldn’t criticize Clinton too harshly. Patrick Howley writes that several times Sanders violated this agreement and was reminded of it by the Clinton campaign. Howley accuses Clinton and Sanders of rigging the system by conducting such activities.
Democracy Now! doesn’t write about such an agreement between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But they did write about ex-Bernie Sanders’ voters who are now going to vote for Clinton. They interviewed several of them. Some of the ex-Bernie Sanders’ voters now Hillary Clinton supporters they interviewed were Micheal Moore and Shaun King.
Again the focus of Breitbart was Hillary Clinton’s faults and the division between her and Sanders. And Democracy Now! found a way to compliment Hillary Clinton. Nowhere on Democracy Now!’s website are there stories about people who switched their vote to Donald Trump. And nowhere on Breitbart’s website are there stories of people who switched their vote to Hillary Clinton. Both sites leave out one side of the story, the side opposing the website’s political ideology.
Breitbart and Democracy Now! both wrote articles on Donald Trump’s proposed “Muslim Registration.” According to Breitbart, Trump never suggested a national registry. In Muslim Registry: Rope-Me-Hillary-Haberman Lies About Trump On NYT Front Page, Breitbart claims that Trump is a victim of the liberal media misrepresenting him on the idea of a Muslim registry. Democracy Now! entertains the idea of Donald Trump wanting to register Muslims in Are Trump’s Plans to Expand Obama’s Surveillance State & Activate Muslim Registry Unconstitutional? They interview Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, who says that what Trump has proposed in regards to Muslims is deeply troubling and unconstitutional. Breitbart presents Trump as the victim, and Democracy Now! presents him as the villain.
Breitbart attempts to reinforce their conservative platform by accusing the liberal media of lying in Muslim Registry: Rope-Me-Hillary-Haberman Lies About Trump On NYT Front Page. Breitbart often attacks the “liberal press” to discredit them. These attacks are part of the war between the “liberal” and “conservative” press, who are fighting for dominance online. In Caddell: Post-Election Media ‘Appalling,’ and ‘Not Doing Anything to Heal the Country.’ and CNN Falsely Claims Breitbart News ‘Most Prominent Platform’ for Nazi Salute and ‘White Supremacists’ Breitbart attacks CNN. In Fake News: Associated Press Pushes ‘Safe Border’ Narrative to Critique Trump Wall, Breitbart attacks the Associated Press. In More Fake News: New York Times Calls Bannon ‘White Nationalist.’, Breitbart attacks the New York Times. In each one of these articles, Breitbart accuses these media outlets of misleading the public, being left-leaning, leaving out important facts and/or being divisive.
Democracy Now! goes on the attack against Breitbart in several articles. In Trump Defends Bannon, Says He Will Not Prosecute Clinton, the author quotes Southern Poverty Law Center as saying Breitbart Media is a “white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.” In As Trump Disavows “Alt-Right” Support, Critics Question If He Will Still Normalize White Supremacy,Nermeen Shaikh ,the interviewer in the article from Democracy Now!, refers to Breitbart as a right-wing news outlet. Katherine Franke, who is being interviewed in the article, then refers to Breitbart as “white supremacist.”
Both publications interview and show the opinions of “experts” who agree with the website’s overall message. An expert that would argue the other side of the issue is not presented in Breitbart and Democracy Now!’s articles. For the most part, both publications interview people who agree with them. They don’t give a platform to an opposing view.
Bias exists in all journalism. But the most objective way of approaching journalism is to present all sides of the story. Objectivity is better reached in an article when conflicting opinions are expressed. Being objective means explaining the pros and cons of a plan, the positive and negative opinions about a candidate or the justification for and against an idea. A journalist must set aside their feelings on whatever subject they are writing about and write the “truth,” not the truth as they see it.
When I was writing articles for Kings County Politics, I tried my best to write without an opinion or a spin. I felt the reader should know the facts and not my political stance on the issue. I wasn’t writing op-eds, so I felt my view was irrelevant.
As journalists, we can never reach “absolute objectivity” . But we can definitely try to do better than these two publications.