Communication Media Bias
by
Robert Lichter, Justin Rolfe-Redding
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 August 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0111

Introduction

Are the news media biased? This has long been a heated question in the public sphere, particularly in the American political setting. The question has drawn extensive attention from scholars as well as politicians and political partisans. The contentious nature of what constitutes biased and unbiased coverage—both conceptually and methodologically—has been a central concern for this literature. Indeed, a lack of commonly agreed-upon standards has limited the development of a coherent research tradition. This article focuses on media bias within the United States, which has seen the most robust debate and scholarly examination of the topic. It focuses principally on claims of ideological bias, along with the structural and negativity biases that are often presented as alternative explanations, rather than attempting to catalogue the panoply of issue-specific biases of which the media stand accused. While the fields of communication and political science have traditionally hosted investigations of media bias, economics has become a relatively recent addition to the scholarly conversation, generating work on new measures of bias and the role that audience preferences may play in producing slanted news. While arbitrating the existence and extent of bias has been a focus of research, other works have investigated what leads individuals to perceive bias (even in neutral reporting) and what effects biased coverage may have.

Journals

No specialized journals exist with a focus on providing a forum for research on media bias. Instead, scholarship on this topic is spread across a wide range of periodicals in the fields of communication and political science, such as Political Communication and the International Journal of Press/Politics. With the rise of econometric approaches to the study of media bias, economics journals such as the Review of Economic Studies have begun to play host to an increasing body of published work on the topic. Within communication, bias research is often found in journals dedicated to the study of journalism, such as the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, and mass communication more broadly, such as Mass Communication and Society, but also in the top publications in the field, such as Journal of Communication and Communication Research.

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