Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Aug. 16, 2022

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From the Newsroom: How biased is The Columbian?

By , Columbian Editor

On Tuesday, I used Google to search for the words “media bias chart,” and got 1.85 billion web hits in 0.41 seconds.

Even in the cyberworld, everyone is quick to share their opinions about media bias.

Over the last couple of years, several organizations have popped up that claim to objectively measure media bias. The Poynter Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to journalism research and support, wrote about a couple of them last year and questioned whether there was bias in their bias charts. And so it goes.

One such organization is Media Bias/Fact Check, a North Carolina-based website founded in 2015. Unlike some of the other media bias sites, which focus on big media, it also rates local news organizations. Recently it rated The Columbian, The Oregonian and KATU-TV.

You can read the reports for yourself on their website. The Columbian was rated as a “Least Biased” source of news, “based on balanced story selection and minimal editorial bias,” according to the report. “We also rate (The Columbian) ‘High’ for factual reporting due to proper sourcing and a clean fact check record.”

The report goes on to say “Articles and headlines present local news with minimally loaded language such as this: ‘Battle Ground man accused in Oregon burglary.’”

“Editorially, The Columbian endorses candidates on the state and local level, however, in the 2020 presidential election they did not endorse either candidate. Locally, they endorse both Democrats and Republicans. … A review of editorials and opinion pieces reveals a reasonable balance with slightly more favoring the left. In general, the news is reported factually and with minimal bias.”

Gee, thanks, Media Bias/Fact Check. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Now, one of the old sayings in journalism is “If your mother says she loves you, check it out!”

So I did a little research into Media Bias/Fact Check. Both Poynter and the Columbia Journalism Review have criticized its methodology in the past, but it’s also found credibility with other academics and the League of Women Voters.

I looked at Media Bias/Fact Check’s site, and was pleased to see it explains both its methodology and its funding. As a journalist, I appreciate transparency.

How did Media Bias/Fact Check rate some other news sources?

It rates The Associated Press as “Least Biased” and “Very High” for factual reporting. Not surprisingly, CNN gets a “Left Bias” rating, and Fox News is labeled as “Right Bias.”

Crosscut.com, the nonprofit Seattle-based site that shares its content with us, received a “Left-Center Bias” rating and “High” factual reporting.

The Oregonian was “Right-Center Bias,” a rating which Media Bias/Fact Check stated “was based on editorial positions that slightly favor the right. We also rate them ‘High’ for factual reporting due to proper sourcing of information and a clean fact check record.”

KATU-TV was labeled as “Right-Center,” also with “High” factual reporting. KOIN-TV was “Least Biased.” I couldn’t find anything on the site about KPTV-TV, KGW-TV or Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Of course, all talk about media bias is subjective. Within a few days of seeing the Media Bias/Fact Check report, I got this email from a reader. He was reacting to my Jan. 29 column about using sensitive photos and video (I’ll print his email here verbatim):

“Now I know why the Columbian is a left wing biased woke. You think the Oregonian newspaper is a ‘great one’ per you column. The editorial page run by Jaynes’s is a complete biased page. All the comments or columnist’s are left wing liberals, like Pitts and Milbank. Are you looking for a new job at the Oregonian?”

Well, you can’t please everybody.


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