Zoe Zheng / Staff reporter
Most of the time, people rely on various sources of news to gain information about what is going on in the world. They usually believe in the “fact” they collect from news media. But sometimes, reporters may put some bias secretly into their news. According to a study from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, 80% of the media coverage in Donald Trump’s first 100 days as president was negative. It is hard for people to discern the bias in news media, so their thoughts may be affected easily. Here is a recent news topic used as an example to analyze bias in news.
The suspension of an NBA season brought a huge impact among people. Almost every news website published their articles about this event.
The NBA official website posted “a letter to NBA Fans” by Adam Silver. The whole article was written in the form of a letter, and it emphasized that the NBA suspended the season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously, the website’s primary audience is all of the NBA fans. The NBA reporters need to consider the image of the NBA and its players, so they can not write anything about Rudy Gobert, the first NBA player who was tested positive for COVID-19. Instead, they wrote the NBA season suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to let all the fans believe they made this decision was to safeguard the health and well-being of fans, players, everyone connected to their game and the general public. However, only a few hours before Gobert was tested positive for COVID-19, the owners of the NBA league were leaning toward playing games without fans in arenas. Namely, Gobert was a big factor that resulted in the suspension of the season.
Foxs News, an American news channel, also talked about the reason of the suspension, but they focused more on Gobert. In the article “NBA season suspended after All-Star Rudy Gobert tests positive for coronavirus” by Olgun Uluc, he mentioned Gobert nearly ten times and collected some information including videos and images about Gobert and his “dangerous joke” (which he touched all reporters’ phones, microphones and recorders) before testing. The sentences he wrote easily let people tend to believe the NBA season was suspended in response to Gobert’s positive test. Foxs News is targeted towards all American people. Compared to see some common explanations like COVID-19, readers prefer seeing reporters reporting the “truth” that the NBA had to suspend the season, like Gobert. This is becasue that “truth” creates conflict and drama for the news article, and conflict is a key element which makes the news value high. Back to this news article, if this article let people think whether the season was suspended because of Gobert and whether Gobert should be responsible for his behavior, then it would have successfully raised the attention and discussion of readers and gained profits from it.
Another point of contention is whether the suspension of the NBA season is a good thing or a bad thing. As official news sites like NBA and CNN reported, the suspension was the right move because it could safeguard all the NBA players and fans and control the spread of COVID-19. Indeed, there was still a risk of continuing to play even without audience. Because it was unknown how many players in the NBA had the virus. If Gobert got another player sick and the game continued, that player would go on to play another team where they could get other players sick and so on.
Although its purpose was not wrong, it might bring a huge negative effect on other aspects at the same time. An American financial and business news website Business Insider in the article “What the NBA suspension could mean for marketers, advertisers, and sponsors” by Daniel Carnahan analyzed the negative influence the suspension might bring in different areas, such as league and team sponsors, athlete sponsors, TV networks and so on. This news medium is clearly designed for people who work in the business field or are interested in business. They like to see some aspects about the business behind an event, so they may have interests in this type of news. That news may make readers tend to believe the suspension is largely a bad thing. AJC, a daily newspaper in America, also indicated the impact of the suspension among the NBA fans and players through showing screenshots of people posting on social media in the article “‘Crazy … Can’t be true’ | Mavericks’ Mark Cuban, social media react to NBA’s suspension” by Tim Darnell. It used a quote from the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban as its headline. This promotes prominence, another important news element which can add interest, so that the news article can attract more people to read.
It is easy to find out whether people are able to detect the bias in news media is based on where they get the sources and their ability to think subjectively. In order to let people not be affected by bias too much, one of the suggestions is learning a fact through a variety of news media. This will give people a fuller understanding of a fact. Moreover, when people are learning a fact or an event on a news medium, they can ask themselves several questions: Who are the sources? Is there a lack of diversity? From whose point of view is the news reported? Are there double standards? Do stereotypes screw coverage? Is there a lack of context? Do the headlines and stories match? Are stories on important issues featured prominently?
A lot of time, reporters have to publish the news from their platforms’ perspectives. Therefore, the existence of bias in news media is not avoidable. As readers, they need to enhance their ability to detect those bias, which are hard for people to notice, and develop their own thoughts.