Popping your media bias bubbles

In a war over ideas, we must not only know ourselves but also our opponents.

Most of us listen to, read, and talk with people who agree mostly with our worldviews. We lose exposure to diversity. We live inside a worldview bubble reinforced by like-minded people.

In 2013, I joined HCoVC. I appreciate the camaraderie. In our community, during events, we surround ourselves mostly with other humanists, atheists, and non-god believers. We created a safe harbor for everyone to discuss our concerns and criticisms about the pervasiveness of religion in society–without fear of being stigmatized for our non-belief. Up until recently, our conversations were mostly about religion mixed with social justice causes.

Enter the 2016 US Presidential election our HCoVC conversations shifted to politics. We have many great conversations. I don’t always agree with various opinions discussed. It was soon after the election that I realized most of the discussions I got involved in tended to have a liberal, left-leaning bias.

Starting in 2017 I’ve been getting my news and been engaging with people from both the Right and Left political and social views. I found myself having discussions that I’d not previously had and visiting news outlets I had not previously listened to or read.

How to get outside your media bias bubble.

What I did to get outside my normal opinion bubble was:

  • Check bias of my media outlets.
  • Rank outlets by Left or Right-bias.
  • Rebalance portfolio of outlets.

Check bias of media outlets

I visited MediaBiasFactCheck.com. There 1000+ media outlets are rated as being either Left, Right, or Center bias. The ratings are crowd-sourced. That means people like you and me rate the media sources. No rating system is perfect. I won’t get into MediaBiasFactCheck’s rating methodology now, but you can read about it at https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/methodology/.

Allsides.com, an independent, not-for-profit, news site is another source. Unlike regular news services, AllSides exposes bias and provides multiple angles on the same story so you can quickly get a broader picture, not just one slant. Top new stories are compared side-by-side from the Left, Center, and Right.

Podcast news and information bias.

I’m a podcast junkie. Listening is my preferred way to consume news and keep up with current events, while I drive, cook, or wash dishes. Now I get an audio dose of Left AND Right-leaning media. I don’t always agree with the Right or the Left. But I find it fascinating and helpful to hear the opinions and arguments from the Right and Left. Ultimately, we need to make up our own minds. Labels of Left or Right are not important. Learning and being open to ideas that may challenge our assumptions seems important. It’s convenient to label someone or a whole group of society as liberal Lefties, Progressives, or Conservatives or Right-wingers.

Benefits and risks of bias.

Labels of Left or Right may be important from a time-saving standpoint. How much time would we waste if we had to evaluate every Fox News article with no prior “Right/Conservative” label or categorization? Yes, we need to label, to use our prior knowledge, to save time. I’m advocating that we be more conscious, more aware, of how our biases filter in and out certain news and information, that may fit label of Liberal or Conservative.

Although Conservatives sometimes seem more sensible than Liberals, listening or reading articles in the Right-leaning media has not been easy. In the extremes–the far Left, Right, and so-called moderates in middle–all have degrees of wacky, crazy ideas. Fixed ideologies are dangerous. No side has all the answers, especially not all the “correct”, unchallengeable answers. We can notice our bias in certain dogmas when we step outside our usual ideological bubbles.

Ranked and rebalanced media bias

How did I rank and then rebalance my bias? Here’s what I came up with.

Below is a list of my news sources I now listen to after I ranked rebalanced based on Right, Left, or Center bias. Unless otherwise noted, the bias rating (eg. Right, Left, or Center) was taken from Mediabiasfactcheck.com.

Media Title Description Bias
The Economist: Editor’s Picks Op-eds, essays, and news Center
Intelligence Squared U.S. Nonpartisan, nonprofit Oxford-style moderated public debates. Center
KPCC, Southern California Public Radio Latest news stories impacting Southern Californians. Left-Center [My opinion]
KPCC’s Left, Right, & Center Weekly confrontation over politics, policy and popular culture. Center or Left-Center [My opinion]
National Review: The Editors Conservative commentary on politics, news, and culture Right
Project Censored Radio The News that Didn’t Make the News and Why Left [My rating]
Propublica: Journalism in the Public Interest Independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Left-Center
Quorum Call by National Journal A weekly podcast on Congress Center
The Real News Network Nonprofit, independent news organization. Left [My opinion]
Reveal: The Center for Investigative Reporting Investigative journalism and groundbreaking storytelling to spark action, improve lives and protect our democracy. Left-Center
WSJ (Wall Street Journal) What’s News Breaking news on business, markets, politics, Right-Center

All of the above are available free as audio podcasts. Maybe there’s better sources for free or even for fee. With this article you get a glimpse of one way of balancing your news so you are not trapped in one opinion bubble. I wonder if anyone else cares about listening to opinions coming out from all sides: Right, Left, and Center. Or, what would you or do you do for your news?

In The Art of War Sun Tzu wrote in 6th century BCE:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

So as in the 6th century BCE, so rings true today.

In wars over ideas we must know not only ourselves but also our “enemies”–the other side, whether Left or Right, Liberal or Conservative–whomever disagrees with us. If we know neither ourselves, our biases, nor our ideological opponents, we are doomed to suffer defeat and possibly catastrophe in our community, society, and humanity.

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