What I Learned from Comparing Two Contending News Sources for a Week

No matter what you believe, you can’t make it through an election without hearing bias reporting, fake news and unfair media. I decided to spend a week comparing two news sources, each generally associated with a different political party-- MSNBC and Fox News-- and here’s what I learned.

 

Day 1: Sept. 20

MSNBC Article: Senate Republicans derail bipartisan health care compromise

Takeaway: Just when people were starting to work together, Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders decided to try again to repeal Obamacare. This took any chance of the bipartisan bill off the table. Republicans deliberately killed the bipartisan effort in order to force more party members to support a more right-wing repeal policy. The article was pretty critical of Republican leaders, but I don’t think it was an inordinate amount for the situation.

FOX Article: Dems get personal in attacks on Graham and Casey

Takeaway: The new effort to repeal Obamacare is “an elegantly simple solution to an intractable problem.” There was an acknowledgment of Trump’s sometimes harsh language, but it was overshadowed by the vilification of Democrats who spoke out against the plan. Basically, previous political bickering does not excuse the Democrats’ words.

Conclusion: It was a divisive issue, and both writers used language to undermine the other side. While it was more obvious on the part of GOP writers, you can see the undertones in each article for yourself.

 

Day 2: Sept. 21

MSNBC Article: Trump Slaps Sanctions on North Korea, Seeks ‘Denuclearization’

Takeaway: The article starts off well with a simple relaying of Trump wanting sanctions to be put on North Korea, for obvious reasons. The article doesn’t support or reject the sanctions but says Trump will be enforcing them and that they might be partially directed at China. There were slight mentions of Trump calling Kim Jong Un “Rocketman” and the possibility of warfare/nuclear weapons on North Korea. Overall, there wasn’t much criticism present in this one.

FOX Article: Trump signs executive order targeting North Korea’s trading partners

Takeaway: The writer decided to use strong language to show strength/power against North Korea. There was a definite emphasis on the criminality of the regime. Every action of the administration was portrayed as for the betterment of society and for enforcing U.S. as a world leader.

Conclusion: With these two articles, I think the establishment of a common enemy meant neither side focused on shaming the other heavily.

 

Day 3: Sept. 22

MSNBC Article: McCain cannot “in good conscience” vote for GOP repeal bill

Takeaway: There was some praise for McCain and other Republicans for not being bullied into accepting a plan they weren't fully informed on. Overall, the article seemed to focus on the Republicans who will be voting against the bill. There weren’t really any criticisms of the bill; it was mainly just praise for those who weren’t supporting it.

FOX Article: McCain comes out against ObamaCare overhaul, dealing blow to GOP’s repeal hopes

Takeaway: This article was not very critical of McCain for his decisions. Most of the article focused on glamorizing the bill and keeping up appearances that there is still hope for it and that it will pass. Honestly, I was expecting more criticism; but maybe since FOX is generally considered a more conservative news outlet, they don’t want to speak too harshly against him. His history as a war hero and a reliable Republican, along with his recent cancer diagnosis, could have also played a role in this.

 

Day 4: Sept. 23

MSNBC Article: Backlash After Trump Slams NFL Players’ Protests, NBA’s Steph Curry

Takeaway: The article really showed solidarity with the protesters. While there weren't any outright criticisms of Trump’s words, there was definitely some unconscious aggression and judgment—almost a mockery—of Trump’s language. There were also some details about the history of athletes protesting presidential visits, as well as glamorization of the honor of speaking out and utilizing First Amendment rights.

FOX Article: Trump vs pro sports: President finds new target in America First agenda

Takeaway: The FOX article was definitely more nonchalant about the whole thing. It almost came across that it was funny the way Trump seems to attack anyone who remotely disagrees with him. The article still covered all the backlash of his remarks but didn’t do so in a way that conveyed the severity of everything.

 

Day 5: Sept. 24

MSNBC Article: Poll Shows Weak Support for Latest Republican Repeal Plan

Takeaway. It’s starting to become clear that the amount of bias in every article depends more on who’s writing it than the news source it comes from. Some articles from MSNBC, such as this one, are more clear in their criticism of the right; but others present a much more objective perspective. Although it is often a personal choice by the writers, each news source follows a general trend.

FOX Article: Trump Approves Updated travel restrictions on 8 countries, adding north korea and venezuela to the list

Takeaway: The article is pretty clear in its admiration for the President’s actions as they talking about his honor and duty in protecting the nation. I think they downplayed the severity of the decision and the global implications; but overall the article was not too biased.

 

Day 6: Sept. 25

MSNBC Article: White House Rejects N. Korea Claim that Trump ‘Declared War’

Takeaway: This was a pretty matter-of-fact article, with not a whole lot of rhetoric against Trump’s comments or the Republican party. It mainly took readers through the statements made by North Korea and the reasons behind them.

FOX Article: ‘Declaration of War’: North Korea claims Trump speech brought ‘all options’ to the table

Takeaway: The article focused on a propaganda video released by the North Korean state news channel, which depicted a U.S. ship being destroyed and mocked Trump. This article seemed to center more on the idea that this was an incoherent rambling by North Korean officials and one that Trump would shut down, rather than a legitimate threat. While it might not have actually shown the severity of the situation, it wasn’t completely blind to it either.

 

Day 7: Sept. 26

MSNBC Article: Why Dems are more than happy to negotiate with Trump

Takeaway: This was one of the more outright cases of partial writing I’ve seen over the week. The author was pretty clear about establishing Democrats as the moral high ground. In this case, the left was depicted as caring more about the impact of policy than party pride. There were also some pretty overt criticisms of Republicans stalling any effort by Obama to pass legislation. It also alleged the right of being more concerned with beating Democrats, or being able to blame the left for policy failure than actually focusing on the advancement of political policies.

FOX Article: Trump vows tremendous middle-class tax cuts, millions of jobs, with new tax plan

Takeaway: I didn’t find an article on a comparable topic to the MSNBC one today; but there was still a clear tone to the way the author narrated the story. The author may have downplayed some of the potential negative implications of the new tax plan—he mentioned them, but failed to go into details. This seems to be a theme among the FOX articles, as they sort of address the other side enough so that it is present, but not in-depth enough that the reader gets a true understanding.

 

Overall

While I certainly read some of the bias we constantly hear about, it became pretty clear that not every writer crafts their article to display their bias, and the topic plays a huge role in how much bias each article entails. When most articles centered around a common enemy—in this case, North Korea—or even just a less divisive issue, there was far less criticism of the other side. It is the responsibility of each writer and news outlet to make sure their articles incorporate both sides objectively and that the news being published is reliable and respectful. Ultimately, if we want a public that is educated on politics and can truly make important voting decisions, we need to be able to trust our news. Reporters today have a duty to put forth accurate news—not just what will create and inspire support for their side. The best policy will result from an honest portrayal and, if necessary, criticism of proposals regardless of which political party created them.