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Media Misinformation: Avoid Bias and Incorrect Sources for Your Business

turbinelabs May 24, 2022
[BLOG] Media Misinformation Avoid Bias and Incorrect Sources for Your Business

When it comes to media, there is an incredible amount of consumable information that is accessible to the public. While this surplus of information is what makes the internet and other media outlets great, not all media is accurate.

The average American consumes about 347 minutes of traditional media per day and about 470 minutes of digital media. With almost eight hours of your day being spent consuming some type of media, it’s extremely important that you understand where that media is coming from. Many forms of media tend to have some type of bias or underlying message that they may be putting forward, which could lead business leaders into uninformed decisions without realizing it.

This is why it is so important for consumers to understand what to look for when it comes to bias and misinformation. In recent data from Statista, 38.2% of Americans have accidentally shared false information, and over two-thirds of Americans believe that false information leads to a great deal of confusion.

Eliminate the risk of using biased news when making key business decisions by eliminating consumption of that news in the first place.  Keep reading to learn more about what you can do to stay informed and prevent the possibility of making uninformed decisions due to untrue data and media.

What Is Media Misinformation and Bias?

There are many different lenses through which to view the broad spectrum of media misinformation and bias. The three large categories covered by this umbrella term are:

  • Misinformation: Misinformation is information presented as fact that is factually incorrect. It can be anything from statements that are wrong outright, information that is misleading, or information that is full of omissions. Largely, this is information that isn't verified, is accepted as true without rigorous dissection, and may come from unreliable sources. It can be entirely untrue or partially untrue. Largely, media experts consider misinformation to be unintentionally false information, especially in comparison to disinformation.
  • Disinformation: Disinformation is deliberately incorrect, misleading, or deceptive information. The information provider is actively attempting to give a false impression or narrative or may be blatantly giving wrong information.
  • Bias: Bias can be either deliberate or accidental. An information source may not be aware of their implicit biases and be under the impression that they're giving objective and accurate information. A different biased source may be fully aware of their biases, accept that it's coloring their stance or information, and believe they are giving good information that's curated or better than an objective perspective.

Any media misinformation or bias is cause for concern. Although spotting it in digital publications and social media may be becoming more difficult, allegations of fake news and misinformation can ruin a brand's reputation and make target audiences suspicious about any new source of information.

However, it's important to recognize the difference between intentional misinformation and poor fact checking; similarly, it's important to understand the fine line between having an opinionated point of view and having hidden biases. For example, news sources on either extreme of the left and right political spectrum may be using rigorously examined facts and objective sources, but they still have a perspective that tips toward bias.

Access the Ultimate Guide to Media Monitoring for Your Business

How to Avoid Media Misinformation and Bias

Ideally, your media your consumers are consuming will avoid all three categories: misinformation, disinformation, and bias. However, because you have real people creating and curating information (and real people originating the data and information they're using), brushes with false information and bias are inevitable. Take active steps to weed out misinformation and bias from your content with these tips:

1. Use Multiple Sources

You can find a source that supports virtually any statement — but it's much harder to find multiple sources with that same support. Before showcasing provocative information or contentious statements that your consumers may be seeing, ensure the underlying information comes from multiple sources. Those sources should ideally be:

  • Varied information from different sources
  • Objectively written 
  • Sourced and credentialed

2. Consider Publication History

Before you use a source, specifically when it comes to making decisions about a subject matter, consider its publication history. Has it been wrong several times before on this subject? Who is the core audience, and does the information line up too well with what they want to hear? Where do the publications come from — for example, do they specialize in op-eds, or do they commit to hard-hitting research?

3. Beware of Bias by Omission

Just like you need to be careful about omitting information that doesn't support your purpose or point of view, the author of your source should also guard against that bias by omission. Consider these likely omissions:

  • They may have stopped looking for information as soon as they found a quick answer.
  • They may have left out information based on the level of knowledge and interest their audience has.
  • They may have left out confounding or complex details, either because those elements weakened their argument or simply diluted the crux of the publication.

Omissions aren't always deliberately misleading or even biased, but they do cause misinformation.

4. Identify the Agenda

Why does the source exist? What is the creator's end goal? If you know the answers to these questions, you can better weigh the information you're presented with to identify gaps and potential inaccuracies. Also, the writer isn't the only biased element to consider. The publication will be owned by an entity with its own interests, owners, advertisers, and funding sources. All of these play a role in how easy the information is to access, not just what the information itself states.

5. Look for Implicit Bias

Implicit bias can be just as harmful as deliberately misleading content. Be sure to carefully guard against it in your own content and proactively look for it in your sources. Using only media with implicit bias can contribute to consumers’ decision making. 

6. Go Beyond the Headlines

A lot of our understanding of the world is formed by overheard snippets, headlines, and general impressions that have developed over time. For example, you might glance over a news homepage or see occasional snippets of breaking news. However, these quick snapshots are incomplete, sensationalist, and don't give enough understanding to incorporate information into your own content (even if it feels like they do). Always go beyond the headline by reading the full story, investigating events from multiple sources, and being prepared to let go of your own first impression of a developing story.

7. Consult an Expert or Two — Or Three

Multiple sources are a good starting point. But multiple experts are even better. By consulting with experts in the subject field, you can contextualize facts and events, understand their deeper implications, and present richer content. Instead of short factoids, your publications can be deeper overviews of the how, when, and why behind facts. This doesn't just make your content objectively better — it makes your audience more informed, therefore allowing better decision making

8. Leverage Technology

All of these steps will put a definite drag on your content engine. While fact-checking and deeper analyses are critical steps for good PR and news teams, they can create a lot of friction with deadlines and demand. Technology can solve the conflict so you don't have to make compromises. With solutions from Turbine Labs, you can nearly automate the research and verification process. Our technology will scour digital sources for misinformation, disinformation, and bias so you receive content that truly enhance your publications.

Ward Off Media Misinformation and Bias With Turbine Labs

At Turbine Labs, we know how critical it is to have facts and information that you can rely on. With us, you’ll be able to operate your business, present information to others, and stay ready to respond to developing news. That's why we've developed tools that work in the background to verify information, give you reputable sources at your fingertips, and ensure you have better information all in a timely manner allowing you to stay ahead of the game. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a demo.