The Eight Categories of Media Bias

Media manipulation is one of the most unfortunate aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We’ve seen papers blur the distinction between journalism and advocacy, fact-checking failures become fatal, photographers and Palestinians twist reality in mutually beneficial relationships, semantics become politicized and news executives cover up news to protect access. We’ve even seen journalists abuse readers who dared to disagree.

None of this is in the public’s interest. News services capable of skewing Mideast coverage are just as capable of botching other areas of coverage too.

  1. We expect journalists to maintain professional independence and objectivity.
  2. We expect news that is relevant, informative, proportionate, and engaging.
  3. We expect transparency.

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If truth is to prevail, we must be more discerning news consumers, otherwise, we become passive objects of someone else’s agenda. As Matti Friedman, a former Israel correspondent for the Associated Press, put it:

The world is not responding to events in this country, but rather to the description of these events by news organizations. The key to understanding the strange nature of the response is thus to be found in the practice of journalism, and specifically in a severe malfunction that is occurring in that profession—my profession—here in Israel.

We’re bombarded with 24/7 news, but there’s a lack of awareness of the objective standards of journalism we should expect. By understanding the eight violations of media objectivity, we can distinguish between the credible and the implausible, and between what contributes to public discourse and what muddies it.

HonestReporting CEO Hyams says, “We have brought together detailed knowledge about how news monitoring works, in a way that is easily usable for grassroots communities. By defining media bias, we’re empowering an ever-growing number of news consumers to recognize how damaging poor news coverage can be, and how powerful their efforts are when they have the tools to respond effectively.”

As you will see, these principles apply to all areas of coverage, not just the Mideast conflict. Each month, we’ll be publishing a new chapter. As we roll them out, you’ll be able to click on each individual bias category.

The 8 Violations of Media Objectivity

  1. Misleading definitions: Prejudicing readers through language.
  2. Imbalanced reporting: Distorting news through disproportionate coverage.
  3. Opinions disguised as news: Inappropriately injecting opinion or interpretation into coverage.
  4. Lack of context: Withholding a frame of reference for readers.
  5. Selective omission: Reporting certain events over others, or withholding key details.
  6. Using true facts to draw false conclusions: Infecting news with flawed logic.
  7. Distortion of facts: Getting the facts wrong.
  8. Lack of transparency: Failing to be open and accountable to readers.

See also the introduction to this series and some final thoughts and acknowledgements, wrapping the concepts together and raising awareness for news literacy.


“Red Lines: The Eight Categories of Media Bias,” is available on Amazon for purchase as an e-book.


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