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Bias in journalism – the more equal the better?

by Christian Pieter Hoffmann

Media bias: The journalistic profession is homogeneously occupied; is this noticeable in the end product or in the audience's perception?

A significant part of the political spectrum in the population does not see itself represented in professional journalism; this can lead consumers to so-called "alternative media" and polarising providers. Journalistic newsrooms therefore need more diversity of perspective, not only on gender and origin, but also on different (political) worldviews.

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Media Bias can manifest itself in the journalistic profession both in the journalistic product and in the audience's perception. Public discourse escalates on almost all major issues. In addition to this the world has become more confusing, more global, more complex and faster. This is precisely why it is important for free and independent media to fulfill their very own tasks: Selecting topics, explaining and classifying facts, and reporting in a balanced manner.

A significant part of the political spectrum in the population, however, no longer sees itself represented in professional journalism; this can lead audiences to so-called "alternative media" and polarizing influencers in social media. Journalistic newsrooms need more diversity of opinion, not only in terms of gender and origin, but also in terms of different (political) worldviews.

In journalism research and training, however, there is increasing debate about whether this classic journalistic norm is still up to date and whether so-called "opinion journalism" might not be the future of reporting. A weakening of the professional norm of "balance" in relation to activist reporting is also reinforced by the fact that the profession itself is quite homogeneous politically. This combination can lead to an increasing loss of trust in the media and to an additional polarization of the public. Prof. Dr. Christian Hoffmann, University of Leipzig, explains in a recent academic analysis that he prepared for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation how the political orientation of the journalistic profession and the public's trust in the media are related, what the causes and effects of one-sided media coverage are, and what challenges arise for journalism in this respect in the future.

The entire analysis "Einseitigkeit oder Perspektivenvielfalt im Journalismus? Media Bias – Ursachen, Wirkung und Herausforderungen" can be read here as a PDF.

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