As humanists, we value rational thought and strive to live a moral and ethical life based on reason and free inquiry. In today’s world, since the exponential growth of the internet and social media, it can be challenging at times to sift fact from fallacy and identify bias, except perhaps in more extreme examples.
Modern journalism has also been significantly challenged. Katherine Murphy, Guardian Australia’s political editor, argues in her book On Disruption:
Part of the reason why our once shared societal realities feel fractured – why truth feels increasingly informed by where you stand as well as what you see – is because the mass media has stepped away from helping to shape those shared realities … The internet ate our revenue. Since that happened, media outlets have had to chase paying audiences. Emotions drive engagement and subscriber/supporter loyalty, and opinion is cheaper than news gathering.
While Katherine Murphy’s book also offers a more optimistic glimmer of hope, where individual journalists become known to their audiences and are respected as sharp and reliable purveyors of the truth, it can be difficult for many of us to navigate the maze of information with which we are bombarded on a daily basis.
It is arguably true to say all media is biased to a greater or lesser degree. This diagrammatic analysis of Australian media sources, while it could also be seen as somewhat subjective, is an interesting overview. It plots Australian media outlets on a grid from extreme left to extreme right bias, and from those with high standards of independent reporting to those that not only “don’t contribute to debate but actively detract from it”.
Another analysis of media bias can be found on the Media Bias/Fact Check website, which claims to be the most comprehensive media bias resource on the internet with 3300+ media sources and growing. It has a helpful search function to locate a particular media source – or search for “Australia”. Their conclusions about bias do seem to differ slightly from the above diagram, but are generally aligned.
You can also browse countries they have profiled for Government influence on the media. Each country lists the type of Government, who is in charge, and how much the Government controls the media. The Media Bias/Fact Check site says “This is important as the political alignment of the Government may dictate the bias of media in that country. This is a work in progress with the goal of profiling all 180 countries over the next year.”
Finally, here are some additional resources that can help navigate the maze and distinguish fact from fallacy.
Excellent for checking the veracity of what you read or intend to post or share on social media, these websites use independent investigative reporting to check facts and provide contextual analysis. They link to and document sources so visitors can conduct independent research to make up their own minds.
Founded in 2003, HoaxSlayer is believed to be the only major Australian-based hoax-debunking site. It is owned and run by Brett Christensen from his home office in Longreach Queensland. It has grown from a single home page to a large site with thousands of separate web pages. More articles are added to the website every week.
Started in 1994, Snopes is the oldest and possibly the largest fact-checking site online. As well as most recent content, it has thousands of checks and investigations in its archive.
AFP Fact Check
AFP launched its digital verification service, AFP Fact Check, in France in 2017 and has grown to become “one of the leading global fact-checking organisations”, with a worldwide network of dedicated journalists. Australian items are under Regions > Asia-Pacific or you can focus on Australia only by using search and typing “Australia”.