Watch Out for Embedded Bias

WLUK FOX 11 | 10-30-2016


WMCF has noticed an increasing trend by local news outlets of embedding biased social media posts within a story. We have called out this issue previously in an analysis, which you can find here.  

Unfortunately, this example was not an isolated incident. Take, for instance, a piece published on WLUK FOX 11’s website on October 30th

The story titled:  Official: FBI knew for weeks about newly discovered emails, provides fairly “generic” coverage of the ongoing investigation and review of Clinton-related emails found on a laptop shared by Anthony Weiner and top Clinton Aide, Huma Abedin. There is nothing particularly biased about the story itself. But, let’s take a closer look at the two embedded Tweets in addition to the YouTube video.

Taking the obvious, we see a Tweet from Hillary Clinton placed prominently in the middle of the piece wherein Mrs. Clinton feature’s her “view” on the FBI’s decision to reopen the email investigation.

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This is blatant propaganda that attempts to downplay or spin the investigation. It has zero place within a news piece.

More insidious is the insertion of the YouTube Video and Tweet generated by an organization called “The Briefing.”  Seemingly innocuous, WMCF nevertheless wondered, what sort of organization is “The Briefing?”

It is, literally, the propaganda arm of the Hillary Clinton campaign!

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So, to summarize, FOX 11 chose to feature a story that contained a Tweet from Hillary Clinton downplaying the FBI’s investigation, and two additional items published by the propaganda wing of her campaign, also spinning or downplaying the investigation.

To be clear, the story does not directly reference or address these pieces. So, why are these even placed within the storyThis act of “vicarious bias” essentially allows local media to present a fair report, but then feature biased information implanted throughout the story, which has the potential to affect readers’ points of view and opinions on what is being reported.

Because the social media posts originate from a third party, not from the news outlet, this creates “plausible deniability” for the reporter when accused of writing a biased news story.

Otherwise, to avoid bias, FOX 11 may have instead juxtaposed a countervailing Tweet on the same subject as Hillary Clinton’s, such as this:

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By choosing to embed biased social media posts within a news story that downplays or spins the story, while also choosing not to feature a countervailing view, FOX 11 commits quadruple bias:  commission, story selection, spin, and selection of sources.  

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