Complex or clickbait?: The problematic Media Bias Chart

This guest post was submitted by Candice Benjes-Small, Head of Research at William & Mary, and Nathan Elwood, Library Administrator at the Missouri Legislative Library.

The Media Bias Chart, commonly referred to simply as “The Chart,” has become ubiquitous in discussion of information literacy and news evaluation. The Chart, for those unaware, attempts to differentiate trustworthy and untrustworthy media sources based on two axes: bias and reliability. 

Despite the popularity of this memetic tool, it raises a whole host of issues that must be addressed as part of our larger information literacy conversations. 

The Chart promotes a false equivalency between left and right, lionizes a political “center” as being without bias, reinforces harmful perceptions about what constitutes “news” in our media ecosystem, and is ignored by anyone that doesn’t already hold a comparable view of the media landscape. 

The Chart is a meme, not an information literacy tool, and as librarians we need to be clear-eyed about these flaws. As Ad Fontes Media released version 7.0 last month, we thought it was a good time to explore our concerns. 

Origins of The Chart

First published in December 2016 by Vanessa Otero, The Chart was originally simple and informal, placing sources on a “liberal” to “conservative” left-right axis, and along a vertical axis of credibility ranging from “complex” to “clickbait.” As with all iterations of The Chart, this resulted in sources arranged in a rough pyramid, with sources ranked the most “mainstream” and “complex” as being of the highest information value. 

Creator Vanessa Otero does not come from an information literacy background. While currently an intellectual property lawyer, her previous professional experience was in pharmaceutical sales and as a Regional Advisor for Noveau Riche, a non-accredited vocational school specializing in real estate investing.  In 2010, amidst accusations of being a multi-level marketing scam, Nouveau Riche dissolved. In 2011, the founders of the company were fined more than $5 million by the Arizona Corporation Commission for defrauding students. 

Otero says The Chart is a “passion project” and could be useful to consumers and advertisers.

Within weeks of the first iteration’s release, The Chart became a viral phenomenon. It also received pushback from far-right outlets after seeing Infowars, Breitbart, and The Daily Caller all grouped in the bottom-far right, a quadrant labeled as not credible. 

However, criticism of the original meme wasn’t exclusive to the far-right. Left-wingers noticed the conspiracy site “Natural News” grouped at the bottom left of the liberal/conservative axis. 

Natural News, it was quickly pointed out, was a known purveyor of far-right conspiracy theories, such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting being a false-flag. The far-left/extremely “liberal” grouping for the site, Otero justified through the site’s “anti-corporate and popular liberal pseudo-science positions.” Natural News has since fluctuated across the spectrum, before arriving on the far-right in the current iteration. 

On neutrality

In the original iterations of The Chart, all evaluation of sources was conducted by Otero herself. However, after her formation in 2018 of Ad Fontes Media, analysis is conducted by a team of writers, journalists, and other professionals. 

Whenever a new item is evaluated, it is analyzed by a team of at least 3 of these analysts, “with an equal number from left-leaning, center-leaning, and right-leaning perspectives.”

One of the most common points of justification for this project and similar endeavors is that the analysis they conduct is “bipartisan” in this manner. This is something that has been left uninterrogated within the library profession for far too long. It may seem like a strange question, but what is actually “good” about a bipartisan analysis?

When Donald Trump claims that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville riots, we can easily identify what a facile, deceptive framing this is. So why do we allow it within our media analysis?

Say you have, like Ad Fontes Media does, a “bipartisan” group of analysts; evenly mixed between liberals/leftists, conservatives, and centrists. For the purposes of this example, feel free to dismiss that liberals aren’t actually classified as “Left” in most understandings of political science. Instead, consider what the conservative viewpoint genuinely brings to the table.

On January 6th, a majority (68%) of Republican lawmakers, the representative body of the conservative viewpoint in American politics, voted to overturn a free and fair presidential election based on unsubstantiated and proven-false conspiracies. They did this only hours after an attempted coup against our government, based on the same premises, left five people dead.

The consensus view among the American conservative movement is that the attack was justified in its reasoning, if not its method. 

As Eugene Robinson said in his recent Washington Post editorial, “Bipartisanship is nice, but you can’t negotiate with fantasy and lies.” 

The problem with pyramids

Projects like the Media Bias Chart all portray the political center “unbiased,” feeding into what cultural theorist Mark Fisher labels as “capitalist realism,” in which the status quo power structure is the only system that can feasibly exist, and even the thought of alternative systems is seen as inherently radical.

In the structure of The Chart, the “center” or “status quo” is portrayed as the most preferable, least problematic option. It is, visually, the top of the pyramid. It is “biased” (and therefore less credible) to hold views outside reinforcement of this status quo. 

Within this framing, the Democratic Party represents the left end of the spectrum, and the Republican Party the entirety of the right. However, according to the work of the Manifesto Project, the Democratic Party tracks to the political center, and the Republican Party to the far-right. . 

Within this framing, right-wing and left-wing views are both held as equally “extreme,” despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security singled out right-wing extremists as “the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland” 

Mainstream or Utter Garbage?  

Another flaw of the balanced, pyramid structure of The Chart is that it fails to take into account the centralization of the media landscape, as described in the Propaganda Model. The corporate monopolizing that we see in the US media, rather than furnishing us with diverse viewpoints across a variety of sources, has collapsed our media ecosystem into a small set of acceptable views, portrayed by dozens of sources that differ only aesthetically. Our media ecosystem, put bluntly, presents an “illusion of choice,” oriented largely to the benefit of a pro-business status quo.   

What’s the objective? 

Also worth noting is how the “objective, view from nowhere” standard that The Chart reinforces was developed by and for white, cis males, and that enforcing that “neutral” POV can often be fundamentally inequitable.. 

Consider when a reporter for the City Desk program in Chicago accused Malcolm X of being “personally prejudiced” and incapable of being “academic” in his arguments regarding the Ku Klux Klan, simply because they had burned down his home and murdered his father. Or more recently, when Black journalist Wesley Lowery revealed how he had been “muzzled” by editors at the Washington Post.

In the wake of these events, Lowery has written compellingly on the failures of our current conception of “objectivity” in newsrooms, a conception that The Chart fortifies by design.  

The problems of source as shorthand

While the outlet providing an article is certainly an essential consideration when it comes to evaluation, we reject that it is the most important indicator. A media company is not a monolith, but an organization of people. 

Divergence from editorial direction is common. When the NYT published Senator Tom Cotton’s opinion piece calling for the military be sent in to control protests, or the Wall Street Journal’s Op-Ed questioned Dr. Jill Biden’s use of the “Doctor” title, journalists at both organizations spoke out against pieces. 

Sources are also divided into different areas, with different specializations and audiences. This makes it very difficult to generalize a source’s credibility. For example, Buzzfeed and Teen Vogue have published excellent political reporting while also drawing eyeballs through listicles and pop culture pieces. 

The simple layout of The Chart does not allow for this kind of context or nuance. 

What is included

It’s difficult to tell how Ad Fontes selects the media which appear on The Chart. Natural News and others have transitioned on and off The Chart several times. Many sources in Version 7.0’s “green box” are household names, but just beneath them in the “mixed reliability category” The Chart has previously included outlets like Epoch Times, a pro-Trump outlet with ties to the Falun Gong cult and a penchant for spreading Covid-19 conspiracy theories.

Currently occupying the same space, and even outranking established publications like The Nation in terms of credibility, is Quillette, a publication that has promoted racial pseudo-science on multiple occassions.

In her essay Lizard People in the Library, Barbara Fister argues that librarians must educate learners to differentiate between news platforms which serve as watchdogs for society, and outlets which prioritize profits over any kind of social contract. Ad Fontes amplifies outlets like Epoch Times and Quillette through their inclusion, leading the casual observer to assume that, while problematic, these are legitimate news organizations worthy of inclusion in a normal media diet. 

Just as harmful as these impacts is how The Chart also reinforces the concept of “news” being exclusively a national affair. This is to the great detriment of local news outlets, which often provide not only high quality information, but information more directly relevant to people’s lives.

This is a real problem, because the death of news at the local level has allowed for the propagation of far-right propaganda outlets in the vacuums created. 

Tabula Rasa

Some have argued that The Chart is helpful for students who are new to research and are a ‘blank slate’ when it comes to sources; The Chart gives them guidance as they conduct their research online. But this makes little sense; as a visual source, The Chart can only include a tiny fraction of sites. 

Internet searches will bring up stories from thousands of different sources not on The Chart. Local media sources are one example of a source type that is ignored by The Chart’s methodology, but there are even extremely popular information and disinformation sources that don’t show up. 

Given the variable nature of the chart’s inclusion of sources, how are readers supposed to interpret a source’s absence in relation to its credibility? 

Check your bias

In one of the earliest mainstream media articles about the newly formed Ad Fontes Media, MarketWatch asserted in their headline “How biased is your news source? You probably won’t agree with this chart.” 

From the beginning, the biggest flaw in this project has been viewers’ own confirmation bias. Frequent consumers of sources that The Chart claims to be untrustworthy or biased will often dismiss The Chart entirely. Conversely, the centrist consumer who reposts The Chart to their social media page will often ignore the unscientific and haphazard nature of the work.

So what chart should I use instead?

While we have focused our discussion on the Media Bias Chart’s flaws, many of the same critiques apply to other websites that claim to rate media outlets’ biases. Professors and librarians are looking for a ‘silver bullet’ that will help students become more discerning consumers of media. As educators, we must transition away from crutches like these, and instead endorse comprehensive, skill-based evaluation of information sources.

While Nathan does not recommend any methodology in particular, he has found that the Five W’s as framed by Jessica Olin are a helpful tool when training students to read sources critically. The easy recognizability of the framework helps it to stick with students, and promotes a constant and variable interrogation of sources rather than a standardized checklist. He has also regularly talked about the misinformation categories identified by media professor Melissa Zimdars, whose work was popularized around the same time as Otero’s meme. In addition, he feels that information literacy, as a skill designed to create more informed citizens, must be coupled with a comprehensive and rigorous study of the basics of political science and civics. 

Candice advocates people use Mike Caulfield’s SIFT method when evaluating a news article, since it emphasizes lateral reading and the need to recontextualize information. While media bias charts try to provide a heuristic that encourages people to trust or distrust a source in isolation, SIFT recognizes that we must view each story within the greater information ecosystem. This is not something that can be done with a meme – and to suggest information literacy can be so simplistic is insulting. 

26 thoughts on “Complex or clickbait?: The problematic Media Bias Chart”

  1. Thank you, Candice, for this great article reminding us that there are no fast and easy ways to evaluate information!

  2. *I am the Founder and CEO of Ad Fontes Media and the creator of the original Media Bias Chart

    I read your blog that criticizes the Media Bias Chart and wanted to respond directly with some invitations and requests.

    Please note that I very much respect and have an affinity for the community of academic and research librarians, not only because librarians are on the front lines of teaching information literacy, but also because the work my team and I have done on the Media Bias Chart and with Ad Fontes Media more broadly have been propelled by librarians who find it useful. We have had several librarians on our analyst team over the past two years. Currently, we have two librarians on our staff.

    I wanted to respond to what appear to be your primary concerns: that the Media Bias Chart itself is 1) insufficiently nuanced because it is an image, and 2) incomplete, by itself, as a way to teach information literacy.

    I actually agree with those points. Given that it is a shareable infographic, it necessarily condenses complex information about news sources. And it cannot replace necessary instruction on information literacy. But we do not claim that the image captures all the nuance about news sources, nor do we claim that it is a replacement for information literacy.

    I personally, and my team at Ad Fontes, deeply care about nuance, data, detail, and transparency, and we provide it in ways you did not mention in your blog post. I invite you to explore our Interactive Media Bias Chart. Though you linked to it in the first line, you did not mention to your readers that it provides scatterplots of the dozens of articles we rate per source.

    You cite a concern that “[a] media company is not a monolith…” and note that individual articles such as the NYT and WSJ op-eds were criticized by other authors in the organization. You also note that different publications have various sections and audiences. We know this and agree, and we believe our interactive chart illustrates this very concept you allude to.

    We evaluate sources based on content analysis of many individual articles, not just a high-level source evaluation. Each dot on the interactive chart represents an article we have rated, and as you can see from the isolated view of the New York Times on our interactive chart, some articles are rated as opinion, others as analysis, and others as fact reporting. To date, our analyst team has rated over 12,000 individual articles and show episodes from news and news-like sources.

    We also care deeply about media literacy–specifically, news literacy–and the importance of teaching people how to discern reliability and bias in news content themselves. That is why we provide a full news literacy education program called SUMMA, which teaches students how to rate articles using our methodology to create their own Media Bias Charts. It includes access to CART, the software platform we use to enter ratings for articles. We provide it in programs for schools and for individual adult learners.

    In your article you said “[a]s educators, we must transition away from crutches like these, and instead endorse comprehensive, skill-based evaluation of information sources.” Our program includes extensive instructor and student materials, over eight hours of instruction, and encourages practice to develop skill. I’d like to invite you both to review our curriculum and materials, free of charge. I believe you will find it comprehensively teaches skill-based evaluation of information sources. Please let me know if you would like to review it and I will have someone from my team set you up with access.

    The Media Bias Chart is a tool that is especially useful for people who may never find their way to an academic librarian or a proper media literacy course for help. This population includes school-age students and those out of school who, for whatever reason, lack the time, inclination, or ability to sort through the news landscape. It reaches people who might not otherwise be reached. It helps them, and they express their gratitude to us in letters, emails, and social media posts, so I am not sorry that it exists in a shareable infographic form.

    You state that I do not have an information literacy background, and you point to my prior professions in a way that implies I do not have the credibility required to contribute to the fields of media and news literacy. For some reason you selectively included that my former employer was the subject of a lawsuit and subsequent fine for securities fraud, which had absolutely nothing to do with me or my role as a salesperson for the company. This particular fact is irrelevant to my qualifications, but its inclusion in the article had the effect of implying that I am personally untrustworthy. I found it manifestly unfair.

    You are entitled to believe that only those with advanced degrees in information literacy-related fields are qualified to teach anything that falls under the information literacy umbrella. However, the modern news and technology landscape has shifted greatly in the last twelve years, and as a result, there aren’t a lot of great resources for teaching how to navigate this modern news landscape. Educators have been looking for new, helpful tools, and many have appreciated my new contributions to this field.

    As you note, I am a patent attorney. My undergrad degree is a B.A. in English from UCLA, and my J.D. is from the University of Denver. My formal education and professional career–13 years total– centered on analytical reading, writing, and reasoning, which was actually the perfect background for me to create a content analysis methodology for evaluating text. Walter Dean, a member of our Advisory Board and a journalism professor of over 40 years who co-authored one of the premier content analysis studies even done on news, helped us formulate our methodology.

    I presented a webinar and blog series on how to teach news literacy for Infobase this past summer, which had 200-300 attendees at each session. I recently joined the Advisory Council for Media Literacy Now, a non-profit that works to legislate media literacy curriculum requirements in states. I presented a workshop at the Northeast Media Literacy Conference this past fall. These aspects of my background would be at least as important to include in a blog post about the Media Bias Chart as my other previous jobs.

    There are a few other critiques that deserve rebuttal.

    Regarding your critique that we “lionize” the political center, we do no such thing. There are two axes. The vertical axis is the one that measures reliability and news value. We state throughout our materials that we do not equate the middle of the chart with being the best. As we state on our “Intro to the Media Bias Chart” page:

    “-What does it mean if a source is in the “middle” of the Chart?

    The “middle” represents three distinct concepts. A source can be in the middle if it is either 1) minimally biased, 2) centrist, or 3) balanced. The “middle” isn’t necessarily the “best.” This Chart just tries to capture what the “middle” of US contemporary politics IS, without taking a position on what it “should be.”

    For a full primer on the Media Bias Chart, see this 1-hour webinar recording by Ad Fontes Founder and CEO Vanessa Otero:

    Intro to the Media Bias Chart: Definitions and Methodology”

    I also reject the critique that our inclusion of conservative analysts makes our approach to rating political bias invalid. The blog post unfairly attributes support of Donald Trump’s statements and the attack on the Capitol to our analysts, which misses several logical and factual steps, and is inaccurate.

    The way we have our analysts self-identify is by having them rate themselves on over 20 different policy positions. You can see that self-rating survey on our “Become an Analyst” application on our site. We find this results in a much more accurate classification of our analysts as left, right, and center than asking them who they voted for or which political party they are registered for, which is more binary. We currently have over 40 paid analysts.

    Our work does not draw extremists. Our team includes staunch progressives and staunch conservatives, but even our most left-leaning and right-leaning analysts are committed to fighting misinformation and extremism, and each of them disdain the peddlers of such content from their own sides.

    Therefore, just because one-third of our analysts are conservative does not mean they believe right-wing misinformation. Your post implies that they supported the Capitol Riots or believe the election was stolen. That is nonsense. All of our analysts are trained to evaluate claims for veracity using our methodology, and our right-leaning analysts rated claims of election fraud in the same manner our center and left-leaning analysts did—as false or misleading, as appropriate for the article, podcast or TV show.

    Our analysts rate articles, podcasts, and TV shows together, live, on shifts in Zoom. Each shift has one left, one center, and one right analyst. They each read the article, rate it themselves, then look at each other’s scores, and discuss any differences. They rate the articles with remarkable consistency between themselves, despite their political differences.

    The process of rating articles together is, itself, illuminating and inspiring. It shows that committed, thoughtful people of different political views can discuss facts, express their viewpoints, listen to each other, and come to agreements around two questions: how reliable and how biased is this piece of content? They can come to this agreement even if the underlying political issue is polarizing or emotional.

    Your critique implies that we should not include conservatives because they are just “wrong” and therefore incapable of dispassionate analysis and truth-seeking. We believe the “we’re right, you’re wrong, so we’ll shut you out” approach to politics contributes to our country’s crisis of polarization. Therefore, our very process eschews the notion that only one side is right all the time and purposely includes people with different viewpoints. We are committed to diversity across many personal dimensions.

    Our news literacy curriculum allows students to rate articles themselves. Many educators find that their left, right, and center students can engage around political articles just like our analysts do. Seeing students share healthy, thoughtful debate about the meaning of an article creates hope for our country’s future.

    Once you have had a chance to review the Interactive Media Bias Chart and our SUMMA Materials, I request that you post an update or subsequent blog that notifies your readers that we do have these resources available and that they can evaluate my ability to teach news literacy for themselves by watching the free Infobase webinar series.

    I invite you to do so because the last paragraph of your post implies that we do not recognize that “we must view each story within the greater media ecosystem.” We do, and our interactive chart shows that. Your post also implies that we are suggesting that information literacy be taught with only a meme. We do not suggest this, and the existence of our news literacy program contradicts such a claim. I believe a follow-up post would provide completeness and fairness to your blog readers.

  3. It seems very strange that Vanessa’s response article, posted to her own website, would include a PDF of our blog with all the hyperlinks that we used to provide context and evidence disabled, rather than linking to the original article!

    Especially strange given that her website DOES directly link to the articles they review for their scoring system, even from conspiracist sites like Natural News or Epoch Times.

    It’s almost as though Vanessa cares very little about balance, integrity, or thoughtful debate, and far more about protecting her very profitable brand identity!

  4. I find Ms. Otero’s response to this article very refreshing. She is regularly talked down to in the article and in Mr. Elwood’s response. There are a number of personal attacks against her. And yet, she talked about the issues without slinging any mud back.

    The original article does have some good analysis and links to resources that could be helpful to those wanting to gain better media literacy, but those good points are almost lost in the slanted way the article presents the case. The author should have kept to the facts, highlighting the flaws in The Chart without getting bogged down in the ad-hominim-esque distractions.

  5. In Ms. Otero’s full response, a rating is offered for this blog post:
    “The short version: On our chart, we’d rate the original article as “selective/incomplete; unfair persuasion” for reliability and “hyper-partisan left” for bias.”

    It is easy to argue that this rating would be fair, while it is difficult to argue with any part of Ms. Otero’s response. It seems the authors of this post have chosen not to engage in further debate or amend their original writing.

    Benjes-Small and Elmwood point out some obvious drawbacks of the Media Bias Chart, ignoring more recent work by Ad Fontes Media to supplement and improve this easily shareable graphic, in order to make false, misleading, or at best ignorant inferences. Unfortunately, they commit a number of fallacies (primarily fallacies of relevance) in the original post and in Mr. Elmwood’s follow-up comment (which seems to have been received as this article is now linked in the response). Below are a few.

    Poisoning the well, vacuous truth, and appealing to authority in their rejection of Ms. Otero’s original Media Bias Chart. Attacking earlier versions of the Media Bias Chart, which has seen persistent updates, commits the genetic fallacy. Creating a straw man of Ad Fontes Media’s own view of the Media Bias Chart and its role in improving information literacy. Traitorous critic fallacy, appeal to widespread belief, in dismissing conservative analysts. Association fallacy in addressing Ad Fontes Media after attacking its founder. Bare assertion fallacy in arguing that the Media Bias Chart shows left-wing and right-wing views as equally “extreme,” despite the fact that the chart is lopsided with only right-wing sources in the lowest categories of reliability and is not intended to directly assess levels of extremism, only published media. Furtive fallacy and backtracking when claiming that the Media Bias Chart was developed “by and for white, cis males,” when Ad Fontes Media is led and was founded by a non-white woman (recall: the same one that was the subject of ad hominem attacks earlier in the blog). And applying all-or-nothing thinking to the Media Bias Chart by expecting it to be exhaustive, inclusive of local media sources, and/or a comprehensive resource is quite the cognitive distortion.

    In short: Hasty generalizations and cherry-picked arguments abound in this piece though I believe Ms. Otero’s response addresses many of the problematic arguments.

  6. This article is clearly part of the issue in the greater political tension and divide. A shame that it brings up legitimate analysis about media literacy but is bogged down by its selective, incomplete nature and narrative slant. I agree with what Ms. Otero already stated that the article unfairly relates Trump support and misinformation pedaling to model conservative analysts which at best is unintentional carelessness by Candace and Nathan and at worst, an attempt to further their own political beliefs.

  7. To me, the fatal flaws of the Media Bias Chart are not the methodology or objective, which I think Vanessa Otero has outlined pretty plainly and credibly, but they are 1) the muddy (and arguably malignant) definition of “the middle” and 2) the shortcomings of a pyramid design layout to convey this information.

    The chart intro ( ) says:

    “The left-right spectrum is anchored by the contemporary political positions of United States elected officials.”

    This is not a helpful anchor, as the author of this blog post points out, in a world where 68% of one party votes to overturn a democratic election. By refusing to express a point of view or definition on what “the middle” should be, the chart cedes the middle to some midway point between Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All — a staunchly progressive but still fundamentally democratic policy position — and Marjorie Taylor Greene’s election fraud and Jewish space lasers — a combination of bad-faith conspiracy and anti-democratic nonsense.

    And in this world, we end up with a chart that places most of the mainstream, non-partisan, corporate media as left-of-center, and places Rachel Maddow and Fox News roughly equidistant from the middle. Otero’s refusal to define a middle sure has resulted in a pretty questionably defined middle.


    Whether or not it was intended by Otero, I agree with the blog author that the layout of the pyramid both asserts an artificial middle (noted above) AND grants a preferred status to the corporate, centrist institutions upholding the pro-business status quo, and portrays more crucial outlets as either less credible (lower on the Y axis) or more politically radical (farther from the middle).

    Kind of like how the Mercator projection skews our view of the earth and centers Europe and conveniently puts north at the top. It might not deliberately grant hierarchical status to largely white nations, but it sure does put them on the top.

    I’m no designer (and have stacks of ill-advised PowerPoint slides to prove it), so unfortunately I don’t have a proposed remedy for the flaws of the pyramid. But I wish Otero would acknowledge the valid criticism and explore potential solutions. Just as she’s evolve the methodology of evaluating news content, she should seek out good faith criticism and use it to make her organization’s output more powerful, not be defensive about the current, very imperfect infographic.

    Also, to correct Matthew Eagon’s point above, the author does NOT assert that the chart was designed by/for white, cis males. She asserts, I think credibly: “… the ‘objective, view from nowhere’ standard that The Chart reinforces was developed by and for white, cis males…”

    That said, I agree with Eagon’s and Otero’s criticism of the author’s insinuating inclusion of Otero’s career history without a more specific example of how or where that led to flawed analysis or a conflict of interest. We should be welcoming everyone’s efforts to promote media literacy and shut down bad information, and can criticize the flaws in work without implying something nefarious about the person doing it.

  8. *more critical outlets, not “crucial”

    (Thanks autocorrect, and sorry to the moderators… if you’re able to edit my previous post please feel free.)

  9. Wait, wait, this is gold:

    “””Our work does not draw extremists. Our team includes staunch progressives and staunch conservatives, but even our most left-leaning and right-leaning analysts are committed to fighting misinformation and extremism, and each of them disdain the peddlers of such content from their own sides.”””

    Somehow, Ms. Otero fails to see that she has proved that her chart and its supposed empirical standards are utter garbage in this paragraph. Translated from PMC ideology, she says, “We purposefully only select for people who believe what the politically motivated media conglomerates want them to believe and who disdain anyone who rejects that propaganda, regardless of the reason for their rejection.”

    None so blind as those who refuse to see, etc, etc. This chart is propaganda and its sole value is as toilet paper.

  10. The original article is correct. Mrs. Otero is not.

    Even by the standards Ad Fontes Media claims to follow, their chart is deeply incorrect, and one can easily see this in their placement of Right Wing sources in the highly artificial horseshoe. Most of those sources should be far closer to the bottom right than they are. Consider the Daily Wire, which posts nothing but lies and outrage, but keeps gravitating closer to the center.

    No, this chart is highly misleading, which draws into question if it even has value as a conversation starter.

  11. Plenty of obvious bias in this article as well, but at least a few good points were raised. This article supports more of an independent far-left (passing off as neutral). The “chart” supports corporate and government sponsored leftist propaganda.

  12. The back-and-forth around this chart has the tone of a Facebook comment thread. To see this article with one of its own authors issuing a petty reply to a critical response is… not what I expected as a new ACRL member. Obviously Otero’s article is a necessary response to having your professionalism brought into question. Any legitimate criticisms of the bias chart feel lost in the whining about Otero’s credibility.

  13. I am jumping from article to article, tracking where people are politically. It is funny how “both” of the parties and Ms. Otero seem to ignore addressing their own biases. Politics in general are a joke. The few good people I have known that have been in government leave because the so-called right or left wants you to go all in, or you don’t fit their agenda.
    I found one news site that was truly non-biased newtrals, but somehow the site stopped reporting….wonder why. It was just. When reading what Nathan, Candace, and Vanessa all wrote, you can see biases. If people would just quit concerning themselves with how the “other” is so bad, maybe people could get along. I just want facts. I don’t want a reporters tone, eye roll, or obvious point presented.
    I am not a literacy major, but I am a high school educator in a poverty stricken district. I do what I do to make a real difference. If people would just be kind, without an agenda or ulterior motives, things would be a lot better. War of words without action….help your neighbor whatever beliefs they have, and you will be a better person. Maybe some day. That’s the agenda I’m pushing. Hopefully it will catch on.

  14. Question:
    What is a “Centrist” position on:
    A. Trump won the election- most
    Republicans are convinced he did.
    B. The January 6th riot was an attempt to
    overturn the results of a fair election-
    most Democrats are convinced it was.
    C. Corporate lobbying is a necessary evil-
    many in both parties believe it is.

  15. Pretty incredible that right out of the gate Benjes-Small and Elwood hurl a textbook ad hominem. We could say, you know, that in 2010 Elwood was attending Mizzou where a swimmer was allegedly raped by a football player, and the university ignored it. This has nothing to do with anything.

    There’s also a random aside which suggests that no conservative news media is worth considering because of some (not credited) “consensus [conservative] view” supporting the Capitol Riots. Strange. They also discuss Chomsky and Herman’s Propaganda Model as if it’s a fact. I agree with Chomsky and Herman’s model, but it’s a model, not a metaphysical description of the world, and to say the least it’s lazy to simply reference it and then dust your hands as if that’s game over because you cited The Answer.

    This isn’t really a piece of serious writing, even for a blog.

  16. I wasn’t going to respond to any of this, but the last comment is genuinely funny to me so just to clarify; a closer analogy would be if I had worked for the Mizzou swim team at the time they ignored an alleged rape, and then later went on to found my own athletics program. An article about my athletics program would be right to mention that!

  17. Re: Nathan’s response to the above swim team analogy: It would be right for an article to include such information about a person only if it were presented alongside as complete a picture as possible of their relevant qualifications and background.

    What Candice and Nathan appear to have done in their article is selectively chosen a damning morsel and left out many relevant pieces of information.

  18. This is clearly an attempt by 2 far-left actors to portray themselves as the political center and to portray the American political center as far-right. Only an extremist would attempt to create an unfair impression of people who disagree with their viewpoints.

  19. Many of the articles I read linked as ‘sources’ in this article were quite the opposite. Instead they seemed to be exactly the kind of sources this articles says should be read ‘critically’.

    Selling a pyramid scheme to people is pretty scummy. Selling pyramid charts: maybe not so much.

    The solution here is to not buy it. This article, the linked articles, or any of the pyramid charts either.
    It reminds me of a similar chart being passed around by an ‘independent’ political party advocates 25 years ago.

    Everyone wants to control the middle. And I suppose one way to try to do that is by redefining it with a chart. Whose chart today, whose chart tomorrow, who cares? What I learned by being involved in a group that called itself ‘grassroots’, is typically those groups are not actually supported by the majority of people whom they would like to claim as their power base. Like the policies of a “populist” could be almost anything. And, typically, they don’t actually want to know the opinions of those people whom they would like to empower them to ‘represent’.

    And another way people want to control others is by demonizing everyone with whom they disagree. I see a lot of that here and in the linked articles. Who knows, maybe this comment is doing the same?

    But actually, the real gem of this article, almost lost amongst the bias, is the final call for people to think for themselves. And for that I applaud. Go to it.

    But far too often the mystic telling you to think for yourself, just wants you to clear your mind so they can fill it for you. Now throw me one dollar.

  20. As an analyst myself, and coming, admittedly, late to the party, I’m going to assess Benjes-Small’s/Elwood’s 2000+ word guest-post to be too heavenly-minded to be any earthly-good.

    It reminds me of the joke about a lost hot-air balloonist asking for help from a person on the ground, and upon being told their altitude, latitude, and longitude, responds, “Everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help so far.”

    The assert, “The Chart is a meme, not an information literacy tool…”, and then proceed to critique the Chart as if it were an information literacy tool.

    Imagine a guest-post in the culinary-blog “Steamy Kitchen” titled, “The Problematic McDonald’s Menu”… that begins with the assertion, “The McDonald’s menu is a fast-food artifice, not a credible culinary guide…”, and then proceeding to critique the McDonald’s menu as if it WERE a culinary guide.

    Seriously. That’s how it reads.

    It appears as if the essay takes no regard for the intended audience of the MEME. Not academics. Not research librarians. Plain ol’ people. People who, ostensibly, don’t have time to digest hours and hours of writings from various media-outlets and platforms to develop their own personal sense of editorial bent and factual content. People who, ostensibly, have minutes per day to get their media wherever/however they get it, and to parse it out and digest it.

    (On the other hand, here I am critiquing their critique that, itself, has an intended audience of academics and research librarians… not the rank-and-file consumers of the MEME. Ironic, huh?)

    “The Chart promotes a false equivalency between left and right,”. No, as a matter of fact, it doesn’t. It makes no assertion of equivalency based on the density of outlets or legislators. It’s design is nothing more than (as noted in the article) representational of a socio-political ideological spectrum that contains a middle and gradations of bias (on one axis), and of reporting of reliability (fact vs opinion vs propaganda vs non-fact (on the other).

    Forget the methodology as two where outlets are placed on the chart… the differences in distribution and placement of outlets on the chart LITERALLY belies the notion of false equivalency. The notion of false equivalency reads as an attempt to govern the narrative.

    “As with all iterations of The Chart, this resulted in sources arranged in a rough pyramid, with sources ranked the most “mainstream” and “complex” as being of the highest information value.”

    I missed “information value” on the chart. What’s so is the Y-axis evaluates reliability of information presented by outlets with the methodology appearing to be a function of fact-based information. Nowhere on the chart does it assert a value based on facts vs opinions. The implication that it does also reads as an attempt to govern the narrative.

    It bears mentioning that I am not saying that Benjes-Small and Elwood ARE attempting to govern the narrative. I have no idea what their intention was when they wrote the article. I AM saying the two paragraphs containing those assessments READ as if they are.

    Personally, finding (what lands for me as) two attempts to govern the narrative inside the first five paragraphs of the article AND, the sixth paragraph, the previously identified ad hominem attack on Otero, I am not convinced of any scholarly objective evaluation of the MEME in the article. Rather, it reads as an attempt to exorcise objections to the MEME.

    As a solutions-developer myself, the object of any analysis I do is to resolve a problem. If this MEME is problematic, perhaps Benjes-Small and Elwood might provide an alternative that they assert would be more realistic or reliable. That would be telling the balloonist where he is.

    Then again, I don’t want to insult anybody by suggesting a simplistic solution to parsing out fact, opinion, and bias to aid the consumption of media in a way that would bolster information literacy.

  21. I think, if anything, this post shows even when we try to discuss bias in an objective, professional and collegial way, we get hampered by our own biases.

    Although I learned a few things from this post and even agree with some of it (I will use the 5Ws in my Media Lit class), I can’t help but think the writer was hampered by a liberal bias. And no, I’m not a right-winger. Not a Trump fan. I am a trained journalist, public relations and media professional, and yes, probably the centrist talked about here.

    I don’t think the chart provides a false equivalency and says the extreme left is as good, bad or worse than the extreme right, or vice versa. It is merely saying the information at the far ends is suspect. That’s because it is. While the writer says we should ask ourselves important questions when reading anything, I don’t think she does it with her own work.

  22. TL:DR – It’s a chart, not a scientific theory up for the Nobel, and it is, as they say, close enough for government work. It may have its own problems and bias, but as an overall guide, it’s fine. Politics, and media, are a clown show we just have to live with, and this at least tells you what section you might be seated in.

    First off, while I agree with some of the points brought up by by Benjes, ad hominem attacks to poison the well are just so bottom-of-the-barrel, and a pretty lame way to start your argument. Second, and as it has been stated by others far more eloquently that I will state it here, there is no perfect way to present this information in a quick and easy to access way that is better than a two axis easy to read chart, and resulting “pyramid” is just the nature of the beast. What was more disturbing was the insinuation that one side is good while the other side is bad. You have to go out of your way to come to that conclusion. Misinformation is bad. Period. Truth isn’t bad just because we don’t like it, right? Sure “Yes, I think your new haircut looks great” might be considered good misinformation, but that’s not what we are talking about here. Media BIAS is not as serious problem on its own without adding in false or misleading information. The “middle” isn’t better, it’s just the middle. Opinion is opinion, and facts are facts, and people should know what they are getting. I honestly would mind a flashing chyron at the bottom of the screen that differentiated which one was coming at you so that people had no excuse to quote an opinion piece as a news article. I can tell the opinions/leanings of the presenter I am listening too from what they are saying, what I want to know is how accurate (overall) is the INFORMATION this person presents along with their opinions. Frankly I don’t even care about opinion pieces. The way I see it, I have my own opinions, I don’t need this presenter’s opinions, what I want are the facts that I can use to FORM my own opinions. Where it matters is the delivery of fact can carry plenty of its own slant, and if I com across a story from an outlet I am unfamiliar with, I would find it helpful to have an at-a-glance way of getting a general idea of which slant of the trough I am feeding from. There seems to be all this outrage that this chart isn’t perfect, fine, make a perfect one then. I’ll wait over here… Honestly until we have and unbiased AI using tech we haven’t even reached yet, there is no way to have this. In the meantime, having a quick access chart that gives a general feel for the landscape will be helpful to many people, and maybe eye-opening some. Calling it a MEME is a bit hyperbolic. I don’t see anything in it that I can identify is inaccurate enough that any one spot should be moved so far away as to change it’s position significantly, and if there is, hopefully it will be moved, but as stated by people in previous comments, this is not a deep dive, it’s a chart. It’s a table of contents, which is what it is supposed to be, and while it might not be perfect, I can tell that things I know fall roughly where I expect them too, so hopefully the rest is more or less on target. Alex Jones might disagree, but then of course he would, and he would also know he is lying about that too.

  23. Popping in several years later to say that this conversation is a joy to read. Otero’s wrecking ball of a response, Nathan’s whining of “Why didn’t you link to my article? I wanted the clicks!”, extremists trying to justify their hatred of the other side — it’s a textbook reading of why the chart is important in the first place. Well done on this case study, my friends. Well done. ?

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