Integrating scholarship from several fields of study, this paper proposes a new model for understanding how partisan bias operates and how to measure its effects. We chart the factors that influence partisan bias over news production within news organizations that are simultaneously constrained and conditioned by factors of market competition, context considerations and journalistic norms. We argue that partisan media bias of a news-story is expressed in the manner that different news outlets cover the same political story within the same timeframe relative to one another. We find that description bias is a key parameter that is intertwined with selection bias mechanisms that highlight and downplay news items according to their content. We illustrate how partisan media coverage occurs in the context of a major political protest in Israel. We employ a dataset consisting of 1556 news products from all major newspapers. We find that partisan bias finds its strongest expression in the types of news products that the news outlets emphasize on their front-page and in the sizing of articles. These mechanisms of partisan bias can be generalized in the study of partisan bias in other types of news outlets.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Data available at https://doi.org/10.13140/rg.2.2.27066.24009.
See Appendix for coding details at https://doi.org/10.13140/rg.2.2.33777.12646.
The coders were trained and then tested for articles that were about the movement (i.e., coverage of, and opinions about, movement actions, movement participants and leaders, movement camps and camp culture, movement objectives, and direct responses of government and state officials to the movement) and those that were not directly about the movement (i.e., economic analyses of living costs and political matters which did not involve coverage of the movement). Inter-coder reliability of article inclusion is Krippendorff's α = 0.775.
Inter-coder reliability of article type is Krippendorff's α = 0.807.
If an article runs on several pages, only the first page is calculated.
Inter-coder reliability of description bias is Krippendorff's α = 0.792.
Page-number bias is calculated by the overall average of the first page on which each of the articles in the newspaper begins. The cross comparisons between the average page number of Haaretz, Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv are statistically insignificant, but the difference between Israel Hayom and each of the other three outlets is statistically significant with over 95% confidence in a multiple-comparison Scheffe test.
For similar reasons, opinion spectrum bias is considered a sub-set of description bias.
In order to present the findings in a simpler and more accessible format, we conducted a logistic regression with positive versus neutral-negative. In a follow up research we conducted a multinomial logistic regression and reached similar finsings. Statistical code for replication is available at https://doi.org/10.13140/rg.2.2.30421.68327.
As this study illustrates, different variables yield different results, including non-findings and haphazard results. Findings and non-findings are highly susceptible to the type of PMB measure we employ.
Alterman, E. (2002). What liberal media? The truth about bias and the news. Sacred Heart University Review, 22, 1–18.
Amenta, E., Caren, N., Olasky, S. J., & Stobaugh, J. E. (2009). All the movements fit to print: who, what, when, where, and why SMO families appeared in the New York Times in the twentieth century. American Sociological Review, 74, 636–656. https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122409074-00407.
Ansolabehere, S., Lessem, R., & Snyder, J. M. (2006). The orientation of newspaper endorse-ments in US elections, 1940-2002. Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 1, 393–404. https://doi.org/10.1561/100.00000009.
Bagdikian, B. H. (1985). The United-States media: Supermarket or assembly line. Journal of Communication, 35, 97–109. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1985.tb02451.x.
Baron, D. P. (2006). Persistent media bias. Journal of Public Economics, 90, 1–36.
Barrett, A. W., & Barrington, L. W. (2005). Bias in newspaper photograph selection. Political Research Quarterly, 58, 609–618. https://doi.org/10.1177/106591290505800408.
Berenson, A. (2015). “Painting with Words”: Social justice protest’s narrative in Israeli news. Journalism and Mass Communication, 5, 373–387. https://doi.org/10.17265/2160-6579/2015.08.001.
Boyle, M. P. (2012). Adherence to the protest paradigm: The influence of protest goals and tactics on news coverage in U.S. and international newspapers. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 17, 127–144. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161211433837.
Breed, W. (1955). Social control in the newsroom: A functional analysis. Social Forces, 33, 326–335. https://doi.org/10.2307/2573002.
Cottle, S. (2007). New(s) times: Towards a ‘Second Wave’ of news ethnography. Sociology Compass, 1(1), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1515/comm.2000.25.1.19.
D’Alessio, D., & Allen, M. (2000). Media bias in presidential elections: A meta-analysis. Journal of Communication, 50, 133–156. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2000.tb02866.x.
Dalton, R. J., Beck, P. A., & Huckfeldt, R. (1998). Partisan cues and the media: Information flows in the 1992 presidential election. American Political Science Review, 92, 111–126. https://doi.org/10.2307/2585932.
Dennis, E. E. (1997). How “Liberal” are the media, anyway? The International Journal of Press/Politics, 2, 115–119. https://doi.org/10.1177/1081180X97002004009.
Domke, D., Watts, M. D., Shah, D., & Fan, D. P. (1999). The politics of conservative elites and the “liberal media” argument. Journal of Communication, 49, 35–58. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1999.tb02816.x.
Earl, J., Martin, A., McCarthy, J. D., & Soule, S. A. (2004). The use of newspaper data in the study of collective action. Annual Review of Sociology, 30, 65–80. https://doi.org/10.1146/an-nurev.soc.30.012703.110603.
Ehrlich, M. C. (1995). The competitive ethos in television newswork. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 12, 196–212. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295039509366931.
Entman, R. M. (2007). Framing bias: Media in the distribution of power. Journal of Communication, 57, 163–173. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2006.00336.x.
Gasper, J. T. (2011). Shifting ideologies? Re-examining media bias. Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 6, 85–102. https://doi.org/10.1561/100.00010006.
Gentzkow, M., & Shapiro, J. M. (2010). What drives media slant? Evidence from U.S. daily newspapers. Econometrica, 78, 35–71. https://doi.org/10.3982/ECTA7195.
Gentzkow, M., Shapiro, J. M., & Stone, D. F. (2015). Media bias in the marketplace: Theory. Handbook of Media Economics, 1, 623–645. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-63685-0.00014-0.
Gitlin, T. (1980). The whole world is watching: Mass media in the making & unmaking of the new left. London: University of California Press.
Goldman, P., & Siemaszko, C. (2018). Police recommend Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on corruption, bribery charges. NBC NEWS, Feb 13 2018.
Groeling, T. (2008). Who’s the fairest of them all? An empirical test for partisan bias on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 38, 631–657. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-5705.2008.02668.x.
Groeling, T. (2013). Media bias by the numbers: Challenges and opportunities in the empirical study of partisan news. Annual Review of Political Science, 16, 129–151. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-polisci-040811-115123.
Groeling, T., & Kernell, S. (1998). Is network news coverage of the president biased? The Journal of Politics, 60, 1063–1087. https://doi.org/10.2307/2647731.
Groseclose, T. (2011). Left turn: How liberal media bias distorts the American mind. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Groseclose, T., & Milyo, J. (2005a). A measure of media bias. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 120, 1191–1237. https://doi.org/10.1162/003355305775097542.
Groseclose, T., & Milyo, J. (2005b). A social-science perspective on media bias. Critical Review, 17, 305–314. https://doi.org/10.1080/08913810508443641.
Haber, C., & Heler, E. (2011). In T. Herman (Ed.), Solidarity in the summer protest of 2011: Between image and reality. Jerusalem: Israel Democracy Institute.
Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (1988). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media (1st ed.). New York: Pantheon Books.
Hopmann, D. N., Van Aelst, P., & Legnante, G. (2012). Political balance in the news: A review of concepts, operationalizations and key findings. Journalism, 13, 240–257. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884911427804.
Kuklinski, J. H., & Sigelman, L. (1992). When objectivity is not objective: Network television news coverage of U.S. senators and the paradox of objectivity. Journal of Politics, 54, 810–833. https://doi.org/10.2307/2132313.
Larcinese, V., Puglisi, R., & Snyder, J. M. (2011). Partisan bias in economic news: Evidence on the agenda-setting behavior of US newspapers. Journal of Public Economics, 95, 1178–1189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2011.04.006.
Lee, F. L. F. (2014). Triggering the protest paradigm: Examining factors affecting news coverage of protests. International Journal of Communication, 8, 2725–2746.
Lichter, R. S. (2017). Theories of media bias. In K. Kenski & K. H. Jamieson (Eds.), Oxford handbook of political communication. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lott, J. R., & Hassett, K. A. (2014). Is newspaper coverage of economic events politically biased? Public Choice, 160, 65–108. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-014-0171-5.
McChesney, R. W. (2003). The Problem of Journalism: A political economic contribution to an explanation of the crisis in contemporary US journalism. Journalism Studies, 4, 299–329. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616700306492.
McCombs, M. E., & Shaw, D. L. (1972). The agenda-setting function of mass media. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 36, 176–187. https://doi.org/10.1086/267990.
Mortensen, F., & Svendsen, E. N. (1980). Creativity and control: The journalist betwixt his readers and editors. Media, Culture and Society, 2, 169–177. https://doi.org/10.1177/016344378000200205.
Niven, D. (2001). Bias in the news: Partisanship and negativity in media coverage of Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton. International Journal of Press-Politics, 6, 31–46. https://doi.org/10.1177/108118001129172215.
Niven, D. (2003). Objective evidence on media bias: Newspaper coverage of congressional party switchers. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 80, 311–326. https://doi.org/10.1177/107769-900308000206.
Niven, D. (2012). An interesting bias: Lessons from an academic’s year as a reporter. Ps-Political Science & Politics, 45, 259–264. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1049096511002071.
Patterson, T. E., & Donsbach, W. (1996). News decisions: Journalists as partisan actors. Political Communication, 13, 455–468. https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.1996.9963131.
Persiko, O. (2011). A chronic of mediocracy. Retrieved October 27, 2011 from https://www.the7eye.org.il/1212.
Persiko, O. (2015). To Nochi’s Request. The Seventh Eye. Retrieved October 27, 2011 from https://www.the7eye.org.il/145729.
Puglisi, R. (2011). Being the New York Times: The political behaviour of a newspaper. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 11, 24. https://doi.org/10.2202/1935-1682.2025.
Puglisi, R., & Snyder, J. M. (2011). Newspaper coverage of political scandals. Journal of Politics, 73, 931–950. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022381611000569.
Puglisi, R., & Snyder, J. M. J. (2015a). Empirical studies of media bias. Handbook of Media Economics, 1B, 647–667. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-63685-0.00015-2.
Puglisi, R., & Snyder, J. M. J. (2015b). The balanced US Press. Journal of the European Economic Association, 13, 240–264. https://doi.org/10.1111/jeea.12101.
Rohlinger, D. A., Kail, B., Taylor, M., & Conn, S. (2012). Outside the mainstream: Social movement organization media coverage in mainstream and partisan news outlets. Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, 33, 51–80. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163786X(2012)0000-033006.
Schechter, A. (2012). Rothschild: The story of a protest movement. Hakibbutz: Hameuchad Publishing House LTD.
Schocken, A. (2017). A letter from Amos Schocken. Haaretz: Publisher of Haaretz.
Schudson, M. (2002). The news media as political institutions. Annual Review of Political Science, 5, 249–269.
Shoemaker, P. J., & Reese, S. D. (2014). Mediating the message in the 21st century: A media sociology perspective (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Shoemaker, P. J., Vos, T. P., & Reese, S. D. (2009). Journalists as Gatekeepers. In K. Wahl-Jorgensen & T. Hanitzsch (Eds.), The hand-book of journalism studies. New York: Routledge.
Shultziner, D., & Shoshan, A. (2018). A Journalists’ protest? Personal identification and Journalistic activism in the Israel Social Justice Protest Movement. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 23, 44–69. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161217736889.
Smith, J., McCarthy, J., McPhail, C., & Augustyn, B. (2001). From protest to agenda building: Description bias in media coverage of protest events in Washington, DC. Social Forces, 79, 1397–1423. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163-786X(2012)0000033006.
Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K. (2014). Producing protest news: an inquiry into journalists’ narra-tives. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 19, 410–429. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163786X(2012)-0000033006.
Tuchman, G. (1972). Objectivity as strategic ritual: Examination of Newsmen’s notions of objectivity. American Journal of Sociology, 77, 660–679. https://doi.org/10.1086/225193.
Tucker, N. (2016). The secret is exposed: Yediot Ahronot’s black lists. The Marker, 7(9), 16.
Vliegenthart, R., & Walgrave, S. (2012). The interdependency of mass media and social movements. In H. A. Semetko & M. Scammell (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of political communication (pp. 387–398). Los Angeles: SAGE.
Weaver, D. H., & Choi, J. (2017). The media agenda: Who (or what) sets it? In K. Kenski & K. H. Jamieson (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of political communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Weaver, D. A., & Scacco, J. M. (2013). Revisiting the protest paradigm: The tea party as filtered through prime-time cable news. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 18, 61–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161212462872.
Westerstahl, J. (1983). Objective news reporting: General premises. Communication Research, 10, 403–424. https://doi.org/10.1177/009365083010003007.
White, D. M. (1950). The “Gate Keeper”: A case study in the selection of news. Journalism Bulletin, 27, 383–390. https://doi.org/10.1177/107769905002700403.
Wouters, R. (2013). From the streets to the screen: Characteristics of protest events as determi-nants of television news coverage. Mobilization, 18, 83–105. https://doi.org/10.17813/maiq.18.1.y606-7731j4844067.
Ynet. (2017). PM spoke with Adelson over 100 times between 2012-2015. Retrieved March 9, 2017 from https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5011618,00.html.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Shultziner, D., Stukalin, Y. Distorting the News? The Mechanisms of Partisan Media Bias and Its Effects on News Production. Polit Behav 43, 201–222 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-019-09551-y
- Partisan media bias
- Partisan coverage
- News imbalance
- News production
- Protest coverage
- Social movements and media