News outlets might claim impartiality, but nearly every paper or broadcast station has a discernible bias inherent in its work, some more evident than others. To avoid news bias and potentially misleading coverage, it is important to critique the articles you read. Learning to critique news outlets, the stories they cover and the articles they produce is a valuable step on the path to media literacy. Journalism and writing courses in school might even require you to write a formal critique.
- Skill level:
Summarise the article. If you are writing a formal critique, this is an important step. A summary should be brief, and it should demonstrate that you know what the article is about. You cannot accurately or appropriately critique an article you did not understand. Summarising helps you clarify what you did not understand at first. If you found an article difficult to follow, you might want to include that in your critique after your summary.
Discuss what works and what doesn't. The balance of an effective critique of a newspaper article will be the discussion of its strengths and weaknesses. Talk about whether the article was engaging, whether the headline was accurate, intriguing or sensationalist and your overall impressions of the article. Be sure to use specific examples when making general observations and try to suggest how you would fix what you perceive to be negative aspects of the article.
Analyse the article's slant and focus. Many articles have a slant, a unique way of looking at the subject. Even straight reporting of a newsworthy event has a slant that sets it apart from coverage in other outlets. You might also find, depending on the paper, a distinct bias in the article. Consider the language used and whether the article's writer treats both sides of the issue fairly. Consider the use of words like "claims" rather than "says" after a quote and its connotations --- it suggests the writer does not believe the person quoted.
Research the article's accuracy. If you suspect something in the article has been misstated or is outright false, research it yourself. Most major newspapers have strict fact-checking rules, but mistakes can be made. Multiple factual errors in the same article or paper could point to a strong bias, an issue with the paper's credibility or a lack of journalistic standards at the paper.
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