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One of the more contentious issues in social science at this time is the question of media bias. Both the scholarly and popular literature are thick with writings on this topic, yet for all the interest in it and work devoted to it we are far from a consensus on how media bias can be defined, conceptualized, or researched. Ironically enough, many writings on the subject of media bias do take the position that the news content distributed to the public fails, in one respect or another, to accurately and fairly represent real events, issues, personalities, and situations. Studies differ sharply, however, on which political positions the bias favors or disfavors, how the news content comes to be biased, the extent to which the bias favors particular interests, and what larger social impact media bias might have.

So while media bias is a social science construct which many people, lay and scholarly alike, agree is important, there is no generally shared assessment of the problem or explanation of it. It seems unlikely, for reasons that will be discussed in this article, that the debate will be resolved soon. Despite the endless arguments which the topic of media bias generates, it is worthwhile to consider why the issue matters, to outline the major points of view on the issue, and to identify the major ideas associated with those viewpoints.


This is the author’s pre-published text of Cooper, S. D. (2006). Media bias. In J. Ciment (Ed.), Social issues in America (pp. 1064-1071) Armonk, NY: Sharpe. The posted version is not the final, published version, which is available online from M. E. Sharpe, Inc. at