Skip to Main Content

Understanding News Sources

The purpose of this guide is to provide information and resources on the role of news and magazines and how to evaluate them for bias.

The Role of News & Periodicals

Graphic says information objectives and provides definitions of objective news, partisan periodicals and social issue sources

Changing News Landscape

Icons of newspapers and news anchor with microphone

In recent years, changes in technology and the way people acquire their news has changed the landscape of news media. These changes have impacted the variety of news sources available and people are no longer getting their news from one or two objective sources. 

These changes include:

  • a decrease in physical newspapers/newsrooms,
  • an increase in the competition for breaking news due to the speed of information sharing,
  • an increase in competition for stories, content and audiences,
  • an increase in people getting their news from social media

With the increase in media outlets, there has also been a blurring of the lines between opinion & commentary pieces and objective news. 

Journalistic Standards

One way to judge a source for bias and partisan reporting is to look for standards of objective journalism. The factors below describe more specifically what objectivity and fairness may look like in sources. 

1. Truth and Accuracy

Journalists cannot always guarantee ‘truth’, but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. We should always strive for accuracy, give all the relevant facts we have and ensure that they have been checked. When we cannot corroborate information we should say so.

2. Independence

Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. We should declare to our editors – or the audience – any of our political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest.

3. Fairness and Impartiality

Most stories have at least two sides. While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and add context. Objectivity is not always possible, and may not always be desirable (in the face for example of brutality or inhumanity), but impartial reporting builds trust and confidence.

4. Humanity

Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.

5. Accountability

A sure sign of professionalism and responsible journalism is the ability to hold ourselves accountable. When we commit errors we must correct them and our expressions of regret must be sincere not cynical. We listen to the concerns of our audience. We may not change what readers write or say but we will always provide remedies when we are unfair.

(From Ethical Journalism Network: 

(More) Types of News Media

Every day, you are taking in news in a variety of formats. These formats are guided by a specific motivation that informs the potential bias of a source. Being able to identify what type of news you are viewing will help determine how you use that source and its information.

For example, an "infotainment" source will most likely not have the academic rigor and objectivity for a research paper due to its purpose of entertaining, not educating or informing. 

A list of definitions of types of news