When Parliament resumes at the beginning of March, I would like to conduct an experiment to quantify potential bias in the various Canadian media outlets. I have been considering ways to empirically chart bias in journalism and I would like to focus my attention to online content. Measure variables like font size for a specific story, where it is prioritized on the main page, positive or negative buzz words used, whether it is breaking news or opinion editorial, etc.
It is like having one of the largest newspapers printing the giant headline "BARBARIANS AT THE GATE" a week before a Federal Election when the Conservatives have taken the lead in the polls. Clearly that headline selection is opinion oriented and not fair and balanced journalism. You can then chart the bias of stories against newspaper circulation or television ratings against opinion polls to see if any individual story potentially impacted public opinion. For example the Star has been one of the most pointed publications against prorogation, and we now see that there has been a measurable shift in polling numbers in the greater Toronto area.
Below is a basic draft outline for my experiment. Ideas for variables to track and methods of assigning numerical values to headline bias are most welcome.
1) National Post
2) Globe and Mail
3) Toronto Star -should give the CBC a run for its money on the Bias-O-Meter
4) CBC.ca - considering the preference given to Kady O'Malley and Heather Mallick stories, I forecast this medium to be the most biased.
1) Online Main News pages
2) Canadian Politics pages
1) Priority on main site: what slot in the order does the story appear? Is it even listed on the main page? Is the font size bigger or smaller than standard titles?
2) Positive or negative spin: this will be tricky to ascribe a numerical value to, other than a simple yes or no on the critical or supportive meter.
3) Which stories are not being covered by specific outlets?
4) Is the story "breaking news", opinion editorial, or two in one?
The month of March for what promises to be an emotional session of Parliament.