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Bias is an inclination to present or hold a partial perspective at the expense of (possibly equally valid) alternatives. Anything biased generally is one-sided, and therefore lacks a neutral point of view. Bias can come in many forms and is often considered to be synonymous with prejudice or bigotry.


Look at the following list of sentence fragments from articles about Whitney Houston. For this assignment, you will read the quotes, divide them according to whether they are biased or unbiased, and then create your own unbiased news article about Whitney’s life.

  • The only artist to chart 7 consecutive number 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits
  • “Whitney Houston’s career is a rolling freak show”
  • “The singer needs professional help”
  • “Her 1995 debut album, “Whitney Houston” was the best selling debut album by a female act”
  • Her first acting role was in “The Bodyguard”
  • Gave birth to her daughter, Bobbi Christina Houston Brown, on March 4, 1993
  • She was a chronic cocaine user had the drug in her system when she drowned in a hotel bathroom
  • Houston was seen as a “good girl”
  • Missed performances and weight loss
  • Famous for saying “crack is whack” on the Oprah Winfrey show after being asked if she used the drug
  • Feb 11, 2012, Houston was found dead in the bathtub of her hotel room
  • Ruled by coroner to be death by “accidental drowning” and the “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use”
  • Toxicology results revealed additional drugs in her system

She’s not right and she’s certainly not ok!

  • Whitney was born August 9, 1963
  • In 2009 the Guinness World Record cited her as the most awarded female act of all time
  • “prom queen packaging”
  • Married singer Bobby Brown on July 18, 1992
  • “Whitney’s image in the early ‘80s and early ‘90s was just that, an image”
  • She sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos
  • Whitney’s Houston’s last days were spent surrounded by family, catching up with old friends and doing a bit of what she’s best known for, singing.
  • “airbrushed fantasy figure”
  • Whitney was a recording artist, actress, producer and model
  • “Her plush living quarters looked like a battle zone”
  • Whitney was baptized in the river Jordan
  • She released 7 studio albums and 3 movie soundtrack albums
  • 6 time Grammy winner
  • Bobbi Christina said about her mother: “She is literally an angel. I saw her hurt. I saw her cry. We held each other through that”
  • Bobbi Christina also said: “they don’t know who she was. Everything that people are saying about her, all that negativity, it’s garbage. That’s not my mother”
  • “A year of living dangerously”
  • Born in Newark, New Jersey
  • “A decade of partying and bizarre antics”

After reading the above quotes, create a t-chart like the one below. Find 5 biased quotes for the BIASED column, and 5 unbiased quotes for the UNBIASED column.


bias and point of view
Bias and Point of View

Bias is an inclination to present or hold a partial perspective at the expense of (possibly equally valid) alternatives. Bias can come in many forms.

So what does that mean? Bias means that something is influenced in a particular direction. It is usually unfair, or prejudiced. The bias can be in favour of or against one thing, person, or group, compared with another. For example, Sunny grew up with dogs and not with cats, and his friend Navneetis choosing to purchase her first pet.Sunny would be likely to try to convince Navneet to purchase a dog. That’s because Sunny is probably biased in favour of dogs because of his own positive experiences with them.

In this case of cats and dogs, the chances are no one will be offended or hurt by Sunny’s preference. But now imagine that Sunny is the head of the Peel Humane Society. Because of funding cuts, he has to send 50% of his animals to the Vancouver Humane Society. If Sunny is someone who is very biased in favour of dogs, he might choose to send mostly cats to the Vancouver Humane Society. This works out well for Sunny, but now all the dog keepers at the Humane Society get to keep their jobs, whereas all the cat keepers will lose theirs. Also, people coming to the Peel Humane Society to purchase a pet cat will now be unable to do so. This is a case in which bias can be extremely unfair, and have far-reaching and unintended consequences for many people – and cats.

  • Is Sunny biased? YES
  • Is his bias in favour of or against something? IN FAVOUR
  • Identify Sunny’s bias: Sunny is BIASED IN FAVOUR OF DOGS
  • In the above scenario, we see a clear case of bias. In the scenario, the bias is in favour of dogs. Look at the following scenarios. Are they biased? If so, can you identify the bias? Is it in favour of something, or against something?


  • Ishmael’s mother needs to purchase a smartphone for her new job. Ishmael has always had a Blackberry, but last summer his car broke down the day the network crashed, and so Ishmael was unable to contact anyone for help. He advises his mother to purchase an iPhone.
  • Is Ishmael biased?
  • Is his bias for or against something?
  • Identify his bias:

2. Terry Fox was born July 28, 1958 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. When he was 18, he was diagnosed with cancer. In 1980, after he lost one leg to cancer, he embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres.

  • Is this writing biased?
  • Is the bias for or against something?
  • Identify the bias:

3. In 2012, Jenna Talackova was disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada pageant because she was born a male. According to the pageant organizers, one of the rules states that all contestants must be “natural born females”. Although Jenna has had gender reassignment surgery, and has identified as female since her childhood, she was born male and so was disqualified from the competition.

  • Is the Miss Universe Canada pageant biased?
  • Is the pageant biased for or against something?
  • Identify the bias:
identifying types of bias
Identifying Types of Bias

You'll find that very little in communication is without bias. We often are influenced by our closeness to the issue or affair. Granted, we'd like to believe we are objective, however, we are naturally biased. You will continue to examine opinion as it relates to creating bias and the means by which the message can be manipulated.

How do we detect Bias in a news story?

Do news agencies report the news objectively all the time? We would like to believe they do. However, there are many instances when the attitudes or the background of the reporter colours his/her reporting. Is it always intentional? Perhaps not, nevertheless, news shaping is biased. What factors do we need to be critical of when a news story is presented to us, regardless of the medium?

types of bias
Types of Bias

Bias has a way of showing up in many different forms, notably:

  • bias through selection and omission
  • bias through placement
  • bias by headline
  • bias by photos
  • captions and camera angles
  • bias through use of names and titles
  • bias through statistics and crowd counts
  • Bias by source control and word choice and tone.

Bias through selection and omission - news stories that are published in major newspapers are selected from many newsworthy events and stories and the content of those stories is selected as well - the process of selection itself reveals bias. Why has that news story been selected? Detecting what has been omitted from a story is difficult to determine unless we compare several news reports of the story by different news agencies.

  • Bias through placement - placement of the news story informs us about the importance of the story. When does the story appear in a newscast? What page in the newspaper does the story appear on? Stories on the front page receive more exposure to readers than those a few pages into the paper.
  • Bias by headline - headlines need to catch our attention as most people merely read the headlines. Headlines summarize and as result imbed prejudice and bias.
  • Bias by photos - captions and camera angles - various news presentations can show bias as the photo selected could be flattering or unpleasant. The caption is much like a headline. The camera angle chosen can visually influence how someone or something is represented.

Bias through use of names and titles - how an individual or group is labelled has an influence on how we will perceive them. The same person in one paper may considered a freedom fighter while in another publication may be referred to as a terrorist.

  • Bias through statistics and crowd counts - numbers can be inflated or overemphasized to highlight the success or failure of an event.
  • Bias by source control - Companies and public relations firms supply information as if it was news on a regular basis, but it is nothing more than advertising. Where does the news come from? Who has supplied the information?
  • Word choice and tone - the actual word or the tone of the writing can influence the reader or viewer. Choosing different adjectives can greatly alter the tone of a story.

Read the following editorial, "Oh Canada" from the Mississauga News and identify how the author uses bias in presenting his/her point of view.


Oh Canada

July 3rd, 2002

While hundreds of thousands of Mississauga residents celebrated Canada's 135th birthday Monday, a few dozen Quebec separatist supporters denounced our nation’s very existence.

While tens of thousands in this city sang songs, celebrated with friends and neighbours, danced in the streets and painted their faces with Canadian flags, a few dozen Quebec separatist supporters shouted jeers at federalists and yelled insults at Canada Day enthusiasts.

While thousands flocked to Streetsville to watch the night sky transformed into a brilliant palette of sparkling lights in celebration of the nation’s birthday, a few dozen Quebec separatist supporters added light to the night by turning Canadian flags into torches.

So much for unity.

The good news? The numbers of those celebrating their good fortune-being Canadian - far outweigh those for whom the day offered little more than a forum for rehearsed criticism and practised theatrics.

Quebec filmmaker Pierre Falardeau denounced the Canada Day celebrations in that province's capital as, "an act of provocation" suggesting the day's events were financed by money other Canadians “stole” from the pockets of Quebec residents who were "annexed" into minority status.


In almost any other country in the world, such acts as burning and defacing the flag would be met by charges of treason and incarceration.

But luckily for Falardeau and his associates, Canada is a land of freedom that allows - no, encourages - individual expression, regardless of sentiment, without formal consequences.

While approximately 30 million Canadians celebrated the opportunities, freedoms and resources that are ours by virtue of birthright or immigration, a few dozen Quebec separatist supporters tried their best to rain on our patriotic parade.

They failed.

Happy Birthday, Canada.


Is this writing biased?

  • Is the bias for or against something?
  • Identify the bias:
  • Identify at least 2 different types of bias (with examples) used in this editorial and explain how this creates the bias in the article.

There is bias through selection and omission, as the Quebec separatist perspective is clearly missing in this editorial. This makes the reader feel like everyone is in agreement with the author, and also makes the Separatist cause look small and insignificant.

analyzing bias how bias is used to construct reality
Analyzing BiasHow Bias is used to Construct Reality
  • The media, especially television, creates representations of reality. Reality is a commodity, advertised and sold and not just the product but the image the product provides. As such, plugging you - the watcher - into popular culture.
  • Consider the following questions:
  • What is pop culture?
  • Is pop culture, pop because we all like it? Or is it popular because this is what we are convinced to buy?
  • Who controls pop culture?
  • Do items become popular because we all want them, or is it that we, the consumer, are convinced that we must have this item to fit in?
  • When watching television, we are the targets of carefully created ads, and entertainment programming.
  • What we can do is understand how the media operates, and so, deconstruct (analyze the parts) the media.

Did you know that all media, even the news, constructs reality? Take for example a television news story. The journalist will submit a report and the report will then be edited. During the editing phase, phrases, images and details will be included or extracted in order to provide the best impact on the target audience. The story now will offer another point of view, offering us what appears to be an objective version of the story, but what in truth is the most dramatic representation of the story. Evening news shows are in competition for audience share. A highly rated show means television networks can demand more for ad airtime.

  • The media is basically a business interested (as are all businesses) in making money. Networks carrying recent Super Bowls have been able to charge advertisers over two million dollars for a 30 second ad. Networks can charge advertisers large amounts if a show’s rating represents a good share of the potential audience. Ratings are crucial. Major American networks like NBC, CBS, and ABC rely on the Nielson Ratings to determine what they can charge customers to advertise.

The media uses codes and conventions to suggest the way we should perceive the representation. The camera angle or the lighting of a scene will suggest what sense we will make of what is going on. How do we know the good guys from the bad guys? Or even the cool guys from those who are not cool?

  • Media always includes a message, whether it is obvious or not. That message is always informed by someone’s bias.
  • You can deconstruct the media by analyzing the reality it constructs, the codes and conventions of the forms it uses, the message it sends, and by examining the economic benefit of the media sample.
deconstructing print ads
Deconstructing Print Ads
  • Examine the following print ad. Consider the use of colours, what is suggested by the use of background colours, notably the white glow? What does the picture suggest? What does the text suggest? What is the tone? Which words suggest the mood of the ad? What is really being sold?

To deconstruct this ad, I would answer the following questions:

  • What does the scene look like?
  • Who, or what is involved?
  • What connections can you make?
  • What colours are prominent?
  • Where does the ad take place?
  • How are you supposed to feel about the product?
  • What messages about the product are presented?
  • What words seem rather important and why?

When I look at the Teint Miracle ad, the scene feels serene and calm. The background is blurred out and looks like it is glowing. This gives a magical feel to Julia Roberts, and makes her seem angelic. The ad is for foundation. Celebrity endorsement is used by having the famous actress Julia Roberts as the face for the campaign. The colours are very light and diffuse and it is difficult to tell where the picture was taken. The ad suggests that beauty is a commodity that can be bought and sold. Beauty is perfect and white and flawless. Julia Roberts has an “aura” that can be manufactured. The language tells us that science can make us perfect – and that the results of this product are “miraculous”. Indeed, the ad seems to merge religion, science and the spiritual, with words like “science”, “aura” and “miracle”. Although it might not be explicit, or immediately obvious, this ad was very deliberately constructed to suggest to viewers that perfection is attainable, and can be bought at your local department store.

analyzing bias
Analyzing Bias

Next you will have a print advertisement and a video advertisement that you will deconstruct following the steps used in the ad above.


Analyze the ad using the following questions:

  • What does the scene look like?
  • Who, or what is involved?
  • What connections can you make?
  • What colours are prominent?
  • Where does the ad take place?
  • How are you supposed to feel about the product?
  • What messages about the product are presented?
  • What words seem rather important and why?

Assess your Understanding:

  • Is this advertisement biased?
  • Is the bias for or against something?
  • Identify the bias
ad 2 dove evolution ad campaign
Ad 2: Dove Evolution Ad campaign:

Address the following questions with one the Dove Evolution video ad:

  • Where is the setting?
  • Who is involved?
  • What type of clothing are the actors wearing?
  • When does the ad take place?
  • What do the hairstyles suggest?
  • What is the product?
  • Why should we purchase this product?
  • What is the benefit of the product?
  • Who does the ad appeal to?
  • Is there music? What’s it like?
  • How would you describe the camera work?
  • Examine what distance means for camera work here.
assess your understanding
Assess your Understanding
  • Is this advertisement biased?
  • Is the bias for or against something?
  • Identify the bias
  • Write a paragraph in which you identify the bias and explain how the ad is deliberately structured to create that bias (see questions above to help construct our answer)
your assignment
Your assignment...
  • Both of these ads were created by Unilever. After analyzing the ads, what does this tell you about how Unilever is using bias to their advantage (think about who the different ads are aimed at – who their audience is and what they are selling). Write a carefully constructed paragraph in which you discuss how Unilever uses bias to their advantage.