Goldman Sachs named a new CEO. Here’s what the media did with it.

Goldman Sachs named a new CEO. Here’s what the media did with it.

The Knife’s Raw Data articles provide objective news summaries. Some of them, if stripped of contextual information that’s useful but perhaps not essential, can be sized down to a single sentence. Today’s example: On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs announced that David Solomon would replace Lloyd Blankfein as its next CEO. But that’s quite a departure from the way some news outlets reported on the story.

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A news report on espionage and a raid isn’t enough? Just add drama.

A news report on espionage and a raid isn’t enough? Just add drama.

According to media reports, Israel’s raid on an Iranian military base in January had all the trappings of a spy movie: undercover agents (some presumably Iranian), a tight and precise timeline, blowtorches cutting through safes, the theft of hundreds of classified documents on a nuclear weapons program and a successful exit no one has yet explained. Except it wasn’t a spy movie — these are the facts of the operation. News outlets could have stuck to that, but instead they added drama and left out key information.

Here’s a look at what was added and what was missing, and why it may matter to readers.

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NATO’s meeting on defense: Two different takes on the same story

NATO’s meeting on defense: Two different takes on the same story

It’s not uncommon to hear two sides of an argument and marvel at the stark difference between the points of view. What’s becoming more common is to read two media articles that, upon comparison, reveal they’re both reporting on the same news event. Wednesday’s NATO meeting coverage captures that very experience. What accounts for the difference in stories? The media’s slant.

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Lessons from the media’s reporting on the Thai cave rescue

Lessons from the media’s reporting on the Thai cave rescue

One of the topics the Knife analyzes is accidents and natural disasters. News coverage on these topics tends to be distorted, taking an already tragic or unfortunate event and dramatizing it. The news of the rescue of the first four boys from the Thai cave had some added drama, but three of the four outlets analyzed here reported on the rescue efforts more objectively than usual.

Sunday’s Thai cave coverage had the highest ratings of all, except for one news outlet. Although this sample is limited, it shows that more than half of the news reports analyzed are distorted upwards of 54.5 percent on average.

Here’s a look at how the rescue coverage was different, and what news consumers and the media can learn from it.

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Compounding distortions in the coverage of the calls to abolish ICE

Compounding distortions in the coverage of the calls to abolish ICE

When news outlets sensationalize already sensationalized information, it makes it harder to discern fact from fiction in reporting. Such a pattern is often observed when the statements public officials make are spun or otherwise distorted, and then news outlets add further distortions. A case in point: the coverage of the recent calls for (and responses to) the dismantling of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Here’s a synopsis of what happened and how the distortions compounded (the subjective, vague or dramatic language is marked in each example):

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Subtle slant in the coverage of Bolton’s remarks on North Korea

Subtle slant in the coverage of Bolton’s remarks on North Korea

Sometimes news reports can seem objective, especially if the media focuses most of the coverage on what people say or do. The coverage of National Security Advisor John Bolton’s remarks to the press are similar in this way — the four outlets The Knife analyzed stuck mainly to quotes. However, there were subtle forms of slant that can still affect the way readers take in the information.

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The slant in the coverage of the travel ban ruling, from most to least visible

The slant in the coverage of the travel ban ruling, from most to least visible

Of all the different ways media outlets distort information, slant can be the most difficult to detect. We examined some of the coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Trump administration’s travel ban, and found some forms of slant were more obvious than others. This analysis shows three different slant techniques, with tips on how you can apply them to future news coverage and other information.

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Big drama, little data in Turkey’s electoral coverage

Big drama, little data in Turkey’s electoral coverage

News outlets analyzed by The Knife called Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections “high-stakes” (CNN), “pivotal” (The New York Times and The Washington Post) and “one of the most consequential in years” (The Post). Considering the changes to Turkey’s constitution last year, which grant incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan more power, those descriptions may be accurate. However, the outlets used more dramatic or vague language than facts to back the point.

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The US withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council. Here’s the media’s take.

The US withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council. Here’s the media’s take.

There’s objective information — something that can be measured and understood by most — and then there’s bias (or “slant”), which is an angle on that information. Most distorted news articles are slanted in a way that favors an outlet’s point of view. Many times, as readers, we’re not just getting the facts: we’re reading the media’s take on them, except the two aren’t differentiated.

The coverage of the United States’ withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council was slanted in a way that implied the decision was wrong. The Knife analyzed four of the first news outlets to report Haley’s on announcement. Here are those findings.

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Political news is often distorted. What about World Cup coverage?

Political news is often distorted. What about World Cup coverage?

News consumers are used to certain types of coverage being highly distorted — perhaps most notably U.S. political news. How would a prominent international sports event do by comparison, in terms of The Knife’s ratings? We analyzed two sets of articles about the World Cup (each covered by the same two outlets), and found the coverage was spun and slanted.

As a quick comparison, here are the ranges of the World Cup articles’ total integrity, slant and spin ratings, compared to two recent events that received significant media attention: the G7 and the Trump-Kim summits. The integrity ratings were fairly similar, and the World Cup coverage was the most slanted of the three events.

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A look at the dramatic and biased coverage of the Trump-Kim summit

A look at the dramatic and biased coverage of the Trump-Kim summit

News about North Korea is often biased and spun, and the coverage of the Trump-Kim summit was no different. The Knife analyzed four media outlets that portrayed the event dramatically and with a positive or negative slant. This type of distortion may make for a more entertaining read, but it can also be misleading. Reporting the facts alone, as our Raw Data does, could instead help readers come to their own conclusions about the meeting relatively free from the media’s biases.

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A critical look at implications in the media coverage of an immigrant's suicide

A critical look at implications in the media coverage of an immigrant's suicide

On Saturday, U.S. authorities confirmed the death of a Honduran immigrant while in detention in May, and it received significant media attention throughout the weekend. Considering the tragic nature of the story and the surrounding circumstances, that’s certainly understandable. However, some of the coverage had questionable elements — implications that could lead people to jump to conclusions as to why Marco Antonio Muñoz committed suicide, and perhaps to blame the Trump administration for his death.

Trump’s immigration policies may have been a factor in his decision, but there could be other factors that would be important for people to understand, especially if there’s a common goal to prevent these things from happening. Here’s a breakdown of that coverage, why it’s limiting and what some of the other factors could be.

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Drama and questionable reasoning in the coverage of the January letter to Mueller

Drama and questionable reasoning in the coverage of the January letter to Mueller

On Saturday, The New York Times published a letter President Trump’s legal team sent to Special Counsel Mueller in January. The outlet also published an article about it, which was dramatic and biased against Trump. Other media outlets published subsequent articles, and their coverage was also distorted. Here’s an analysis of the drama, illogic and dishonor the outlets mixed in with the news.

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Covering Roseanne’s tweets: How the media can fuel more animosity

Covering Roseanne’s tweets: How the media can fuel more animosity

Roseanne Barr’s tweets have continued making headlines for a second day. They also fueled outrage among Twitter and other social media users — people attacked her because of the tweets and then others attacked them, coming to her defense. When you consider what she said, it’s understandable that people would be upset and speak out. But the media’s sensational coverage may do more to fuel the conflict than to help resolve it.

The Knife analyzed four news articles that reported on the tweets and ABC’s subsequent cancellation of Barr’s show “Roseanne.” Before the media got involved, there was drama on all sides: the tweets themselves were demeaning and offensive, and have been considered racist by many. While ABC’s and Disney’s statements about Barr were valid and expressions of personal opinion, they were dramatic, as were comments by the cast and crew of “Roseanne,” who openly disapproved of what Barr said. Then news outlets added their own drama and opinion. Consider these examples:

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Colombia voted for its next president. Here’s how the media dramatized it.

Colombia voted for its next president. Here’s how the media dramatized it.

Colombia’s sociopolitical situation is by no means simple, yet it’s possible to report on its presidential election without overcomplicating it with spin. The Knife analyzed four news outlets that added vague, subjective and dramatic language that implied that whatever the outcome, it doesn’t bode well for Colombians and the peace deal with the FARC. Here’s a look at that distortion.

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It’s not scientific to say Kilauea has ‘wrath.’ Why did the media?

It’s not scientific to say Kilauea has ‘wrath.’ Why did the media?

When it comes to weather phenomena and natural disasters, the media often adds drama. It does so with spin: vague, subjective or emotional language that sensationalizes what would otherwise be objectively observable physical events. You wouldn’t see spin in a scientific paper, and you rarely see it in advisories from meteorological or government agencies. So why have it in the media?

While the coverage of the eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano hasn’t been as spun as, say, that of hurricanes Irma and Maria last year, there was added drama nonetheless. The most obvious examples in this analysis were NPR’s headline and lead paragraph (below). Sentences like these contributed to NPR’s spin rating of 49 percent — the most spun of the four articles analyzed.

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What the media made of Trump’s tweets

What the media made of Trump’s tweets

President Trump’s tweets are the focus of media coverage almost on a daily basis, and Sunday’s posts calling for an investigation into the FBI and the DOJ certainly made headlines. News outlets could report on what the president writes, without added distortions, so readers can decide for themselves what he meant. Instead, they often spin and bias the information in ways that lead readers to specific conclusions. Here are four examples from The New York Times and Breitbart.

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Did The Gap cave in to China’s demands?

Did The Gap cave in to China’s demands?

Tuesday’s coverage of The Gap’s apology to China continued a pattern of distorted media coverage of relations between U.S. corporations and the Asian nation. China has demanded that U.S. businesses label disputed territories as Chinese, and often companies comply. The media could simply report the facts, helping readers form their own opinions about the appropriateness of the demands and companies’ responses. Instead, news outlets depicted China as a bully and the companies as subservient. Here’s a look at that distortion.

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