One problem contributing to the perception of bias is the blurred lines between news and opinion.
Another day, another billionaire adding yet another major news publication to their media empire.
It’s not exactly new news: German publishing giant Axel Springer’s acquisition of Politico, the Virginia-based media company that focuses exclusively on politics. But the deal, which The Washington Post explicates in a recent deep dive on Axel Spinger’s CEO Mathias Döpfner, paints a perplexing portrait: powerful media mogul, with stated sympathies to Donald Trump, accuses mainstream media of becoming too partisan, then promises an editorial reboot in favor of an elusive “middle way.”
“We want to prove that being nonpartisan is actually the more successful positioning,” he told The Washington Post.
What editorial changes may be coming to Politico remains to be seen, says Jonathan Kaufman, director of the School of Journalism. While Döpfner claims that mainstream news has become, in his words, “too polarized,” such polarization is hardly emblematic of outfits like Politico, which has a national reputation for primarily horse-race political coverage and “inside baseball” for political junkies, Kaufman says.
Still, charges of media bias—as it relates to politics and other matters more broadly—from business leaders, consumers of news, politicians and others have become routine, reflecting the deepening partisan divisions in society at-large and a desire for more balance. But Kaufman says such assertions do not fully reflect actual journalistic practices, as the industry transitions away from print advertising to focus on another imperative: digital audience and subscription growth.
“The idea of overt political bias I don’t think is the issue here,” he says. “I think the issue has more to do with marketing and competition for reader attention.”