Political Perspectives by Virginia A. Rumph*
Some periodicals will have a specific political or cultural bias. This may be reflected in their choice of issues to report on, their tendency to express certain political or cultural opinions and advocate certain types of solutions to social problems, or both. If your research project requires you to examine a given topic from one or more political perspectives, the following list of titles might be useful.
Please note, however, that the categories listed below are quite broad and not all periodicals in a given category will necessarily be in close agreement on all issues. For example Freeman focuses on issues of economic conservatism and libertarianism, whereas The National Review and Christianity Today focus more on cultural conservatism. Commentary primarily covers Jewish interests, but with a moderately conservative perspective.
Many popular magazines will attempt to include a variety of perspectives within every issue, and hence cannot be identified on the whole with any specific political agenda, although individual articles may reflect the bias of the authors. Examples include Time, U.S. News and World Report, and Rolling Stone. However, each of these periodicals may reflect other biases, not identifiable on a simple conservative-liberal scale, which determine what type of news and opinions they are likely to contain and how the writers tend to treat their subjects.
*This guide was originally created by Virginia A. Rumph, Librarain at Butler University. Ms. Rumph graciously agreed to allow me to use her guide as a template, thereby sharing her work with students at Olympic College.
Magazines vary widely in their quality and reliability.
Most magazines have editors, or fact-checkers to that contribute to a publication’s accuracy.
Editors and fact-checkers provide some measure of quality control; however, the rigor of the quality control process can vary widely from publication to publication. In addition, most magazines represent a discernable point-of-view or bias, which is usually promoted by their writers.
Sometimes it is difficult to determine a particular writer's perspective, especially if you are new to the topic you are researching. But once you have read several articles on your topic, you should be able to begin making judgments about a writer's slant.
To ascertain the slant of an article, consider these points.
- Who is the author?
- If an author conceals their identity, beware
- What are the author's credentials?
- Credentials are usually disclosed somewhere, but it often takes some searching.
· Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
o Readers are often blind to bias, especially if they are in complete agreement with the author.
o Almost no writer, especially journalists, writes objectively.
· Does the information appear to be valid and well researched?
o See if the writer refers to the work of any other author's work.
· Is the language free of emotional words?
o Inflammatory language is easy to spot. Look for extreme adjectives.
· Is the publication sponsored by an organization that promotes a particular point of view?
o Non-profit organizations in particular usually promote a particular perspective.
o University presses are not exempt from bias.
· Who is on the editorial board?
o Editors and their affiliations are often difficult (or impossible) to find in online databases such as EbscoHost.