by @mcknco

My Approach to News Bias

TL;DR: Try my bias-aware news aggregator, partial.press.

If there’s one thing modern-day politics has shown us, it’s that no news outlet — even those adhering to the strictest of journalistic standards — is completely immune from political bias. Whether you’re on the left or right, there’s a wide plethora of media echo chambers happy to reaffirm your beliefs and demonize those of the opposition.

In actuality, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.

Enter my new project, partial.press. Partial press isn’t an attempt to solve fake news or media bias. Instead, its goal is to educate readers by making them conscious of their daily news intake. Like a nutritional label on a soda can, or a health warning on a pack of smokes, partial.press marks news headlines as deriving from a liberal-friendly or a conservative-friendly news source.

Simple.

Why I made it

Recently, I’ve made a conscious effort to reduce my dependency on Google products. It’s a phase everyone goes through. I’m not a purist; not quitting Google, nor am I prepared to decapitate my internet’s utility in order to completely banish Google from my life.

I’m simply trying to be a conscious consumer of what products I use and whether there are any suitable alternatives.

Google News

One I use quite often is Google’s news aggregator for my daily dose of outrage. Unfortunately Google has come under some criticism lately for (potentially) manipulating SERP results, and more generally for their overarching ability to shape the content landscape we’re exposed to online without our knowledge.

The fact that Google’s been attacked by the left (indexing hate speech) and the right (infringing on freedom of expression) is somewhat comforting, but I thought I’d try to make something very simple that circumvents Google’s shortcomings.

How people vote

All my friends found the 2016 election results to be completely unfathomable. But having lived through the butterfly ballot debacle of 2000, I know the United States to be more nuanced, mysterious and diverse than many prominent European news organizations would have you believe.

In my opinion it’s important to know why people vote the way that they do. And to know that, I want to know what people are reading in order to understand their fears and their desires.

Preferably the entire world.

Google News generally lacks on conservative news sources. Whether you agree with them or not, half the U.S. population voted to install an incredibly unpopular president into the White House. And contrary to extremist opinion, Russian-bought Facebook ads were not the decisive factor.

Breaking news from two perspectives

The partial press platform tries to provide an equilibrium by showcasing progressive and conservative news sources side by side. The headlines dominating today’s news cycle are presented from both points of view, often to comedic effect. By elucidating the sometimes sensational exclamations from both sides, we’re able to nullify and make void their persuasive powers.

Like a historian, you must consider your news sources critically and try to arrive at a reasonable personal reality on your own using your own cognitive abilities. Critical thinking folks!

Bipartisanship at its finest!

Using partial press in two-column mode, left-wing news is shown in the left column, while right-wing sourced headlines are literally in the right column.

Transatlantic, Anglo-Saxon

The sources I’ve scraped are of the variety I’d read on Google: US and UK sources; some very informative, others more entertaining (the line has become indistinguishable) and predominantly addressing the global affairs of today’s news cycle. Some with pay-wall, most without.

Binary categorization

Each news source is marked either blue or red to emphasize that bias is omnipresent. For the best journalistic outlets, it was a tough choice. Let me know if I got it wrong (and provide proof!).

I understand if you disagree with the premise of the binary decision. It’s a touchy subject and we all have our own ways of dealing with it. Some will argue it reinforces the partisan divide and political gridlock. My hope is that it will help you to take a step back from either color and call out the ridiculousness for what it is, whatever color it is.

Made with love in 24 hours

The initial idea for partial press came to me during dinner a few weeks ago. A few hours later and thanks to a great news API, I had a working prototype. The next day I worked on the design and presentation of headlines.

And that was that.

It’s truly amazing how quickly you can imagine it and make it. Thanks to a plentiful pool of APIs nowadays, there’s an almost endless potential for building new products by simply gluing together existing products in innovative ways. This makes solo product making easier and more realistic than ever before.

I spent more time thinking about how to ship than I spent on coding. That’s a first for me, but I believe the transition from making to selling is a welcome one.

There’s really nothing worse than building something cool and nobody caring two hoots.

Give it a go

I built partial.press for me and now use it as my primary news aggregator. So it’s already a success. If you like it and use it, that would make it even cooler, but no worries if you don’t.

Tell me what you think. If you’re missing a few features, tell me and I’ll build it. If it’s a sack of hot-potatoes, don’t hold back.

In the meantime, here’s to a prosperous New Year and I wish you all a lot of hacking and hustling in the months ahead.

December 27, 2017, @mcknco

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