Feb 11, 2022

How media bias works

An examination of where things are in the media space.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.” You're reading a special Friday edition.

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Where we are.

The current media ecosystem is broken.

There are many reasons for this, and a lot of Tangle readers have asked me why I believe this, but I've never fully sat down and laid it out. Given that my entire mission is to fix how we consume political news, I figured it was about time I explained what I see when I look out on the media industry every morning, and why I was worried enough to start Tangle.

The most obvious criticism — or perhaps the most common — is that the media is generally too liberal and out-of-touch. I think there was truth to the former and there are still grains of truth to the latter. Bias in the media is still the most cited reason people give me when they start reading Tangle, and I'm certainly not here to tell you that bias doesn't exist. It does, and it’s pernicious, and we'll talk about how and why in a moment.

But what I am here to tell you is that the forces driving much of what is wrong with our current media ecosystem are often more insidious and harder to see than simple bias. It’s not as straightforward as reporters being liberal hacks or living in a bubble — and even the political affiliations of reporters don’t often manifest themselves in the ways you may expect.

Hiring bias.

One of the greatest political divides in America is now the education gap. Especially among white voters, those without traditional four-year college degrees are far more likely to vote for Republicans than Democrats (for whatever it’s worth, I don’t personally think this is a great way to measure “education” — but I do think it’s a useful tool for predicting political affiliations). The impact of this on the media space cannot be overstated: Nearly all journalists go to college, because that is typically how you learn to become a journalist.

I went to college at the University of Pittsburgh and got an undergraduate degree in non-fiction writing with a journalism track. I was fortunate that at a school like Pitt, in a city like Pittsburgh, in a state like Pennsylvania, there was quite a bit of ideological diversity (just like where I grew up). But in my journalism classes, there was far less. The overwhelming majority of classmates and teachers that I had were either overtly liberal or, by my best guess, left-of-center politically, based on their writing and attitudes.

This reality has been reflected in polling on the media industry. Perhaps the most well-known of those polls was done by two University of Indiana professors who, in 2013, found that just 7% of journalists identified themselves as Republicans. 50% claimed to be moderate, 28.1% claimed to be Democrats, and 14.6% claimed to be "other." The share of journalists calling themselves independent had grown by 12 percentage points from 2002, but the share of Republicans had shrunk by 7% and the share of Democrats had shrunk by about 8%.

Even when polling financial reporters, Arizona State University and Texas A&M found in 2018 that 58.7% said they were left of center while 37.12% claimed to be moderate. Just 0.46% said they were "very conservative" while 3.94% said they were "somewhat conservative." In 2016, the Center for Public Integrity identified 430 "journalists, reporters, news editors or television news anchors ­— as well as other donors known to be working in journalism" and tracked who they gave money to during the election. 96% donated to Hillary Clinton (for what it's worth, I think it is a major ethical breach for any political reporter to donate to any politician, ever).

In other words: There are a lot of signals out there that the people working at major news outlets are overwhelmingly self-identifying as independent/moderate or liberal. Very, very few are Republicans.

Now, there are a few things worth noting here. One is that being liberal and being a reporter is not the same as being a biased liberal reporter. In my mind, there are no objective journalists because there are no objective people — we are all biased and influenced by our experiences, our political leanings, how we grew up and the people we've met. There are fair journalists and there are hacks. I know a lot of journalists with liberal political beliefs who are harder on Democrats precisely because they care about fairness and about how Democrats act. I know a lot of liberal journalists whose politics you'd never spot by reading their reporting.

This, in some ways, actually creates an imbalance in the media: Conservative journalists and pundits, sensing that they are the minority in the space, are far more reluctant to criticize their own. Liberal journalists and pundits, understanding that they can "stick out" or earn credit by being hard on both sides, are more willing to hammer their own. All this is to say: It's complicated. Just because, say, The New York Times is overwhelmingly made up of people who probably vote for Democrats, doesn't mean that it's always going to play well for Democratic politicians. It will much of the time, but not always. My favorite example to cite is that it was The New York Times that broke the “Hillary emails” story.

Another way this "bias" is reflected in some newspapers is in language. There has been a lot of interesting writing about the way "woke" terms have become more popular at outlets like The Washington Post and The New York Times, and some speculation about what that language does to their readers. I'm not entirely sure where to fit that into this larger framework, but it does seem worth mentioning that progressive language seems far more common at two of the biggest papers in the world than it was just ten years ago.

Journalism has also long had a major representation issue — a bias we've stopped talking about in our media criticism — in that a lot of reporters are white people who grew up in predominantly white places and are writing about cities and neighborhoods that don't look a lot like where they're from. I don't at all mean to imply that white reporters from the suburbs can't write well or accurately or informatively about majority-minority neighborhoods in the city. I do think that having more reporters with an intimate and lifelong knowledge of the places they are writing about, though, is a big plus.

How liberal is the media?

In 2013, the last time the Indiana University professors did their poll, the landscape of online news did not look anything like it does today.

I've argued before that we can no longer call "the media" liberal. "The media" is defined as "the main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the internet) regarded collectively." In today’s context, "the media" is no longer The New York Times and The Washington Post, or NBC or CBS. The places people get their news now consist of hundreds of online news outlets, YouTube channels, podcasts, radio shows, social media platforms and, increasingly, private messaging apps.

The New York Times is still the paper of record, and their original reporting still drives a large swath of news commentary, but someone like Ben Shapiro — the founder of the conservative news outlet The Daily Wire — is far more influential than any single columnist at The Times. If you can't see that, you are not paying attention.

In this regard, I actually think the media is far more balanced now than it was 10 years ago.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board and The New York Times editorial board still do battle. Fox News is still the most-watched news station on television, but every other channel appears (at least) left-of-center. Once you leave these traditional outlets, though, conservatives are dominating.

For all the griping about "Big Tech," platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have been a huge boon for the right. From Donald Trump to Dan Bongino, those platforms are regularly elevating the reach and career of conservative voices that, 20 years ago, may have had a harder time breaking through. As a reaction to deplatforming on Twitter and other major social media networks, conservatives have also begun creating their own platforms where opinion is disseminated with little or no dissent, meaning millions of right-wing Americans are getting uncontested and unfettered conservative news.

Measuring any of this is difficult. But I think it is fair to say that the ecosystem of where people get their news is now much broader and also more balanced than it used to be. The issue, the one Tangle is trying to solve, is that very few singular news outlets are actually providing any balance — they are all just competing with each other to "win" the debate for one side or the other.

Straight news vs. Opinion.

One of the critical things to understand here is that there is a major difference between "straight news" and "opinion" writing, even though biases exist in both.

The simple point to make is that every newspaper has a staff of opinion writers who tend to lean one direction or the other. The New York Times and The Washington Post are overwhelmingly liberal, though The Washington Post has several conservative opinion writers who regularly contribute to its page. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post's opinion pages are overwhelmingly conservative, though The Journal regularly features liberal writers (The New York Post, not so much). Bloomberg, on the other hand, lands somewhere in what I would call "just left of center," much like the political candidate whose name the paper bears. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all have clear ideological tilts, but as I say regularly, you shouldn't be watching your news anyway.

Then there is the dreaded "analysis." This is a banner many news organizations have begun slapping onto what is obviously an opinion piece, but they want to frame it as more high-brow, data-driven, or objective. Anytime you see "analysis" on a piece of news reporting, carry on as if you are reading an opinion piece. Newspapers don't just let people publish overt falsehoods when they are writing an opinion piece, so the difference between opinion and analysis is really just style and subtlety. Rarely is there any level of legitimate balance.

What is most interesting to me is how bias is reflected in straight news reporting. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are, ostensibly, the two most important papers in the country. Both are well-funded, profitable, and have the money and influence to hire the best reporters in the business. I'm talking about the most well-trained, experienced, highly educated journalists on the planet — the people who are the least likely to make mistakes and the most meticulous you can find. There is a reason working for those papers is a dream for most reporters.

And yet... If you read The Times and WSJ covering the exact same story, you will notice something odd: It looks very different! For instance, The Times and The Journal both ran straight news stories on the Freedom Convoy that we covered in yesterday's edition of Tangle. Both were "explainers" about what the protest was about and who the truckers were.

The Times story was headlined "Who are the protesters and what do they want?" The Journal story was headlined "What is the Freedom Convoy? Trucker Protests in Canada Explained."

I think it is a useful exercise to examine the two, briefly, side-by-side.

Here is the lede (the opening line) in The New York Times:

The demonstrations shaking the nation’s capital began as a protest against the mandatory vaccination of truck drivers crossing the U.S.-Canada border. They have morphed into a battle cry against pandemic restrictions as a whole, and the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Here is the lede in the The Wall Street Journal:

Since late January, downtown Ottawa has served as a parking lot for up to 500 heavy-duty trucks, pickup trucks and other vehicles, operated by individuals who say they are fed up with the social restrictions and vaccine mandates meant to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Right off the bat, you can see a difference. The Times describes "demonstrations shaking the nation's capital" and uses evocative language like "battle cry." The Journal describes heavy duty trucks "operated by individuals" who are "fed up" with social restrictions and vaccine mandates that are "meant" to contain Covid-19. This difference is not overt but it is there – even if it could be chalked up to stylistic changes rather than any kind of implicit bias.

Here is the nut graf (the paragraph that explain the context of a story) in The Times:

Mr. Trudeau, who is isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus last week, has sought to downplay the scope and influence of the protesters, calling them a “small fringe minority,” and lashing out at them for desecrating war memorials, wielding Nazi symbols, spreading disinformation and stealing food from the homeless during protests in Ottawa.

Here is the nut graf in The Journal:

Some of the vehicles are adorned with Canadian flags, along with signs and slogans demanding their rights under the country’s constitution be restored—among them, the right to decline to get vaccinated for Covid-19—and that rules be abolished requiring vaccination to either work, travel or eat at the local pub. The convoy, organized under the Freedom Convoy 2022 banner, has clogged up traffic in the city’s core, forced some businesses to shut their doors, and disrupted residents’ daily lives. Tens of thousands of supporters have gathered near the country’s parliament on consecutive weekends to show their support.

How's that for black and white? In The Times, the first paragraph of the story quotes a Covid-19 positive Justin Trudeau (emphasizing the continued threat of Covid-19), refers to the protesters as a "fringe minority" and immediately echoes Trudeau's accusations that they are wielding "nazi symbols." In The Journal, the reporter describes "tens of thousands of supporters," the "Freedom Convoy," notes that the trucks are "adorned with Canadian flags" and that all the protesters want is to be able to eat "at the local pub" without a vaccine requirement.

This is the insidious kind of bias that rears its ugly head in straight news reporting. Again: These are two of the best papers in the world, and I have a great deal of respect for each, but neither of these stories was published without at least three or four editors and reporters reading them, editing them, and updating them. And yet, while covering the exact same event, two paragraphs in, the differences are already this stark.

Here is the third paragraph in The Times:

During the pandemic, repeated polls have shown that a majority of Canadians support public health measures to contain the pandemic, but the number of Canadians who would like to see restrictions end has risen in recent weeks, and the demonstrations have tapped into pandemic fatigue across the country after months of lockdowns.

Here is the third paragraph in The Journal:

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has requested an additional 1,800 law-enforcement officers from the Canadian government to help “quell the insurrection” in the capital. Ottawa’s police force employs 1,200 officers. “We must do everything in our power to take back the streets of Ottawa,” Mr. Watson said in a Feb. 7 letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

These, too, are instructive. The Times piece immediately attempts to show that the protesters are running against public sentiment, though they do it in what I think is a pretty misleading way. When you read that paragraph, I assume you’re left thinking most Canadians are opposed to ending vaccine mandates. But if you click the hyperlink where it says the number of Canadians who want to see restrictions end "has risen in recent weeks," you'll see this:

Screenshot of a poll linked to in The New York Times

The poll they link to isn't just showing that it's "risen," it's showing that a majority of all Canadians want all restrictions to end. Those are two pretty different things.

Meanwhile, The Journal article opts to pivot onto the "law and order" track — though in the next paragraph the reporter begins describing the "small team of western Canadian truckers, family members and friends" who decided to form the protest, clearly portraying this as a "regular folks" kind of uprising.

The entire story on both sides goes on this way. And to be clear: I did not pick this story because it is a good example of how this bias comes through even in a straight news context. I simply picked the last thing I covered in Tangle, knowing that these differences would exist in the biggest outlets, and then put them up side by side. This is what I see every single day when I read straight news stories from across the political spectrum to craft Tangle, and the differences are obviously even starker when you take the plunge into opinion writing.

Bad incentives.

When I started Tangle, I made a decision to be 100% ad-free and investor-free. My prior experience in the media business was a huge reason for this.

For starters, having advertisers is always tricky. A few weeks ago, I decided to experiment with ads on the Tangle podcast. Our podcast is still small, it's losing money, and people seem far more inclined to subscribe or donate to the newsletter than to the podcast. So to offset some of the costs, I decided to run an advertisement for Anchor, the platform I use to create the podcast. I figured this was as safe as it could get: I love Anchor, it's a great platform, and I was basically advertising a podcast platform on a podcast.

Well, it turns out Anchor is owned by Spotify. So when the Joe Rogan controversy started, and I wanted to discuss it, I was put in the awkward position of having to "disclose" that I make a paltry $10 on every podcast I publish from an Anchor sponsorship. Fortunately, I wasn't in a position where I cared about how Spotify would react (and they certainly don't care about someone as small as I am) but you can see how easily a problem could arise.

This happens all the time in the media. There is supposed to be a wall between editorial and sales, but the people at the top — the folks who run media companies — operate on both sides of that wall. And trust me when I say there are times those people flex their muscles on editorial because they are worried about something on the sales side.

There are also the cringe moments. On several occasions, the politics newsletter Axios — which I read every day — has run Exxon Mobil advertisements in newsletters that discuss climate change. In 2020, they literally ran a Michael Bloomberg campaign ad in a newsletter reporting on the 2020 Democratic primary:

Most importantly, though, is that the math on advertisements is simple. The more people who see them, the more money you make. That means, quite obviously, that there are incentives to have as many people see your work as possible. These are the dynamics that created the clickbait era ("You'll never believe what happens next...").

Now, you might be thinking, "Well, you make money from people subscribing. The more people who see your stuff the better chances you get people to subscribe. What's the difference?" It's a good question. The difference is that, in Tangle, and with newsletters specifically, I have to fulfill the promise. Simply getting you to open a newsletter or click on a headline isn't a win for me. I need you to first subscribe for free, then stay on my mailing list, then like what you’re reading so much you become a paying subscriber, otherwise I never make any money. I have to do what I say I’m going to do: present quality, balanced, independent news, or you’ll just... unsubscribe. And then you're gone.

This is a big reason why I love the newsletter medium so much and why I chose to make Tangle's core product a newsletter.

But there was a huge cost to the decision to keep us ad-free, and it’s hard not to regret it sometimes. Tangle has over 30,000 readers. Other newsletters our size who run ads can charge up to $800 — sometimes even more — for a single advertisement in their newsletter. So if I ran four ads a week, at $800 each, I could make $3,200 off ads every week. Or over $166,000 a year. If I ran two ads every day, I could double that number — $332,000 — which would leave me with far more revenue than we make right now off of subscribers and donations. I choose not to, because I know how that incentive can reduce the quality of my work, but I’d be lying if I said seeing those numbers didn’t tempt me.

The Trump effect.

Of course, one of the most important things to happen to the media space in recent memory was the rise of Donald Trump.

Trump was critical to the path of media — and bias in the media — because he forced so many people to "pick a side." He was viewed as an existential threat by many in the press, which left many reporters feeling the pressure to abandon any pretext of neutrality and instead speak openly about how they loathed him. Trump's penchant for lying — for telling fibs and whoppers — was unlike any of the lies we'd seen from any president before. Every day felt like a new version of Bill Clinton’s famous "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," and the press was under-prepared and ill-suited to navigate it.

There was also the fact that Trump actively chose to make the media his opposition in a largely successful campaign to undermine their credibility. He understood this was a winning strategy. But when you call reporters "the enemy of the people" every day for four or five years, something very predictable happens: Those reporters don't like you very much. And so the cycle went on, with just about every reporter or pundit having to take a side, and nearly all of them being defined ever since by where they landed in the Trump era. Some conservative journalists and pundits are no longer seen as sufficiently conservative because they opposed Trump, while some rather centrist reporters and pundits are now seen as liberal because they criticized him relentlessly.

The paradigm shifted for good.


Because a lot of folks in the press are aware of these dynamics, a few things have happened in the last few years that I'd file under "overcompensation."

For one, conservative media has become unabashedly partisan. This really isn't anyone's fault, it’s just a natural outgrowth of decades of the "mainstream" press operating left of center. But anyone willing to give it an honest look will see it. 10 years ago, Fox News was already way right of center, running absurd, tabloid-esque hit news pieces in its primetime lineup, and airing legitimate conspiracy theories to its audience, like the accusation that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Today, CNN and MSNBC are effectively the mirror to Fox News. But that wasn't always true. Fox overcompensated for being the lone conservative voice in the space, and CNN and MSNBC saw their strategy succeed and overcompensated by becoming, essentially, farther-left, anti-Trump versions of the same product. I legitimately struggle to sit through 30 minutes of any of those networks any more.

Meanwhile, if the liberal press is anything, it is insecure. And that insecurity — and the cries of partisanship and bias — have left many mainstream, center-left outlets doing everything they can to appear to be "in touch" with the "regular" American folks. Because local news has been eviscerated, most journalists today, at least pre-pandemic, were living in New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Houston or Miami. The vast majority of the others were — like most of America — in major metropolitan areas across the U.S.

As part of their overcompensation, these newsrooms did their best to be sure they were "finding out" what was going on out there — in the non-major-urban areas. This is why there are so many of those silly “diner stories,” where The New York Times sends dozens of reporters out into suburban Pennsylvania like they are boarding a rocketship to Mars.

This overcompensation gives the impression that there are two Americas: The Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Oregon, and the Blue Lives Matter folks at the diner in Western Pennsylvania. Reporters, desperate to be sure they aren't missing something, actively seek out whatever is the opposite of where they are. And since most live in predominantly liberal urban enclaves, they go to predominantly conservative rural America. Rather than capture any kind of nuance or complexity, this overcompensation ends up delivering to us — the news consumer — the two polar ends of the country, politically.

The bubble.

One of the most important parts of our current media crisis is that most journalists are friends with journalists and spend most of their time talking to other reporters.

Specifically, talking to them online.

Twitter is an influential platform not just because anyone can go viral and be seen by millions of people, but because so many opinion-makers and reporters and influential celebrities spend an inordinate amount of time opining there. And since so many reporters spend so much time on Twitter, you can get a very skewed idea of what people in America are thinking about by spending time there yourself.

This has been demonstrated repeatedly, but it should be said again that Twitter is overwhelmingly liberal and the ideas represented there are not a good representation of America as a whole. Yet, many of the most important people writing about America cite Twitter to understand the world. This is why there are times when what is "trending" on Twitter — the day's latest media controversy or gossip about Trump — is so often totally divorced from what 90% of the country is thinking about.

The Twitter bubble is one of the biggest reasons for story selection bias, which is another major issue media faces. That is, the very decision about which stories to put your reporters on is, in and of itself, a subjective decision and therefore filled with bias. The home page of Fox News will be a full-page splash on a group of migrants getting caught crossing the border on the same day the front page of the Huffington Post is about Trump flushing classified documents down the toilet.

A good parallel I've seen about how bubbles work regards teachers during the pandemic. I've had a lot of educators in my family and have a great deal of respect for teaching, which I think is inarguably one of the most important and difficult and thankless jobs there is. But during the pandemic, I saw a massive divide between what teachers wanted and what parents, kids and everyone else seemed to want. The bubble teachers lived in — that so many of their friends and family were teachers — reinforced their own views on how to navigate the pandemic, namely by keeping learning remote or hybrid.

This isn't to say they were right or wrong, just that it was what it was. And this bubble exists in any work environment (see police, politicians, corporate CEOs). But the impact it has had specifically on journalism is easy to observe once you step out of the bubble. It is also critical to understanding some of the media's failures.

The case for journalists.

In the interest of our stated balanced approach, I would be remiss not to briefly address some of the above.

For starters, I think the thing that is often misrepresented the most is that journalists are “out of touch” with the working class, as if working class people only existed in rural America or can't exist in conjunction with a college degree.

I was raised decidedly middle-class. I was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in a diverse working class neighborhood. I grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which had very little racial diversity but a huge amount of class diversity (and, consequently, is one of the most important bellwether counties in U.S. elections) Both my parents worked for much of my life. I went to a state school where I got a scholarship. My parents had to sell my childhood home during the 2008 housing crash. It was a pretty traditional, run-of-the-mill middle class upbringing. I would not consider myself "out of touch" with that world, even though I now live in Brooklyn.

More to the point, though, is that most journalists are working-class by any definition. The good ones pull 10 to 12 hour days, the vast majority make $35,000 to $80,000 a year. The average salary for a reporter in New York is currently $44,000. At my first journalism job, I was offered $35,000 to work in New York and started out by commuting from my mom’s house in the Philadelphia suburbs every day because I couldn’t afford to live in the city. Job security is tenuous at best and a total nightmare at worst. It should be repeated that those salaries, too, are what most of these reporters are living on in the highest cost of living cities in the U.S.

It's true that a lot of pundits and writers have Ivy League degrees or are the children of media icons or grew up rich and wealthy and pursued a career in media out of privilege. It's also true that some of the richest, most well-off and "elite" pundits in America are now the very ones who purport to represent the working class.

I also want to say unambiguously that the vast majority of all reporters I have ever met or worked with are genuinely trying their best to tell an honest story. First of all, screwing a story up is a good way to lose a job — and most reporters operate with the understanding that one big mistake could end their careers (and keep them from getting a job in the future). Second, though, is that most reporters don't go into the profession in order to shape the narrative of the day — they go into it because chasing stories is fun, because they love writing, because they like pulling apart interesting facets of society.

Reporters make mistakes (just go look at Tangle's correction count). The good ones fix them honestly and own them. It is, overwhelmingly, pundits who do damage to a media outlet's brand. It is, overwhelmingly, a minority of bad actors in the space — like the reporters who tuck their opinions into news stories, or help facilitate positive press for certain candidates, or go work in politics when they’re done with journalism — that destroy the credibility of the rest of the industry.

I think, as a rule, it is safe to assume that most reporters are decent people trying to do a good job and to keep their job. That has been my experience.

How Tangle solves it.

I'd also be remiss not to share why I think Tangle is addressing these issues directly.

First and most importantly is our format. By sharing the left and the right's take, and by actively seeking those takes out, I'm buttoning up the representation of framing and facts that other news outlets no longer address. The hardest thing to do in every Tangle is to write the "Today's topic" section, because it requires adding the context that you find in both the straight news stories from places like The Times and places like The Journal (where, as you saw above, there are often huge divides).

"My take," then, is a way for me to isolate unambiguously when you are reading my opinion or analysis. Readers know that is what they're getting, and I do my best to fairly articulate the strengths and weaknesses of arguments I see on both sides. This is, of course, the most subjective part of Tangle, but it's not supposed to convince you one way or the other and it only works for my readers if I'm not a total hack. And, at risk of some hubris, I think my background makes me uniquely positioned to navigate our current political dynamics. I grew up in a politically divided place, have lived in the suburbs and in cities, spent my formative summers in rural West Texas and went to college in a city (Pittsburgh) that is essentially the definition of working-class. I’ve been immersed in many environments of American life.

The reader question, then, is my way to ensure I'm not missing what "the people" are talking about. My inbox is full of questions, concerns, commentary and story suggestions, and that — paired with the Friday editions — is my way of making sure I'm talking about what my readers are talking about. Corrections and reader feedback serve to help me be sure I'm also elevating the folks who don't agree with me and not just the ones who do.

All of this was designed with intent. I know it is impossible for me to shed the biases of my upbringing and experiences, so I stopped trying to. I know it's impossible to write an objective sentence on my own, so instead I pull from both sides when I'm framing a story. I know there is no singularly "right" opinion, so I share (at least) six of them every day.

The biggest challenge I still face is story selection bias. But that is why I regularly poll readers about what they want to read more about, and it's why I pay specific attention to the kinds of emails and questions I get (rather than simply what’s trending on Twitter or the front pages, though that obviously is a big part of how I choose too).

It's a work in progress, and we're still improving, but in many ways the bias in the media has been a huge gift to me. It has left a gap that needs to be filled — a space for people who are seeking holistic news — and has given us an opportunity to fill it. Based on the response so far, I think it's going pretty well.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.