My name is Vanessa Otero and I’m a practicing patent attorney in the Denver, Colorado area, and I have a B.A. in English from UCLA and a J.D. from the University of Denver. I’m not a journalist by training, and I don’t claim to be one. So why should you listen to me about the quality of news sources? You shouldn’t. In fact, you shouldn’t listen to anyone who tells you that you should think or believe a certain thing a certain way.
But you’ve come to this site to find out what Ad Fontes has to say about the quality and bias of the news anyway. This site started out as just my own personal blog, and evolved into Ad Fontes Media because of popularity of the Media Bias Chart, so I have created all the content on this site. As a result, I feel like it is important to be transparent about who I am and what my political biases are. You can read about those here. You should also know that I have incorporated feedback from others across the political spectrum, and that I plan to increase the objectivity of the source ratings by using other people and technology tools. You can read more about those plans here.
But going back to the question of “why should I trust this?” I’ll lay out a few reasons why you could choose to value Ad Fontes’ assessments in particular. Consider them and then determine for yourself whether this information is valuable to you.
The first reason is that I have worked to make the Media Bias Chart increasingly methodology-based and objective as possible since its inception. That is important because although we are trying to measure an inherently subjective thing, the granularity of the methodology helps ensure consistent results over time. Still, you should ask why you should value my judgments about the taxonomy of the chart and the methodology in the first place.
One reason is that I’ve been thinking about, studying, and writing about media assessment and categorization for the past couple of years. That’s not a long time, but given that the present media landscape is unlike anything that existed before, the very concept and field of systematic “media categorization” in the digital era is nascent, so I submit that there aren’t a lot of experts in it yet (there are some, but not as many as in well-established fields). Journalists themselves are engaged in figuring out how to report better in this new landscape; I’m focused on defining what the landscape IS. I believe the field of media categorization will need to be developed over the coming years so readers can cope with all the information available now. I hope to contribute to this endeavor significantly.
Another reason you could value my assessments is that my formal educational training is in English and law, which is focused on analytical reading and writing. That is a key kind of training one could reasonably rely on for the work of analyzing a large amount of written material.
Another reason is that in my profession as a patent attorney, I have a lot of practice explaining a technical, involved idea through words and pictures, so that someone who initially doesn’t understand the idea can grasp it quickly. I decided to explain the media landscape in pictures and my original media ranking chart resonated with a lot of people very quickly. Popularity alone doesn’t make something right or good, but I respectfully submit that I am making a good faith effort to substantiate something popular (a picture of the media landscape) with something that is right and good (extensive research, data, and analysis that backs up the rankings). I’m working to convey hard concepts about what is in our news to people of all levels of knowledge about the news, and especially to those with very little knowledge about the news.
I’m aware that there are others who are working on these and related issues, and I am aware that there is much that I do not know. The most extraordinary thing this project has done for me personally is connect me to the people who have done good work in this field, and to others who haven’t, but who have really good ideas. I have been able to improve this chart over a few versions because many thoughtful, intelligent, and kind people have engaged with me in discussions about the nuances of categorizing the news. I seek to improve the quality of this work, so I read each comment and consider them carefully (and respond eventually!) Please bring your well-supported ideas to the table. I’m not stubborn. And bring your suggestions for other ways you would like to see this information presented. I’ll do my best to make it happen.
I look forward to tackling the hard questions about how we can navigate the media landscape, and come out better for it, with you.