Update, June 2020: See Vanessa Otero Ad Fontes Media Updated Media Bias Chart –6.0
Vanessa Otero created an impressive chart that visualizes the problem with a simplistic “real news / fake news” dichotomy. News that skews left or right can still be valuable, and news that scrupulously avoids bias can still be vacuous clickbait. While you or I might disagree on whether the HuffPo/Occupy Democrats oval really parallels the Fox News / RedState oval, or we might quibble over the placement of some of the outlets, more important is the visual reminder that bias is relative. The people who most loudly complain about bias in “the media” are probably happily lapping up the contents on the opposite side of the political spectrum.
Remember that journalism is a professional and academic field with a set of agreed-upon standards. People get degrees in it and people who are really good at it get jobs in it at good organizations. Peer review helps ensure mainstream sources adhere to standards; if a story doesn’t meet those standards, other news outlets report on that. Not believing the mainstream media just because it is mainstream is like not believing a mainstream doctor or a mainstream lawyer. Sure, you should question and rate the quality of what the newspaper, doctor, or lawyer says, but you shouldn’t dismiss them out of hand because the paper is big, the doctor works at a hospital, or the lawyer works at a firm. —Vanessa Otero
18 Jan 2017: I originally came across this on Facebook, so I linked to Otero’s Facebook page. That link no longer works, so I have changed the link to a Twitter post that is still available.
01 Nov 2018: Updated link to version 4.0
19 June 2020: Updated link to version 6.0