Pages Navigation Menu

In search of a free and fair press



Democracy is based on an informed electorate going to the polls to choose its leaders. Only a free and fair press can make that possible. If news media include slanted views and bias, readers can be unknowingly swayed to believe something that may not be true. That hurts democracy. To help students read more critically, compare two news articles about the same event and start developing the skills to spot ways some media may be giving readers a slanted view.


  • Students will acknowledge that news media are at times biased. 
  • Students will recognize how specific words and visuals can influence how an audience views a situation. 
  • Students will be able to compare media coverage and recognize well-sourced and fairly balanced news.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. 
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account. 
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper). 
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose. 


50 – 60 minutes (one class period)

Materials / resources

●      Liz Cheney takes a final swipe at Trump after GOP defeat: ‘That was a path I could not take,’ Salon, Aug. 16, 2022

●      Trump gloats over nemesis Liz Cheney’s primary loss, calls her ‘fool,’ New York Post, Aug. 17, 2022 (These two articles might be dated by the time you are using this assignment. Comparable ones should be fairly easy to find.)

●    Cheney Ponders 2024 bid after losing Wyoming GOP primary, Associated Press, Aug.16, 2022 and Liz Cheney is considering a presidential run to stop Trump after losing her House seat, NPR, Aug. 17, 2021 (for possibly analyzing a more middle of the road approach)

●      Graphic Organizer to compare articles

 New York PostSalon
How does the headline make yoHow does the headline make you feel? Do any words make you think positively or negatively about anyone in the article? u feel? Do any words make you think positively or negatively about anyone in the article?   
What about words in the story? Are any emphasized (in partial quotes or a different typography)? How does this affect your thinking?  
Who is the focus of each article? (For instance, count the number of times each person’s name is used)  
Are outside experts cited to analyze the situation? What kind of credentials do you think they have?   
Describe the visuals in each article. Who is pictured and how do they look? Is it a sympathetic photo or video? Why? Why not?  
Describe the cutlines (captions) of each photo or video. What is emphasized?   

Lesson step-by-step

  1. Bell-ringer: Ask students to write on a slip of paper where they and their family get their news. Tell them to be specific – which websites, newspapers, magazines, television, social media, friends, etc.
  2. Briefly discuss their answers and how much they trust their sources. Why or why not? Do they think their sources show bias? Why or why not?
  3. Project on a screen (or have students display on their devices) the Ad Fontes Media Bias chart. Explain how it works and its premise. If students included any mainstream media on their bell-ringer lists, discuss where it falls on the chart. (Sometimes the only things they will list are social media or word-of-mouth, but the pros and cons of that can lead to a discussion, too.)
  4. Think-pair-share exercise with students using the graphic organizer to find examples of bias in the two articles. Have pairs contribute to a list on the board or large paper to see how many examples were found. Discuss the lists. Make sure students find specific words and visuals that would sway a reader’s opinion one way or the other.
  5. (Optional in-class or out-of-class assignment) Find one of the “middle of the road” news outlets and compare how that covered the same story.  Note that both AP and NPR focus more on what Cheney might do now than on the loss.
  6. Exit slip/formative assessment: “List one specific thing might you look for now in news reports to decide how much bias the article has? If you decide it’s slanted, then what will you do?”

Teacher notes:

Things they might note in the Post article:

  • Headline quotes Trump saying she is a “fool”
  • The word “gloat” has the connotation of being superior.
  • Note the words in red – Crushing, WIN, “very decisive win” by the challenger, Cheney’s loss was “far bigger than had ever been anticipated.” Also, “wonderful result for America,” etc.
  • Inset of Trump tweets – “uninspiring speech” to a “tiny” crowd and she “played right into the hands of those who want to destroy our Country.”
  • More emphasis on his last election being “Rigger & Stolen”
  • Finally, a meme showing Trump getting food from Cheney working at McDonalds. 

Things they might note in the Salon article:

  • The photo of Cheney is more sympathetic.
  • The headline is from her, not from Trump about her, and shows her reason for doing the things she has.
  • “Cheney sacrificed her political career when she didn’t have to” – definitely an opinion from the right with no source.
  • The next sentence portrays her as still willing to continue the fight 
  • Paragraph about the Trump-endorsed winner points out her opposition to federal rules to protect land, water and endangered species.
  • Video shows Cheney’s concession speech.
  • However, tweets at the bottom are from those who were glad she lost.