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Hostile Media Effect

For journalists reporting on controversial political issues, it is all too common to get critical feedback from readers or viewers who accuse them of bias. They find some comfort, however, when audience members from both sides of a political fence charge that news coverage is slanted in favor of the other side. This scenario is a classic illustration of the hostile media effect—the tendency for opposing partisans to see presumably neutral news coverage as unfairly biased against their own point of view.

Psychologists regard such biased perceptions as a contrast effect, in which partisans perceive information to be further away from their own position on an issue. In this sense the hostile media effect illustrates the subjective character of information processing. The fact that different people ...

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