conformation bias and the media’s influence

Conformation bias means favouring information that confirms previously existing beliefs or bias. It is a tendency to search for, interpret, favour and recall information in a way to interpret or support an individual’s beliefs or hypothesis. People will focus on the evidence that only support their point of view as opposed to looking at both sides of the argument.

Conformation bias can be used in media texts via providing the needed “proof” that would support these viewpoints. For example, newspapers especially may portray an individual or event in a certain way that could support one’s bias. Conformation bias therefore influences what media texts we consume, for example someone who supports the Brexit movement would typically read right wing newspapers such as the Daily Mail that are in favour of Brexit and therefore feed onto that person’s conformation bias as opposed to more left wing newspapers such as The Guardian which were not in favour of Brexit and so gave evidence against it.

newspaper analysis – The Big Issue

The Big Issue is a street newspaper founded in September 1991 by John Bird and Gordon Riddick. The weekly newspaper comes in magazine format written by professional journalists to then be sold by the homeless or those in danger of becoming homeless as means to help provide them with a sustained and legitimate income. The newspaper is a social business, with the objective of supporting the homeless into reintegration into mainstream society. The magazine is owned by a non-profit organisation, with its work being funded through advertising and cover price sales. Since 2012, the magazine has focused more on campaigning journalism and broader features. The magazine has a current circulation of around 125000 copies each week in the UK however is also published in other continents such as North America and Africa. Its slogan is “a hand up, not a hand out”, referencing the way it supports those in need.
The target audience will typically be of a young-middle age as generations above this bracket typically hold more prejudice against the homeless. Much of the Big Issue’s articles have a more unprofessional style front cover and often include references to pop culture, which would therefore possibly draw in an audience of around this age as they will understand the references and will therefore be more motivated to purchase. Readers typically fit a higher social group (72% of readers fit into the ABC1 category) in order to have money to spare to buy the magazine unlike the CD bracket who would be more concerned about saving the money due to having less income. They will typically be based in cities and urban areas such as London in particular as this is typically where there is a higher percentage rate of homelessness and therefore more opportunities to purchase the magazine. The target consumer should hold a concern about social issues such as homelessness and will therefore be motivated to buy the paper in order to feel a sense of support towards helping the issue. Their views will therefore be more socialist and left wing. Looking at evidence from the sire YouGov, the majority of Big Issue readers are in socially orientated professions, such as civil society and charity (16.5%), community and social care (23%) and government and civil service (28.2%).
The Big Issue has been at the centre of controversy during its lifetime, even amongst other worldwide street newspapers that criticised the business model. In other street newspapers the homeless themselves are employed to write and edit the newspaper, ensuring they contain campaigning issues revolving around the interests and needs of the poor and homeless. Publishers of these papers, especially in the US, have criticised the Big Issue for being overly commercial and having a professional design that’s content is imitating of mainstream newspapers in order to generate a bigger profit rather than focusing on campaigning and spreading social awareness. Founder John Bird argues that it is “possible to be both profitable and ethically correct.”
There are approximately 2000 vendors of the Big Issue in the UK, 500 of which are based in London. 90% of vendors are male and over half of vendors are supporting families. Average weekly revenue is £100. Sales of the magazine peak at Christmas, with 250000 being sold from the usual 82000 purchased weekly. Vendor opportunities include corporate placements, work in magazine distribution, work experience and training of new vendors.
Some people argue it is unfair when the Big Issue has main stories focusing on rich celebs and luxury lifestyles as the homeless people who sell the papers will see this. Moreover, some argue the Big Issue is more of a marketable magazine rather than a magazine that will raise awareness of the “Issues” it is there to support.

comparison – The Guardian and the Daily Mail


Ownership – The Guardian is owned by a trust (the Scott Trust) in order to ensure that their content is as reliable and unbiased as possible. All profit made is reinvested into journalism and helps ensure journalistic freedom through portraying a supposedly unbiased and non-profit based perspective on world events.

In contrast, the Daily Mail is owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust, however the paper is profit based, made to benefit an owner. The profit goes to a member of the British aristocracy – Viscount Jonathon Hamsworth, chairman and controlling shareholder of the Daily Mail and General Trust. Day-to-day editorial decisions for the newspaper are usually made by a team around the editor, Paul Dacre.

Political stance – The general nature of The Guardian newspaper is considered a left wing newspaper, with 38% of readers supporting the Liberal Democrats and 48% supporting the Labour party in a survey from 2005. The newspaper’s reputation as a platform for liberal and left-wing opinions has led to the use of the epithets “Guardian reader” and “Guardianista” for people holding such views, or as a negative stereotype of the middle class audience who widely read the newspaper. This would demonstrate The Guardian as being quite biased towards left wing views despite claims made on the supposedly unbiased newspaper The Guardian was intended to be. Throughout the majority of the British elections The Guardian clearly showed their support for the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party, siding with Labour on Britain’s most recent election in summer 2017.

The Mail, on the other hand, is notoriously right wing, supporting the Conservative party in all recent general elections. While the paper continued to support the Conservative Party during the 2015 general election, the paper urged conservatively inclined voters to support UKIP in areas where UKIP was the main challenger to the Labour Party, suggesting the Mail is against left wing ideals.

Readership and circulation – A study carried out in 2014 showed that the total weekly readership for The Guardian is about 744,000 adults (15+). This has dropped significantly from the previous number of 1,124,000 readers in March 2010. The Guardian has a headline circulation of around 199,672copies. This has a month-on-month change of around +0.10% and a year-on-year change of about -1.93%. On a Saturday the circulation typically increases to about 363,667 copies sold

. A Study carried out April 2014 to September 2014 showed that the Mail has a total weekly readership of around 3,833,000adults, higher than that of the Guardian. The circulation of the Daily Mail stands at an average of 1,511,357 copies.

Target audience – the main target audience for The Guardian consists of young- middle aged adult males, as by September 2014 577,000 of 744,000 readers were over the age of 35 and 55.9% of all readers were male. From this evidence I would therefore come to the conclusion that the average buyer would fit into an ABC1 category (55.4% total, 70.2% of sample, according to data provided by the site YouGov) and would typically be middle class as well as male and over the age of 35, as the majority of people who still daily buy newspapers are older and typically use the internet less as well as having leisure time and money to spare in order to buy and read the newspaper. In terms of political stance, readers of the Guardian tend to hold left wing views, which support’s the newspaper’s reputation for holding a liberal stance.

Based on its readership statistics, the Daily Mail’s target audience is lower-middle-class British women. However, the paper’s promotional gimmicks, prizes and contests, and low price make it appealing to lower-middle-class readers in general; therefore in terms of applying a social group to the audience it can vary despite being mainly within the ABC1 category. The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in the United Kingdom to provide articles directed specifically at women. As of 2013, almost 55 percent of its readers were female, making it the only British paper with a majority female readership. Its online branch, Mail Online, focuses on celebrity news and controversial topics, and one of the major features of both the printed and online versions of the paper is a section called Femail. The majority of Daily Mail readers live in the London, the South Coast and Yorkshire. Whilst London were primarily Labour in the last election, the South Coast and Yorkshire were largely conservative, perhaps demonstrating the mail’s right wing stance and influence on readers.