Who's the Expert

Graph of  expert sources used by media. data from FAIR

The news is defined by those who tell it. In mainstream U.S. media, journalists are supposed to remain “objective,” and turn to outside sources to provide commentary and opinion about events and issues. But who are these special few who get to shape the debate? Unfortunately, the spectrum is extremely narrow.

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting has conducted many studies analyzing the on-air sources of various news broadcasts over the years, with striking results. Across the board, the mainstream media skew white, right and male. 

This decidedly homogeneous group leaves little room for important voices of dissent. During the three weeks leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, only 3 percent of U.S. sources on the evening news shows of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and PBS expressed anti-war opinions—even though more than a quarter of the U.S. public at the time opposed invasion.

Even National Public Radio fails to give voice to the public: A 2004 FAIR study found that the public made up only 31 percent of all sources on public radio; more than a third of those were not even identified by name. Nine of the top 10 most-frequently used sources on NPR were white male government officials. Corporate sources (6 percent) were given almost as much air time as public interest groups (7 percent), and four men were heard for every woman.

Julie Hollar is communications director of FAIR. Data in graph above courtesy FAIR.
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