Viewing all news organizations as inherently biased, a new startup is trying to account for the problem by taking the major news stories of the day and placing links to stories from the right, left and center points of view underneath the headlines. Just a few months old, the site, Allsides, is starting out focused on one of the hairiest subject of them all: the 2012 election.
According to Allsides CEO John Gable, the point is to provide a more well-rounded view of complex stories. “If you actually want to understand something, if you want to learn about something, just hearing what you already think doesn’t educate you at all,” said Gable, arguing that once people find a news site whose bent they are comfortable with, they rarely stray outside its bounds.
In Gable’s opinion, all news organizations carry some bias. “In journalism school, they teach you how to report in an unbiased manner, and some journalists do a pretty good job of that,” Gable said. “But frankly, we think that’s bullshit. We don’t think it’s possible to be unbiased.” Allsides, he said, is set up to expose that bias, and place it in its proper context.
Laid out like a regular news site, Allsides features a major story above the fold and less prominent stories below. For each story, links to articles from each point of view sit neatly underneath the headline.
From the selection of stories currently visible on Allsides, it’s clear the site won’t stay away from controversial issues. Coverage featured on the site today looks at the Benghazi attack, abortion and the candidates’ efforts to win the votes of women.
Taking it a step further, a series on the presidential debates lists 15 recaps written from across the political spectrum. Read through the headlines, and you might have a hard time believing the reporters watched the same debate. Headlines from Politico and the Huffington Post called last week’s debate at Hofstra a narrow win for Obama, Fox News reported a Romney victory, and CNN declared it a draw. “Obama strong, and so is Romney in second debate,” read their headline.
“Just looking at the headlines and the first couple sentence of each of those articles, I pretty much know what happened in the debate,” Gable reflected. “If it read all of any one of those articles, I probably wouldn’t.”
Gable’s goal is eventually to move beyond politics and integrate Allsides into the way we consume all news. “My hope ultimately is to become part of the algorithms that Google or Bing uses, so when you search on a particular issue, you don’t get only the most popular or best marketed or funded, but you actually see the different perspectives forming one next to the other.”
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