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Elevate Your News Evaluation

Visit the library's spring 2017 exhibit on the 2nd floor.

Source Spectrum


The Spectrum of News Sources graphic is designed to present a visual representation of news sources – highlighting both their quality and partisanship.  Author Vanessa Otero created the original version of this chart for infrequent readers in order to help them distinguish “between decent news sources and terrible news sources”.  However, frequent and non-frequent readers alike have widely shared and discussed this graphic on social media in the last few weeks.  To highlight this relevant topic of news evaluation, UC Merced library staff adapted this graphic for display.


Though not everyone may agree with the placement of sources on this chart, this graphic is intended to create a rich conversation about the evaluation of news publications.  We recognize that the nuances of news coverage cannot be captured in a single graphic.


  • Do you agree with the placement of the news sources on this graph?  Why or why not?
  • What are some of the news sources you read most?
  • How much of your news do you get through friends, family, Facebook or other social media?
  • How do you decide what news sources and news articles are trustworthy?

News Source Spectrum Chart

Original News Quality Chart

news source spectrum chart - otero

See website for this News Quality chart graphic and blank versions of the chart.


Otero, Vanessa. “The Reasoning and Methodology Behind the Chart.” All Generalizations are False.  19 Dec. 2016,

Thank you for visiting this page for more information on the reasoning behind the placement of news sources on the Spectrum of News Sources graphic.  The graphic is on display at the UC Merced Library, 2nd floor by the book stacks, and we have also included a PDF version here.

PART I: Criteria Used in News Source Placement

Original graphic author, Vanessa Otero, discusses ”The Reasoning and Methodology Behind the Chart” at her blog All Generalizations are False.  Below we highlight some of her thinking behind the placement of news sources on the chart.

Characteristics Found in Levels of Partisan Bias (X Axis) Characteristics of High and Low Quality Sources (Y Axis)

Minimally Partisan (Mainstream)

  • Journalists adhere to professional standards of the journalism field & are held accountable by peers
  • Publication intends to be objective
  • Publication clearly distinguishes between reporting and opinion pieces
  • Publication produces more reporting pieces than opinion pieces

Leans Liberal OR Leans Conservative

  • Journalists adhere to professional standards of the journalism field & are held accountable by peers
  • Publication intends to present a certain point of view e.g. liberal or conservative

Hyper Liberal OR Hyper Conservative

  • Publication tends to base reporting on truth
  • Is often held to account if publishing demonstrably false news
  • Is susceptible to opinionated versions of truth

Liberal Fringe OR Conservative Fringe

  • Includes much opinionated reporting, may lead to half-truths
  • Appears less concerned about sourcing and verifying information
  • Is known for reporting false information without apologies or retractions
  • Held to little to no accountability by journalistic peers
  • Journalist peers do not view these publications as meeting professional standards

Factors that Increase the Quality of a Source (High)

  • Details are included
  • Analysis is presented
  • Implications and/or complexities are discussed
  • Errors are quickly identified and addressed

Factors that Decrease the Quality of a Source (Low)

  • Complex issues are not covered sufficiently or deeply
  • Poor persuasive writing
  • Sensationalism & self promotion e.g. use of clickbait
  • Same news stories repeated often
  • Grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors

Note: The quality axis does not necessarily represent good/bad, true/false or fact/opinion.

PART II: Overall Characteristics to Consider

This is a more comprehensive list of the considerations author Otero used in determining where to place news sources on partisan and quality axes.

  • Medium (e.g. web, television, print)
  • Longevity
  • Readership/viewership
  • Adherence to professional standards of the journalism field
  • Partisan reputation from other news sources and peers on social media
  • Presence of ideology or party affiliation in publication title
  • Party affiliation of regular contributors/interviewees
  • Differentiates between reporting and opinion pieces
  • Proportion of opinion to reporting pieces
  • Proportion of world to U.S. political coverage
  • Repetition
  • Presence of hyperbole in titles and adjectives in persuasive writing
  • Quality of spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and font

Note: Otero recognizes that she did not consider ownership/sponsorship or advertising sources in her placement.