A reader asks: Where can I find unbiased journalism? Here's my answer ...

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post questioning an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report that the Southern Baptist Convention declared "spiritual warfare" on same-sex marriage.

In a comment in response to that post, GetReligion reader Trey Finley said the coverage didn't surprise him:

Bad journalism? Probably. I'd appreciate your suggestions, Bobby, on where to find unbiased and non-leading journalism today. I don't know where to find it.

I responded that Finley's question deserved its own post. And I asked him to stay tuned.

As I reflected on his question, I tried to think of specific news sources I'd recommend. But the more I thought about it, I realized I trust certain journalists at certain publications and websites -- but not necessarily their entire media organizations -- to report in an unbiased and non-leading way. 

For example, if I see a Sarah Pulliam Bailey byline on a Washington Post story or a Daniel Burke byline on a CNN story or an Adelle Banks byline on a Religion News Service story, I'm generally confident the story will be accurate, fair to all sides and provide relevant context. 

But heaven knows I don't endorse -- or even believe -- everything I read at the Post, CNN or RNS.

In fact, a big part of GetReligion's mission is helping educate ordinary readers so they can recognize quality journalism themselves. So maybe the question shouldn't be: Where can I find unbiased journalism? A better question would seem to be: How can I know it when I see it?

Here are just a few general suggestions:

1. Look for coverage that stresses facts, attributed to named sources. If you read a story and keep asking yourself how the news organization knows what they purport to know, they're doing it wrong. Quality journalism will cite sources.

2. Look for coverage that gives a fair hearing to all relevant viewpoints. If you read a story and it seems slanted to a particular point of view (even your own), that should be a red flag. Try putting yourself in the position of the various sides reflected in a story and ask yourself, "Would I feel like I got a fair shake if I was that person? Or would I feel like they didn't allow me to make my best argument?" 

3. Look for coverage that puts the person, situation or event into proper context. If you read a story and the news organization doesn't seem to grasp the background or historical significance, be leery. Quality journalism will attempt to explain "why this matters" (attributing such details to named sources, as we already mentioned in point No. 1).

Alas, it's impossible to boil quality journalism down to three quick paragraphs, but you get the idea.

Your turn, faithful GetReligion readers: How would you answer Finley's question? Are there specific places you go to find unbiased and non-leading journalism? (I'd love to hear, too, from my fellow GetReligionistas on this question.)

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