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The hostile media perception, the tendency for partisans to judge mass media coverage as unfavorable to their own point of view, has been vividly demonstrated but not well explained. This contrast bias is intriguing because it appears to contradict a robust literature on assimilation biases—the tendency to find information more supportive, rather than more opposed, to one's own position. We set out to explore a theoretical basis for the hostile media perception that would reconcile it with assimilation biases. To do so, we exposed partisans from opposing camps on the genetically modified foods issue to identical information presented in either a mass media or a student essay context. Consistent with the hypotheses, partisans saw the information as disagreeably biased in a news story format. In student-essay format, however, the hostile media perception disappeared, and there was some evidence of biased assimilation. In addition, content evaluations based on perceived influence on oneself vs. influence on a broader audience suggested that the hostile media perception may be explained by perceived reach of the information source.