Broad Reach or Biased Source? Decomposing the Hostile Media Effect


Albert C. Gunther; e-mail:


This experiment examined theoretical questions surrounding the hostile media effect—the tendency of partisans on a controversial issue to see news coverage of that issue as biased in favor of the other side. Using opposing groups of partisans in the debate over genetically modified organisms, we tested the influence of source (journalist vs. college student) and reach (mass media vs. classroom composition) on perceptions of bias. The data revealed effects for both factors. Earlier research supported several processing mechanisms underlying the hostile media effect, but using stringent tests, we found evidence only for a categorization bias.