The hostile media effect, originally deemed the hostile media phenomenon and sometimes called hostile media perception, is a perceptual theory of mass communication that refers to the finding that people with strong biases toward an issue (partisans) perceive media coverage as biased against their opinions, regardless of the reality. Proponents of the hostile media effect argue that this finding cannot be attributed to the presence of bias in the news reports, since partisans from opposing sides of an issue perceive the same coverage differently. The hostile media effect illustrates notions of the active media audience, in demonstrating that audiences do not passively receive media content but instead selectively interpret it in light of their own values and predispositions. Despite journalists’ best intentions to report news in a fair and objective way, partisans are motivated to see neutral content as harboring a hostile bias. The phenomenon was first proposed and studied experimentally by Robert Vallone, Lee Rossand Mark Lepper.

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