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    News Coverage Of Trans Athletes Reflects Partisan Biases, Data Show

    by Harleen Kaur

    WATERLOO, ONTARIO, CANADA – News coverage of transgender athletes, including the history-making NCAA Division I champion swimmer Lia Thomas, often reflected the ideological biases of news outlets, which presented readers of partisan news outlets with radically different interpretations of the trending topic, according to an analysis by the news comparison platform Ground News.

    The analysis found that right-leaning news sources focused on the controversy surrounding transgender competitors like Thomas participating in women’s sports. Left-leaning news sources focused more on political efforts to ban trans athletes from competing, as well as the history-making aspect of Thomas’ victory in the 500-yard freestyle event.

    Overall, data analyzed by Ground News shows that left-leaning publications tend to cover trans issues related to violence, discrimination and legal protections, while right-leaning publications tend to cover trans issues related to athletics and discussion of trans issues in schools, as well as crime.

    Some narratives gained traction almost exclusively on one side of the political spectrum, Ground News found. A story headlined, “Trans swimmer’s teammates ‘feel uncomfortable’ in locker room” ran only in right-leaning outlets, while stories about efforts to ban trans athletes from competing in school sports as girls in Georgia and Idaho were picked up by overwhelmingly left-leaning outlets. Similarly, a statement by former President Donald Trump that he would ban trans athletes from competing in women’s sports was covered mainly by left-leaning news outlets.

    The divergent narratives illustrate the phenomenon of partisan blindspots in news coverage, which Ground News seeks to counter by illuminating stories that are covered – or ignored – disproportionately by outlets on either side of the ideological spectrum. Ground News processes more than 60,000 news articles each day to reveal biases in how news outlets cover or ignore certain topics and issues a weekly newsletter called the “Blindspot Report” that spotlights stories and topics that receive lopsided coverage across the political spectrum.

    “Like many other controversial social issues, news coverage of competition by trans student athletes in women’s sports is so different on the left and the right that it’s easy for news consumers to get stuck in their own ideological bubbles, which reinforces polarization and deprives people of a full understanding of the issue,” said Harleen Kaur, the co-founder and CEO of Ground News. “Even when the issue is covered proportionally by both sides of the political spectrum, we found discrepancies in the language used to discuss the same issue.

    “We founded Ground News to counter this tendency. More than ever, it’s critical for news consumers to identify and overcome biases and blindspots and to see all sides of an issue like trans student athletes.”

    Following are examples of stories that received little to no coverage on either side of the political spectrum, according to the Ground News analysis:

    Blindspots for the Right
    Idaho bill would make medical treatment for trans youth punishable by life in prison
    Texas appeals court sides with parent of transgender teen in case of alleged child abuse

    Blindspots for the Left
    Trans swimmer’s teammates ‘feel uncomfortable’ in locker room
    Conservative group files Title IX complaint against UPenn over Lia Thomas controversy
    Sarasota’s Weyant finishes 2nd behind transgender swimmer Lia Thomas at NCAA final
    Virginia Tech swimmer calls on NCAA to change transgender policy

    Launched in 2020 by former NASA engineer Harleen Kaur and award-winning app developer Sukh Singh, Ground News is a platform to empower media consumers to balance their news diets. Ground News pulls content from more than 50,000 news sources across the ideological spectrum and geographies, using algorithms to identify reliable sources and to filter by ideological bias. In a world suffused with misinformation and bias, Ground News is a trusted information utility to empower readers to easily navigate the news, using cutting-edge tools to enrich the media experience – because an informed citizen is better equipped to make decisions.


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