MIDS Capstone Project Summer 2017

Humdrum News


Readers cannot get a full, balanced understanding of relevant news stories from a single news source

Over the years, the multiplication of news outlets, first from network to cable news, and then vastly expanding, de-centralizing, and de-regulating through the internet, has created an overwhelming number of outlets with sharply divergent opinions and little oversight or enforcement of journalistic standards of integrity, objectivity, and fairness.

As in the era of network news, outlets seek to maximize their subscribers. Articles are written to appeal to the outlet’s target audience and faithful readers, and sensationalized headlines and captions help reel the subscribers in and keep them eagerly attuned to the next developments in any given story. This has led to the evolution of a unique kind of confirmation bias in modern news consumption. The long explanation is — sensationalism and opinions are mixed in with objective news liberally, with writers writing in a way that reflects their worldview for an audience that already subscribes to that worldview while readers actively seek outlets that publish what they already believe to be true based on intuition rooted in their worldview, which circularly matches the worldview of that outlet’s writers. The short explanation is that news outlets are preaching to the choir and calling it news. News outlets are highly polarized into political ideology camps, and objective news is neither produced nor consumed.


The Humdrum News process produces a number of resultant features that produce the desired impact.

  • Provides a visual display of news cycles or of the progression of stories over time for any time period the reader desires to consider
  • Clusters articles reporting the same news as one news story with a representative headline, summary metrics, banner headlines from all outlets, and full article text hyperlinks from all outlets
  • Average tone or sentiment for each story across all outlets
  • Range and distribution of sentiment for each story


Humdrum News delivers the desired impact through a design of features that leverages the detailed analysis and underlying code to produce balanced, de-sensationalized news

Why our news is the “boring-est”:

  • Provides a balanced understanding of the news cycle by dampening out the ideological extremes
  • Shows overall sentiment across all stories and outlets, couching each story in the appropriate context and allowing readers to understand how tone variance affects the news
  • Dampens sensationalism by showing headlines and content for all ideological leaning portrayals
  • Shows the range of bias potential by showing the range and distribution of sentiment with accompanying text
  • Shows elements of news legitimacy based on the number and ideological range of outlets covering the same facts
  • Causes readers to examine their own bias and consume a broader news portfolio


Humdrum News will help balance and de-sensationalize the news

Normalize the top story feed to show the real top stories across all outlets and all ideologies. We know that top stories on any given outlet vary greatly depending on the political leanings of the outlet, and consumption of two different news outlets at ideological poles would produce completely different understandings of what was happening in the world on a given day. Normalizing across outlets can produce a more balanced understanding of major world events.

De-sensationalize the complete news picture by first understanding the range of sentiments portrayed across the news portfolio, then removing source names the suppress the instinct to read only the closest ideological affinity feed. Readers will be exposed to different portrayals of the same stories to get a more balanced and nuanced perspective. Finally, readers will be able to see and understand the range of portrayals and the range and distribution of sentiments to understand the potential bias space of each story and where each outlet fits into the tableau. Humdrum readers will not only get a more balanced comprehension of the news, but they will also understand how each reader’s choice of news outlet affects their perception of the status of the news.

More Information

Last updated:

August 28, 2017