Neutral Point of View is a means of dealing with conflicting verifiable perspectives on a topic as evidenced by reliable sources. The policy requires that where multiple or conflicting perspectives exist within a topic, each should be presented fairly. None of the views should be given undue weight or asserted as being judged as "the truth", in order that the various significant published viewpoints are made accessible to the reader, not just the most popular one. It should also not be asserted that the most popular view, or some sort of intermediate view among the different views, is the correct one to the extent that other views are mentioned only pejoratively. Readers should be allowed to form their own opinions.
As the name suggests, the neutral point of view is a point of view, not the absence or elimination of viewpoints. The neutral point of view policy is often misunderstood. The acronym NPOV does not mean "no points of view". The elimination of article content cannot be justified under this policy by simply labeling it "POV". The neutral point of view is a point of view that is neutral, that is neither sympathetic nor in opposition to its subject. Debates within topics are described, represented and characterized, but not engaged in. Background is provided on who believes what and why, and which view is more popular. Detailed articles might also contain the mutual evaluations of each viewpoint, but studiously refrain from asserting which is better. One can think of unbiased writing as the fair, analytical description of all relevant sides of a debate, including the mutual perspectives and the published evidence. When editorial bias toward one particular point of view can be detected, the article needs to be fixed.
NPOV requires views to be represented without bias. All editors and all sources have biases. A bias is a prejudice in a general or specific sense, usually in the sense of having a predilection for one particular point of view or ideology. One is said to be biased if one is influenced by one's biases. A bias could, for example, lead one to accept or not accept the truth of a claim, not because of the strength of the claim itself, but because it does or does not correspond to one's own preconceived ideas.
Types of bias include:
- Class: bias favoring one social class and bias ignoring social or class divisions;
- Commercial: advertising, coverage of political campaigns favoring corporate interests, or reporting favoring media owner interests;
- Ethnic or racial: racism, nationalism, regionalism and tribalism;
- Geographical: describing a dispute as it is conducted in one country, when the dispute is framed differently elsewhere;
- Nationalistic: favoring or opposing the interests or views of a particular nation;
- Gender: including sexism and heteronormativity;
- Linguistic bias, favoring certain languages
- Political: bias in favor of or against a particular political party, policy or candidate;
- Religious: bias for or against religion, faith or beliefs;
- Sensationalist: favoring the exceptional over the ordinary. This includes emphasizing, distorting, or fabricating exceptional news to boost commercial ratings;
- Scientific (including anti-scientific and scientific skepticism): favoring (or disfavoring) a scientist, inventor, or theory for non-scientific reasons. This can also include excessive favoring (or disfavoring) prevalent scientific opinion, if in doing so, notable viewpoints are no longer being treated neutrally.
A simple formulation
Assert facts, including facts about opinions -- but do not assert the opinions themselves. By "fact" we mean "a piece of information about which there is no serious dispute." For example, that a survey produced a certain published result would be a fact. That there is a planet called Mars is a fact. That Plato was a philosopher is a fact. No one seriously disputes any of these things. So we can feel free to assert as many of them as we can.
By value or opinion, on the other hand, we mean "a matter which is subject to dispute." There are bound to be borderline cases where it is not clear if a particular dispute should be taken seriously and included. However, there are many propositions that very clearly express values or opinions. That stealing is wrong is a value or opinion. That the Beatles were the greatest band in history is a value or opinion. That the United States was right or wrong to drop the atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a value or opinion.
Puppet Wiki is devoted to stating facts in the sense described above. Therefore, where we want to discuss an opinion, we attribute the opinion to someone and discuss the fact that they have this opinion. For example, rather than asserting, "The Beatles were the greatest band," we can say: "Most people from Liverpool believe that the Beatles were the greatest band," which can be supported by references to a particular survey; or "The Beatles had many songs that made the Billboard Hot 100," which is also verifiable as fact. In the first instance we assert a personal opinion; in the second and third instances we assert the fact that an opinion exists, by attributing it to reliable sources.
It is not sufficient to discuss an opinion as fact merely by stating "some people believe..." as is common in political debates. This is often referred to as "mass attribution", or "weasel words". A reliable source supporting that a group holds an opinion must accurately describe how large this group is. In addition, this source should be written by named authors who are considered reliable.
Moreover, there are usually disagreements about how opinions should be properly stated. To fairly represent all the leading views in a dispute it is sometimes necessary to qualify the description of an opinion, or to present several formulations of this opinion and attribute them to specific groups.
A balanced selection of sources is also critical for producing articles with a neutral point of view. For example, when discussing the facts on which a point of view is based, it is important to also include the facts on which competing opinions are based since this helps a reader evaluate the credibility of the competing viewpoints. This should be done without implying that any one of the opinions is correct. It is also important to make it clear who holds these opinions. It is often best to cite a prominent representative of the view.