Thursday, May 19, 2005

Liberal Media Bias? Nnnnnnnaaaaaaaaaah........


It's not everyday I get to fisk one of my own readers, but today is one of those days.

A commenter by the name of Alon Levy from the post below entitled "It's Time To Play Compare and Contrast!" left me a comment asking the following-

"I'd be thrilled if you could cite one serious study about media bias in the United States that showed a left-wing bias."

Just one Alon? I can do better than that.

First we have the study conducted by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) that found the following information- (Info Via the Media Research Center)

"In 1996, as a follow-up to a 1988 survey, the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) surveyed 1,037 reporters at 61 newspapers of all sizes across the nation, asking "What is your political leaning?" Results of the survey were published in ASNE's 1997 report The Newspaper Journalists of the ‘90s, highlights of which appeared in the MRC's May 1997 MediaWatch.


In 1988, 62 percent of journalists identified themselves as "Democrat or liberal" or "lean to Democrat or liberal." In 1996, 61 percent said they were liberal/Democrat or leaning that way.

In 1988, 22 percent identified themselves as "Republican or conservative" or "lean to Republican or conservative." By 1996 that figure had declined to 15 percent.

Those identifying themselves as independent jumped from 17 to 24 percent between the two years.

At newspapers with more than 50,000 circulation, 65 percent of the staffs were liberal/Democrat or leaned that way. The split at papers of less than 50,000 was less pronounced though still significant, with 51 percent of staffs identifying as liberal/Democrat compared to 23 percent who identified as conservative/Republican.

Women were more likely than men to identify as liberal/Democratic. Only 11 percent identified themselves as conservative or leaned that way.

Minorities tend to be more liberal/Democrat with a mere three percent of blacks and eight percent of Asians and Hispanics putting themselves on the right."

Perhaps the best evidence I could give you however was the study that the New York Times did on itself (PDF file) in efforts to improve its credibility.

The following statement spells it out pretty clearly for me-

"Though we have our lapses, individual news stories on emotional topics like abortion, gun control, the death penalty and gay marriage are reported and edited with great care, to avoid any impression of bias. Nonetheless, when numerous articles use the same assumption as a point of departure, that monotone can leave the false impression that the paper has chosen sides.

This is especially so when we add in our feature sections, whose mission it is to write about novelty in life. As a result, despite the strict divide between editorial pages and news pages, The Times can come across as an advocate. The public editor found that the overall tone of our coverage of gay marriage, as one example, "approaches cheerleading." By consistently framing the issue as a civil rights matter — gays fighting for the right to be treated like everyone else — we failed to convey how disturbing the issue is in many corners of American social, cultural and religious life."

But the best commentary I have read regarding the phenomenom of liberal bias in the US media comes from an article in the LA Times by Andrew Klavan- Read My Lips: Hire Some More Conservatives-

An excerpt-

"Look, I'm really busy right now but, all right, I'll take five minutes to solve the problems of the mainstream media. I mean, ratings for network news are at an all-time low, newspaper readership is falling off the chart, the public's trust in journalists is steadily eroding — the least I can do is sacrifice one coffee break in order to sort things out. It doesn't require internal studies or revamped formats. Just three little words of advice will fix every one of their troubles: Hire some conservatives.

I don't mean hire a conservative. I don't mean cover conservatives. I don't mean allow conservatives to express a minority opinion on your Op-Ed page or argue at the top of their lungs on some yes/no, black/white, point/counterpoint debate program. I mean that at ABC, CBS, NBC, the Los Angeles Times et al, a substantial proportion of the reporters who cover stories, and the editors who assign and shape those stories, should be people with conservative beliefs. The rest can continue to be what they are now: left-wingers who live under the delusion that they're moderates."

How about this report?

A Measure of Media Bias:
Tim Groseclose,Department of Political Science-UCLA
Jeff Milyo,Department of Economics-University of Missouri
December 2004

"In this paper we estimate ADA (Americans for Democratic Action) scores for major media outlets such as the New York Times, USA Today, Fox News’ Special Report, and all three network television news shows. Our estimates allow us to answer such questions as “Is the average article in the New York Times more liberal than the average speech by Tom Daschle?” or “Is the average story on Fox News more conservative than the average speech by Bill Frist?” To compute our measure, we count the times that a media outlet cites various think tanks and other policy groups. We compare this with the times that members of Congress cite the same think tanks in their speeches on the floor of the House and Senate. By comparing the citation patterns we construct an ADA score. As a simplified example, imagine that there were only two think tanks, one liberal and one conservative. Suppose that the New York Times cited the liberal think tank twice as often as the conservative one. Our method asks: What is the typical ADA score of members of Congress who exhibit the same frequency (2:1) in their speeches? This is the score that we would assign to the New York Times. Our results show a strong liberal bias. All of the news outlets except Fox News’ Special Report and the Washington Times received a score to the left of the average member of Congress. Consistent with many conservative critics, CBS Evening News and the New York Times received a score far left of center. Outlets such as the Washington Post, USA Today, NPR’s Morning Edition, NBC’s Nightly News and ABC’s World News Tonight were moderately left. The most centrist outlets (but still left-leaning) by our measure were the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, CNN’s NewsNight with Aaron Brown, and ABC’s Good Morning America. Fox News’ Special Report, while right of center, was closer to the center than any of the three major networks’ evening news broadcasts. All of our findings refer strictly to the news stories of the outlets. That is, we omitted editorials, book reviews, and letters to the editor from our sample."

Alon continues in the comments-

"All studies I know about point out to a right-wing bias, in particular a pro-American bias in foreign policy (how many American TV stations called Bush on his WMD lies before the war on Iraq began?) and a moderate pro-Republican bias in domestic policy."

You must have missed the ones I have pointed out. Honest mistake, I understand.

"And that's not including Fox, which is fair and balanced in that it gives equal time to people who think Bush is God and people who think Bush is God's assistant."

Well, I think neither, but I don't watch FoxNews. In fact I don't watch much TV at all. And if the best you can do for conservative commentary is FoxNews, can you name me ANOTHER TV station that has an admittedly conservative viewpoint?

The floor is yours Alon.

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