Re: "Media bias" (was: confederacy of dunces*)

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From: Jay Thomas (
Date: Tue Nov 28 2000 - 19:10:37 PST

Pre-emptive apologies to Lord God Moderator Joebar for posting more of
my garbage, and Lady High Mistress Rulesetter Cindy, for not following
the rules.

Matt Jensen wrote:
> On Tue, 28 Nov 2000, Bill Stoddard wrote:
> each week. I can't find any cable Neilsen ratings newer than April, but
> the Slate article says that FoxNews actually surpassed CNN in ratings in
> October(!), for the first time, despite the fact that CNN can reach 50%
> more households than FoxNews. I think I'd have to shell out money to get

Could that be because more Americans than just Bill Stoddard perceive a
leftward slant to CNN, et al, and *choose* to watch Foxnews instead, to
avoid said bias (real or not)?
Personally, when I watch CNN do a segment on, say, gun-control, and see
15 minutes of Sarah Brady, in gauzy focus, surrounded by flowers,
holding forth on evil gunowners, followed by archive footage of an NRA
official leaving a courthouse, with a voice over reading a prepared
statement...well, it certainly makes me feel as if one side of the issue
is getting better treatment.

Just a snippet of findings:
1. TV News Has Chosen Sides. Stories advocating more gun control
outnumbered stories opposing
 gun control by 357 to 36, or a ratio of almost 10 to 1. (Another 260
were neutral.)

 2. Evening News Shows Favored the Anti-Gun Position by 8 to 1. Almost
60 percent of stories (184)
 favored one side. While 89 percent of those (164) pushed the liberal,
anti-gun position, only 11 percent
 (20) promoted the pro-gun position. ABC’s World News Tonight (43
anti-gun stories to three pro-gun)
 and CNN’s The World Today (50 to 7) were the most slanted evening

 3. Morning News Shows Favored the Anti-Gun Position by 13 to 1. More
than half of morning news
 gun policy segments (208) tilted away from balance. Of those segments,
93 percent (193) pushed the
 liberal, anti-gun position, while only six percent (15) promoted the
pro-gun position. ABC’s Good
 Morning America (92 to 1) was the most biased morning show.

 4. News Programs Are Twice as Likely to Use Anti-Gun Soundbites.
Anti-gun soundbites were twice
 as frequent as pro-gun ones—412 to 209. (Another 471 were neutral.)

 5. News Programs Are Twice as Likely to Feature Anti-Gun Guests. In
morning show interview
 segments, gun control advocates appeared as guests on 82 occasions,
compared to just 37 for
 gun-rights activists and 58 neutral spokesmen.

> Often, more important than a reporter's inclinations is her editor's
> inclinations. Reporters learn pretty quickly what kinds of stories the
> editors and producers are interested in, and what things won't get on the
> air or into print. Not that there is a big conspiracy where Murdoch and

Except, of course if those editors and producers hold the same views, in
which case it's suddenly not biased. Another view of the Slate article:

The Fox factor.

By Tim Graham, research director, Media Research Center
Conservatives have been documenting the liberal bias of
the TV networks for at least three decades. In her book The
News Twisters, author Edith Efron chronicled how the
networks favored Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon in
the 1968 presidential race. So perhaps we should watch
patiently as liberals attempt the baby steps of complaining
about conservative media bias. The primary liberal target is
the Fox News Channel, which is the hottest phenomenon in
cable television, a growing powerhouse that is crushing
MSNBC (which is a film-clip festival of celebrity interview
repeats outside major political crises) and costing jobs at an
increasingly nervous CNN (namely Clinton golfing
buddy/ex-CNN president Rick Kaplan).

Fox's founding declaration of difference was to announce
the slogan "We report, you decide." This is a shocking
deviation from the liberal media modus operandi, which is
marinated in the impatient belief that the American people
are too politically unreliable to be allowed to make decisions
for themselves. With that slogan in the air, liberal media
critics like the Columbia Journalism Review quickly
announced the discovery of a media-bias problem — but
only at Fox. With the politeness that only an insular clique
can muster, somehow the rest of the media had utterly
rejected editorializing, except for these dastardly
Republican-sympathizers that Rupert Murdoch was

In September, the New York Times noticed, with a story
headlined "The Right Strategy for Fox: Conservative Cable
Channel Gains in Ratings War.'' The Times later ran a
correction that "the headline exceeded the facts in the
article." Reporter James Rutenberg pointed out that "In
critiques of Fox, it is usually noted that [Fox chief Roger]
Ailes was a political consultant to Richard M. Nixon, Ronald
Reagan and George Bush." But later, Rutenberg quoted
CNN chairman Tom Johnson without any mention of his
years of service as an aide to Lyndon Johnson.

The latest silly exercise in tunnel vision comes from Slate's
David Plotz, who writes with characteristic liberal precision:
"This ostentatious fairness is preposterous. The big three
networks and CNN stifle any seeping opinion with a
deadening evenhandedness. If you watch ABC news for 48
hours, you will detect a lefty bias in story choice and
interview subjects. If you watch Fox News for 48 seconds,
the righty bias will stomp you on the head." Plotz offered no
specifics, no examples, no quotes. If the bias is so
noticeable, couldn't the man at least tape an hour or two and
give us an example? The transcripts are on Nexis. How hard
could it be? To add to the fun, Plotz followed up:
" has dubbed Fox 'GOP-TV,' but that's too
crude." Too crude? Cruder than "in 48 seconds, the righty
bias will stomp you on the head"?

Fox takes this guff in part because of who their coverage
attracts. Its convention coverage nearly trumped CNN
during the Republican convention in Philadelphia this
summer, but plunged during the Democratic confab in Los
Angeles. The difference is probably hundreds of thousands
of conservatives who wanted to see the Republicans without
sneering Dans and Peters, but couldn't stand to watch the
Democrats uncork a week of Old Democrat rhetoric. Plotz
argued that Fox "is targeted not at the entire country but at
the millions of right-leaning Americans skeptical of
mainstream media. It is an assertive conservative tabloid."

Fox's popular evening talk-show lineup does feature feisty
conservatives Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity (who is paired
nightly with liberal Alan Colmes.) But these are not the "We
report, you decide" hours of the network. What about its
nightly newscast, Fox Report? What about its reporters, like
David Shuster and Carl Cameron, who in the last few years
have broken major stories on the Clinton scandals? Plotz
admitted: "Fox also believes that critics unfairly lump its
news and its commentary together and that its news
deserves more respect, which it probably does."

But how does Plotz's "assertive conservative tabloid" theory
match up with the reality that under Ailes, Fox has
consistently hired away many familiar faces from — gasp —
the liberal networks? Former ABC star Brit Hume may have
the highest profile, but Ailes has also added NBC's Jon Scott
and Linda Vester, ABC/NPR reporter Jim Angle, former
MSNBC anchors Laurie Dhue and John Gibson, and CBS's
Paula Zahn, who hosts her own nightly hour-long show
called The Edge. As my colleague Brent Baker noticed in
reviewing the "conservative channel" article in the New York
Times, Zahn interviewed George W. Bush that week and
asked: "But even members of your own party aren't crazy
about your tax-cut idea. They think it's too big, even some
guys running now in November for new congressional seats.
They're abandoning you. Why?" Does this sound like a
"conservative channel" in action? Plotz didn't ask or answer
the question: why did the "conservative channel" join the
other networks in the "Dewey Defeats Truman" mistake of
calling Florida for Al Gore before the polls closed?

Plotz concluded by phonily applauding the addition of Fox:
"Until now, we've been stuck with three absurdly
evenhanded networks and a TV wire service. Cable has
fragmented every other part of the TV market — we have a
cartoon network, food network, history channel, etc. it's
about time that the news fragmented too....Hooray for
media bias — and for Fox, whatever dishonest slogan it

Fox News Channel should be analyzed, scrutinized, and
criticized for how it reports the news. But Fox's critics seem
incapable of detecting any on-air evidence to back up their
complaints of overtly right-wing Republican bias. If liberal
skeptics one day offer a real content analysis of Fox, they
could really attempt to gain our respect and acknowledge
that the other networks are not to be dismissed as "absurdly
even-handed." The actual record of network coverage is too
littered with liberal sermonizing to earn Plotz's backhanded

"You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those 
with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig"
-Clint Eastwood, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" 1967

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