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Thread: Media Bias is Real

  1. #1
    MagicNakor's Avatar On the Peripheral
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    While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

    These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

    "I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

    "Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left," said co‑author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.

    The results appear in the latest issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which will become available in mid-December.

    Groseclose and Milyo based their research on a standard gauge of a lawmaker's support for liberal causes. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) tracks the percentage of times that each lawmaker votes on the liberal side of an issue. Based on these votes, the ADA assigns a numerical score to each lawmaker, where "100" is the most liberal and "0" is the most conservative. After adjustments to compensate for disproportionate representation that the Senate gives to low‑population states and the lack of representation for the District of Columbia, the average ADA score in Congress (50.1) was assumed to represent the political position of the average U.S. voter.

    Groseclose and Milyo then directed 21 research assistants — most of them college students — to scour U.S. media coverage of the past 10 years. They tallied the number of times each media outlet referred to think tanks and policy groups, such as the left-leaning NAACP or the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.

    Next, they did the same exercise with speeches of U.S. lawmakers. If a media outlet displayed a citation pattern similar to that of a lawmaker, then Groseclose and Milyo's method assigned both a similar ADA score.

    "A media person would have never done this study," said Groseclose, a UCLA political science professor, whose research and teaching focuses on the U.S. Congress. "It takes a Congress scholar even to think of using ADA scores as a measure. And I don't think many media scholars would have considered comparing news stories to congressional speeches."

    Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS' "Evening News," The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal.

    Only Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume" and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.

    The most centrist outlet proved to be the "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." CNN's "NewsNight With Aaron Brown" and ABC's "Good Morning America" were a close second and third.

    "Our estimates for these outlets, we feel, give particular credibility to our efforts, as three of the four moderators for the 2004 presidential and vice-presidential debates came from these three news outlets — Jim Lehrer, Charlie Gibson and Gwen Ifill," Groseclose said. "If these newscasters weren't centrist, staffers for one of the campaign teams would have objected and insisted on other moderators."

    The fourth most centrist outlet was "Special Report With Brit Hume" on Fox News, which often is cited by liberals as an egregious example of a right-wing outlet. While this news program proved to be right of center, the study found ABC's "World News Tonight" and NBC's "Nightly News" to be left of center. All three outlets were approximately equidistant from the center, the report found.

    "If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox's 'Special Report' as ABC's 'World News' and NBC's 'Nightly News,' then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news," said Milyo, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

    Five news outlets — "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," ABC's "Good Morning America," CNN's "NewsNight With Aaron Brown," Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume" and the Drudge Report — were in a statistical dead heat in the race for the most centrist news outlet. Of the print media, USA Today was the most centrist.

    An additional feature of the study shows how each outlet compares in political orientation with actual lawmakers. The news pages of The Wall Street Journal scored a little to the left of the average American Democrat, as determined by the average ADA score of all Democrats in Congress (85 versus 84). With scores in the mid-70s, CBS' "Evening News" and The New York Times looked similar to Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who has an ADA score of 74.

    Most of the outlets were less liberal than Lieberman but more liberal than former Sen. John Breaux, D-La. Those media outlets included the Drudge Report, ABC's "World News Tonight," NBC's "Nightly News," USA Today, NBC's "Today Show," Time magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, NPR's "Morning Edition," CBS' "Early Show" and The Washington Post.

    Since Groseclose and Milyo were more concerned with bias in news reporting than opinion pieces, which are designed to stake a political position, they omitted editorials and Op‑Eds from their tallies. This is one reason their study finds The Wall Street Journal more liberal than conventional wisdom asserts.

    Another finding that contradicted conventional wisdom was that the Drudge Report was slightly left of center.

    "One thing people should keep in mind is that our data for the Drudge Report was based almost entirely on the articles that the Drudge Report lists on other Web sites," said Groseclose. "Very little was based on the stories that Matt Drudge himself wrote. The fact that the Drudge Report appears left of center is merely a reflection of the overall bias of the media."

    Yet another finding that contradicted conventional wisdom relates to National Public Radio, often cited by conservatives as an egregious example of a liberal news outlet. But according to the UCLA-University of Missouri study, it ranked eighth most liberal of the 20 that the study examined.

    "By our estimate, NPR hardly differs from the average mainstream news outlet," Groseclose said. "Its score is approximately equal to those of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report and its score is slightly more conservative than The Washington Post's. If anything, government‑funded outlets in our sample have a slightly lower average ADA score (61), than the private outlets in our sample (62.8)."

    The researchers took numerous steps to safeguard against bias — or the appearance of same — in the work, which took close to three years to complete. They went to great lengths to ensure that as many research assistants supported Democratic candidate Al Gore in the 2000 election as supported President George Bush. They also sought no outside funding, a rarity in scholarly research.

    "No matter the results, we feared our findings would've been suspect if we'd received support from any group that could be perceived as right- or left-leaning, so we consciously decided to fund this project only with our own salaries and research funds that our own universities provided," Groseclose said.

    The results break new ground.

    "Past researchers have been able to say whether an outlet is conservative or liberal, but no one has ever compared media outlets to lawmakers," Groseclose said. "Our work gives a precise characterization of the bias and relates it to known commodity — politicians."

    http://www.newsroom.ucla.edu/page.as...um=6664#gobaby
    Just thought this might be somewhat interesting for the Americans here, since it seems to be a much favoured topic.

    I don't watch news from the States on a regular basis, so I can't really comment on comparing various broadcasts.

    Edit: Forgot to add a line on the irony of the article.

    Last edited by MagicNakor; 12-20-2005 at 06:16 PM.
    things are quiet until hitler decides he'd like to invade russia
    so, he does
    the russians are like "OMG WTF D00DZ, STOP TKING"
    and the germans are still like "omg ph34r n00bz"
    the russians fall back, all the way to moscow
    and then they all begin h4xing, which brings on the russian winter
    the germans are like "wtf, h4x"
    -- WW2 for the l33t

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    very flawed method. or it sounds flawed, the way they've described it. they've got the whole left-right scale shifted over to the right by using congress to define it.

    and the citation thing... the point of those think-tanks & opinion-mills is to remain relatively invisible to the public. if you're the heritage institute, for example, you want politicians & laymen to go around repeating all of your ideas but not crediting you with originating the idea or giving the appearance that public discourse is being manipulated by your organization. when "policy groups" get mentioned by the media, it's typically not for the sake of agreement. it's more like "let's have a look at what those crazy NAACP and ACLU lawyers are up to, now! LOL." you can see plenty of news media in the u.s. which is influenced by think-tanks, but no reporter's going to say "here's what our favorite think-tank says" because that isn't the purpose of a think-tank. conservative think-tanks most likely had some influence over congress' approval of funding for bush's wars, but there are very few laymen who'd say "i'm in favor of the war in iraq because of the results of a study by a conservative think-tank." yet many of the same ideas provided directly to congressmen by think-tanks do somehow reach laymen, with the think-tanks' names no longer attached to them. i'm not even sure why the NAACP is listed in the same category as the heritage foundation. one organization seeks a high profile as a sort of social activist movement, while the other aims for a low profile and doesn't really address the public directly.

    also: the study's decision to only measure "news" media and exclude op-eds & talk shows. do talk shows not influence public opinion? is there no chance for bias in media companies choosing which talk show hosts to put on the airwaves, who then proceed to opinionate on news-related topics? (despite the old "doesn't necessarily reflect the views of the company" disclaimer)
    Last edited by 3RA1N1AC; 12-20-2005 at 09:02 PM.

  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3RA1N1AC
    ...you can see plenty of news media in the u.s. which is influenced by think-tanks...
    I really don't have the time or inclination to get hip-deep in this just now, so I'll settle for asking that you prove this.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    that's tough. the "plenty" part, anyway. if we're talking about stories planted in the media by think tanks without citation.

    here's one think-tank dedicated to pushing stories that reflect badly on islamists (or draw attention to jihad & terror, however one would prefer to describe it): http://www.memri.org/

    sometimes it is cited by name, sometimes not.

    here's a story generated by memri and reported on msnbc: http://www.memri.org/bin/media.cgi?ID=151505

    here's a transcript of the show that reported the story (with some keywords highlighted by google, to make it easier to find the relevant section), with reference to video provided by memri, sans citation: http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:g...e%20bombers%22

    i admit this is merely one anecdotal example. we can rule out the "it doesn't happen at all" possibility, at least. shooting for proof of "plenty" of examples of uncited think-tank influence would prolly just be time-consuming for me, and boring for everyone else.
    Last edited by 3RA1N1AC; 12-20-2005 at 10:44 PM.

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3RA1N1AC
    that's tough. the "plenty" part, anyway. if we're talking about stories planted in the media by think tanks without citation.

    here's one think-tank dedicated to pushing stories that reflect badly on islamists (or draw attention to jihad & terror, however one would prefer to describe it): http://www.memri.org/

    sometimes it is cited by name, sometimes not.

    here's a story generated by memri and reported on msnbc: http://www.memri.org/bin/media.cgi?ID=151505

    here's a transcript of the show that reported the story (with some keywords highlighted by google, to make it easier to find the relevant section), with reference to video provided by memri, sans citation: http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:g...e%20bombers%22

    i admit this is merely one anecdotal example. we can rule out the "it doesn't happen at all" possibility, at least. shooting for proof of "plenty" of examples of uncited think-tank influence would prolly just be time-consuming for me, and boring for everyone else.
    Then why not accept the study's conclusions?

    This was perhaps the most-anticipated study of the subject ever, with liberals eagerly awaiting the expected result (virtually insured by the institution which produced it); what a disappointment for them!

    They're left with no strategy but to reject it's findings as they would those of any "conservative" sponsor.

    I think it's hilarious, and predict here that it will receive no prominent notice whatsoever in the media it has tattled on.

    Watch and see...
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    Quote Originally Posted by j2k4
    Then why not accept the study's conclusions?
    whether or not i agree with the conclusion (the media is liberal), i think the method they've described (tally citations of random list of "think-tanks," some of which are not really think-tanks in the strict sense of the word, compare it with this ADA score) doesn't sound quite right. there's a whole lot left out of this equation for quantifying bias. or so it seems, from reading their summary of it. that's why not, i guess.

  7. The Drawing Room   -   #7
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    My guess is there wouldn't be any satisfactory methodology for determining whether such a bias exists, that is to say none that would defy refutation by anyone predisposed to disbelieve.

    This is not to knock the liberal urge to distrust any word which counters their beliefs, and to proffer such information is necessarily tainted by some pervasive conservative influence, no matter how obscure.

    No, I would never think that.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  8. The Drawing Room   -   #8
    *shrugs* okay. i don't think i implied any such conservative taint, myself, so we'll have to wait and see if the conspiracy theories start rolling in.

    i could have pointed out how odd it is... that they chose a method for quantifying bias, as described in the summary, based on a score-card (this "ADA score") which only measures degrees of liberalism. so they looked for the presence of liberalism or the absence of liberalism, according to the criteria of this ADA group (rather than, for example, a random poll of the public, a random poll of politicians or pundits, or a random poll of political science professors, asking where a variety of opinions, congressmen, think-tanks, etc. fall on a right-left scale). and they assumed the absence of support for liberal issues is conservatism? since the ADA score is not ostensibly a measurement of conservatism. how arbitrary! and odd. i could have asked why the researchers didn't also start out with a similarly defined measure of conservatism. or a measure of centrism. is such a thing not available? why begin with an assignment of liberalism scores, and not conservatism scores or centrism scores? or libertarianism scores, for that matter.

    but i shouldn't! i wouldn't!

    of course, that's all coming from a layman's point of view. i certainly am not an expert about this sort of political algebra. i reckon it's really a job for that UCLA professor's peers to review his method & the results thereof, and to determine whether or not they find it academically sound & so forth.
    Last edited by 3RA1N1AC; 12-21-2005 at 07:42 AM.

  9. The Drawing Room   -   #9
    lynx's Avatar .
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3RA1N1AC
    *shrugs* okay. i don't think i implied any such conservative taint, myself, so we'll have to wait and see if the conspiracy theories start rolling in.
    I didn't spot any implied leaning one way or the other.

    How very telling that j2 immediately assumed that you were implying a right wing bias. No doubt he still checks under his bed ocasionally, just in case the reds are hiding there. Not every night you understand, that would smack of paranoia.
    .
    Political correctness is based on the principle that it's possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

  10. The Drawing Room   -   #10
    oh i wouldn't say j2k4 was saying, explicitly, that i see a conservative bias in that study. i just meant to assure him that i don't intend to accuse the UCLA study of being conservatively spun, so it'll need to be someone else with the accusation.

    my main reason for skepticism regarding the study has to do with it starting from assumptions and methods that seem rather odd and, um, arbitrary. especially for an academic analysis that uses mathematics & scientificality in an attempt to build a better mediabiasometer (and test it).
    Last edited by 3RA1N1AC; 12-21-2005 at 09:08 AM.

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