It is my assertion that there is no significant liberal bias in the media in general and furthermore, there is no significant liberal bias in what has been termed "The Washington Press Corp".
Before digging further we need to establish the defining characteristics of media bias. Media bias has two areas that require scrutiny, one being the political or ideological position of the media representatives themselves, and the other is the political or ideological position supported or denounced either implicitly or explicitly in the actual dissemination of information through the media. It is also important to note that a bias in media can only be defined as variance of position or ideology between the media and the general public. In other words, if the media output were to indicate a generally supportive position on a specific policy preference that was opposed by the general public, this would be a valid example of media bias. On the other hand, if the media takes a supportive position on a policy that is also supported by the general public, regardless of how technically biased it may be, this would not be an example of media bias. For example, if the media showed an overwhelming bias toward the government ownership of the means of production, while the general public showed a clear preference for free enterprise and private property, this would be a clear indication of media bias. The converse example would be that even if the media were quantitatively proven to be biased toward the support of capitalism and free enterprise, if it mirrors the position of the general public, then it cannot be considered to be an indication of media bias.
The most interesting aspect of discussing media bias is the issue of perception. For an individual, there is almost certainly going to be a perceived media bias on certain issues, and perhaps on most issues, even if there is in fact no real media bias. The reason for this is clear, most people do not have complete agreement on all issues, therefore the majority of the general public can hold a certain view which is mirrored in the media, but an individual with a minority opinion will perceive a media bias against their view. Moreover, when an individual has strong ideological beliefs, they are almost certain to perceive a bias in completely objective reporting. This has been proven in study after study, most interestingly in Israel, where both Pro-Palestinian and Pro-Israel respondents perceived a media bias opposing their own opinions after viewing the identical news items.
Examining the "Liberal Media" Claim is an exercise that yields whatever conclusion you wish, but none with any degree of validity. Let's examine some of the research that purports to prove a liberal bias in the media. Media Research Center is a non-profit but very partisan organization that was created for the specific purpose of insuring that people believe that there is a liberal media. Now I do not have the resources, time, or inclination to debunk every study that the Media Research Center claims supports their presupposition. There is no way that I will accept any type of challenge that requires me to review all studies from any source and review it for accuracy and scientific and statistical validity, in my opinion, if I can debunk a study used universally to support the "liberal media" assertion, it then becomes the burden of the supporters of this claim to provide complete scientific and statistical corroboration for any future studies which purport to support the "liberal media" claim. With that said, I will offer the following assertion for your perusal: If I can show that one often quoted study purporting to prove a liberal bias is statistically invalid and further does not represent the population claimed, then it casts sufficient doubt upon the entire body of work to successfully support my assertion that the notion of a "liberal bias" in the media is an unfounded claim.
The study I will review is the Freedom Forum study called "Partners and Adversaries: The Contentious Connection Between Congress & the Media." which is quoted in 58 different articles from Media Research Center and is the source of the oft quoted statistic that 90% of the Washington Press Corp members are liberal. Let's take a look at how this study is used by MRC in the following quote from an article in their publication: 89% Voted for Clinton"
The Freedom Forum (Arlington Va division) released on Wednesday a 218 page report titled "Partners and Adversaries: The Contentious Connection Between Congress & the Media." It was written by Elaine Povich, a former Chicago Tribune reporter.
Buried in the appendix are some very interesting findings in "a few final questions for classification purposes only." These were posed to two sets of people. First, 139 Washington bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents (newspapers, wire services and TV networks) who completed a 58 question survey by mail in November-December 1995. Second, the a very similar survey was completed by 100 newspaper editors (half with circulation over and half under 75,000).
Washington reporter results are first followed by the editors in ():
Q: "How would you characterize your political orientation?"
Liberal: 22% (9%)
Liberal to moderate: 39% (23%)
Moderate: 30% (35%)
Moderate to conservative: 7% (19%)
Conservative: 2% (6%)
Q: "What is your current political affiliation?"
Republican: 4% (14%)
Democrat: 50% (31%)
Independent: 37% (39%)
Other: 9% (7%)
Q: "Did you vote for Bill Clinton, George Bush, Ross Perot, or some other candidate?"
Bill Clinton: 89% (60%)
George Bush: 7% (22%)
Ross Perot: 2% (4%)
Other: 2% (9%)
All right then, it's crystal clear isn't it? It said it in black and white, 89% voted for Clinton, proof positive that the press is severely biased to the left... or is it?
No, it is not proof of a liberal bias in the Washington Press Corp., in fact, a large number of the members of the Washington Press Corp were not even invited to participate in the poll. Didn't you wonder for a moment, with the Washington Times out there, and the New York Post, The American Spectator, National Review, and many other clearly conservative publications, how could Bush only have 7% of the votes from the press? Were these conservative publications secret Clinton voters? After factoring the conservative media, these statistics would mean that the rest of the news media was virtually 100 percent for Clinton. Do you buy this? Even for a second?
Well, good for you if you didn't, you were right to wonder, there is something wrong with this picture, and it is not media bias, it has a little to do with the way conservative publications handle their money, and it has a little to do with where the surveys were sent. There were a total 323 questionnaires sent out and 139 were completed and returned, of those 139, 130 had answered the Presidential voting record question. Now let's look at where these surveys were mailed to, of the 329 total surveys, less than 20% were mailed to the group that most people would consider the heart, soul, and brain, of the Washington Press Corp, that is the following media outlets... The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, PBS, National Public Radio, Time, Newsweek, US News, The Associated Press and Reuters. The majority of the surveys were mailed to regional type newspapers like the following...The Modesto Bee, Boston Globe, Denver Post, Dallas Morning News, Atlanta Journal/Constitution, Richmond Times Dispatch and San Jose Mercury News. News services for newspaper chains, such as Knight-Ridder and Newhouse News Service, were included, too. And finally, about 25% of the media outlets recieving surveys were very small newspapers that are not normally considered part of the national news media at all. Oh, and those conservative publications we mentioned earlier, well they were mostly left out. There were about 2% of the surveys sent to conservative media outlets like The Washington Times, which did get four questionnaires; Human Events one; The New York Post one; and another Murdoch newspaper, The Boston Herald got one. The rest of the conservative outlets got zero, nada, none.
Why is that Kimo Sabe? Is it a conspiracy to prevent conservatives from participating in opinion polls? Actually, no, it is a reflection of the way conservative publications do business, you see, they do more than sell subscriptions, they are getting the "message to masses" as it were, and they have found that they can get money for just doing that, if they are a non-profit corporation that can provide tax deductions for people willing to donate to the cause. But what does htis have to do with anything? They are still reporters and they still cover Washington, why exclude them? Well, it has to do with their credentials, you see the Congressional Press Gallery is the organization that actually recognizes professional reporters, and it was the list of credentialed media outlets that was used to create the mailing list, and the Congressional Press Gallery has a problem with approving non-profit corporations as credentialed media outlets. As a result, a large number of conservative outlets, like American Spectator, were not included in the mailing list, and their voting preferences are unrecorded. "The Freedom Forum survey gave much greater weight to the voting choices of reporters from small publications who have next to no influence in the nation's capital. These work-a-day reporters rarely, if ever, appear on TV and their stories concentrate on the hum-drum actions of local members of Congress, not on national affairs."
So there you have it, this oft reported proof of the liberal bias in the so called "Washington Press Corp" actually had small minority of questionaires delivered to the "Washington Press Corp", and furthermore, only a tiny fraction were sent to the large number of conservative publications. Please do not even consider suggesting that liberal non-profits were left out as well, evening the balance, since the conservative non-profits media outlets outnumber the liberal non-profits by about 5 to 1.
With respect to the results of the survey and their significance in light of the reality of the survey, Robert Parry makes an interesting point..."It may be interesting that a large percentage of modestly paid reporters from small- to mid-sized dailies favored Clinton over Bush. But there is little evidence that those presidential preferences translated into soft media treatment of Clinton or into especially tough handling of Bush or the GOP congressional majority."
I could show you research evidence that actually was taken from the "Washington Press Corp" showing that the media, although it preferred Clinton over Bush, is actually quite conservative overall, especially in matters relating to economics and fiscal policy, and let's not forget, Clinton ran as a conservative Democrat with campaign issues like welfare reform and middle class tax cuts. According to a study sponsored by FAIR (one of those partisan organizations on the other side) the media is MORE conservative than the general public in a broad range of issues related to economics and fiscal policy. I have posted a link below, and a small section from the FAIR study.
On these issues journalists appear to be to the left of the public or to the right of the public as noted..
Protecting Medicare and Social Security - way to the right
The expansion of NAFTA - to the right
Requiring employers to provide health insurance to their employees - to the right
Stricter environmental laws - to the right
Concern over concentrated corporate power - to the right
Taxing the wealthy - to the right
Impact of NAFTA - to the right
"Fast track" trade authority - to the right
"IV. CONCLUSION: BEYOND THE "LIBERAL MEDIA" MYTH
This survey shows that it is a mistake to accept the conservative claim that journalists are to the left of the public. There appear to be very few national journalists with left views on economic questions like corporate power and trade—issues that may well matter more to media owners and advertisers than social issues like gay rights and affirmative action.
The larger "liberal media" myth has been maintained, in part, by the well-funded flow of conservative rhetoric that selectively highlights journalists' personal views while downplaying news content. It also has been maintained by diverting the spotlight away from economic issues and placing it instead on social issues. In reality, though, most members of the powerful Washington press corps identify themselves as centrist in both of these areas. It is true, as conservative critics have publicized, that the minority of journalists not in the "center" are more likely to identify as having a "left" orientation when it comes to social issues. However, it is also true that the minority of journalists not in the "center" are more likely to identify as having a "right" orientation when it comes to economic issues. Indeed, these economic policy views are often to the right of public opinion. When our attention is drawn to this fact, one of the central elements of the conservative critique of the media is exposed to be merely sleight of hand."
|Submitted by Captin_Sarcastic
|Is the Media Liberal?