Tag Archives: media bias

How conservatives (wrongly) detect liberal bias in the news

By Christopher B. Daly

Today’s NYTimes provides a clear-cut example of how conservatives often mis-read or mis-hear the news and jump to the wrong conclusion. Most of the time, conservatives are sure they are seeing a political bias when, in fact, what they are seeing are professional values.

Here’s the story:

The Times ran a story under the headline: ‘No One Believes Anything’: Voters Worn Out by a Fog of Political News. The implication was that there is too much news about impeachment.

As the story unfolds, the Times reporters quote a computer programmer in Idaho named Russell Memory.

But he said he sees bias among liberal news outlets and that drives him crazy too. He was annoyed, for example, that stories of Mr. Trump being booed at the Washington Nationals baseball game were given top billing, but when Mr. Trump was cheered in Alabama a few days later, he could find almost nothing about it.

“I don’t think things are fake, they’re just one-sided,” said Mr. Memory, 37. “Both things happened. He got booed and he got cheered. But one of them will be a much bigger story. That’s what bothers me.”

This is a classic example of confusion.

The fact that a sitting president got booed while attending a World Series game in the District of Columbia was unusual. That is, it was statistically rare. Therefore, it was news. Any journalist would agree.

Trump at the Nationals game.

As for Alabama, the fact that a Republican president went to a bright-red state for a football game and was cheered is entirely to be expected. It is not unusual. Therefore, it is not news. Any journalist would agree.

Trump at the Alabama game.

Of course, ideologues on talk shows could be expected to jump on either case as ammunition for their side. That’s not news either.

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Obama: Media Critic?

By Christopher B. Daly

Even on vacation, I couldn’t help noticing this piece in today’s Times about President Obama’s news-reading habits and his criticisms of some of the coverage. 

As a media critic myself, I am not sure how I feel about adding this new guy to the ranks. But he does seem to have a grasp on some major issues. From the Times:

The news media have played a crucial role in Mr. Obama’s career, helping to make him a national star not long after he had been an anonymous state legislator. As president, however, he has come to believe the news media have had a role in frustrating his ambitions to change the terms of the country’s political discussion. He particularly believes that Democrats do not receive enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicareand Social Security, while Republicans oppose almost any tax increase to reduce the deficit.

Privately and publicly, Mr. Obama has articulated what he sees as two overarching problems: coverage that focuses on political winners and losers rather than substance; and a “false balance,” in which two opposing sides are given equal weight regardless of the facts.

Mr. Obama’s assessments overlap with common critiques from academics and journalism pundits, but when coming from a sitting president the appraisal is hardly objective, the experts say.

Irony alert: after quoting Obama on the problem of false balance and explaining the concept, the piece goes on to engage in the very practice.

To his credit, Obama seems to read a lot, and that can’t be a bad thing.

Now, back to the beach.

Obama reads his iPad while walking. ABC News.com

Obama reads his iPad while walking. ABC News.com

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Media bias? Not so much

By Chris Daly 

Michelle Bachmann, a former flavor-of-the-week in the lengthy, fickle Republican primary campaign for the presidential nomination, has a gripe. Not surprisingly, she is complaining about the media.

This, of course, is a time-tested tactic for Republicans, especially when they are feeling politically desperate. Bachmann claims to have caught CBS News in a “gotcha” moment that she believes confirms her suspicions of liberal bias at CBS. Now, it may well be that there are liberals at CBS, but this episode does not prove her point. In fact, I believe it proves the opposite point.

Briefly. . . As recounted in today’s NYTimes, the guy in charge of political coverage at CBS, John Dickerson, was caught doing his job. He was trying to find an online guest for a show he was orchestrating that would follow the latest Republican debate on Saturday night. In an email to colleagues, he said he would rather “get someone else” other than Bachmann.

His reason? She was “not going to get many questions” and “she’s nearly off the charts” in the polling of voters’ preferences.

(Dickerson’s big mistake was that he included a Bachmann aide among the people in the list of addresses for that particular email, so his thinking went unfiltered to the Bachmann communication director, who then did the professional thing and tried to make hay out of it, in a Facebook blast and elsewhere.)



Back to Dickerson’s email.

If we look at what he actually said, it appears that his criteria for choosing the guests to pursue were non-political, non-partisan, and non-ideological.

Like any good producer, he wanted a “hot” guest — hot in the sense of someone who is trending, someone who is going to create or amplify buzz, someone who is going to add to CBS’s ratings. He does not want someone who was last week’s news. Simple as that.

And the facts bear him out: Bachmann did indeed get few questions in the debate and little air time, and she is dying in the latest polls. (CBS’s own latest poll had her in 6th place with just 4% support.) That is not to say that she could not surge again; if she does, Dickerson and every producer, host, and booker in politics will be chasing her. Not because they like or dislike her and not because they agree or disagree with her. It will be all about blowing on the hot coals.

In his email, Dickerson could be properly charged with telling “vicious truths.”

Was he ruthless? Yes.

Was he liberal? No.

Even the awful site Big Journalism almost got this right. In fact, the blogger

p.s. For another day: What about Bachmann’s implicit claim? Do the news media formulate common policies, then execute them in concert? (Hint: people in the news media can’t agree on whether to capitalize “president” !)






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