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New Media Political Bias

In: English and Literature

Submitted By cocky
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National News Media are Largely Liberal in Political Bias

11/21/2011

Abstract
The media provides the American people with information. This information is used by the citizens to make decisions and often to take actions. Because the media is the source of information for most American citizens, it is important to understand the techniques media outlets use in an attempt to bias their audience. The most common techniques that attempt to bend the public to a given point of view are use of statistics and counts, tone and diction, and more frequently, omission.

National News Media are Largely Liberal in Political Bias
During the 2008 presidential election Barack Obama received more than twice the media coverage than John McCain. It is doubtful that anyone that was aware there was an election going on would need surveys to confirm that statement. Obama got more attention than McCain because Obama was the “rock star” of politics and McCain was just another politician, At that time Obama represented fresh and new and that was what mattered especially to the younger groups (Page, A Big Story is our Biggest Bias, 2008). But being star struck does not explain the media bias that has existed for a very long time. Very few people, including the media members and journalists will argue that the national news media are not biased. Despite the journalistic ideal of “objectivity,” every news story is influenced by the attitudes and background of its interviewers, writers, photographers and editors (Donnelly, 1999). The U. S. national news media are largely liberal in its political bias and it is important to our democratic process to recognize the techniques used to create the bias and to actively seek correct and complete information. Defenders of the liberal media often use the logic that the media is more conservative because the owners are supporters of capitalism and big business. Of course, just because a journalist has liberal or conservative views, does not mean that his or her reporting will be slanted. One thought is that reporters may respond to the likes and dislikes of the people that pay their salaries. Writers such as Clarence Page expressed concern that cynicism has created its own type of bias against anyone who offers a solution. He charges that reporters will often favor simplicity, persons (versus institutional processes), emotions (versus facts) and game (versus substance) when reporting on a story. In general, journalists, when asked, deny the accusations of bias, but most admit to being liberal. Most liberal journalists insist they report the news with no bias and stay neutral when reporting news and facts. Another critic of the claim of liberal bias is the charge that current political Republican Presidential candidates receive gentler treatment from the press than do Democratic candidates. The thought is that because most journalists are moderate or liberal, then they try to offset their natural biases by going out of their way to be fair to conservatives. Reporters feel a social breakdown between themselves and the conservative candidates and their relations stay formal and polite. (Groseclose & Milyo, 2004) They are more comfortable with Democratic candidates and respond much less formal and loose. This causes a degree of guilt of not being fair to the Republican candidate and they over-compensate. There are lots of surveys, questionnaires, demographic studies, etc. that have been compiled on the subject of media bias. You can find statistics and data that will support either side of the debate depending on what point you want to prove. However, according to Tim Groseclose, the majority of the American people feel the media has a liberal bias. One research group considered to be highly credible and impartial in their approach is the research project, “A Measure of Media Bias” conducted by Tim Groseclose, Department of Political Science at UCLA and Jeff Milyo, Department of Economics at University of Missouri, conducted in 2004. Basically, the study developed a measure for scoring the major media outlets and all three network television news shows. The researchers counted the times that a media outlet referred to various think tanks and other policy groups. Then they compared this with the times that members of Congress referred to the same think tanks in their speeches on the floor of the House and Senate. The results showed a strong liberal bias among media. 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. 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.
Another poll often cited is that taken by the Freedom Forum and The Roper Center of 139 Washington Bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents. The survey strongly supports the belief that journalists and the public do not share the same views. For example, 89% of the polled journalists voted democrat in the 1992 election; 50% declared they were Democrats while only 4% said they were Republican. The strongest point of the survey was the number that characterized their political orientation as “liberal” or “moderate to liberal” which was 61% compared to only 4% who said they were conservative. (Weaver, 2006). Then, C. B. Hanif reported in his series of articles on perceptions of bias in the news media, that 78% of readers in a national survey believe a liberal bias exists. A 2003 Gallup Poll found that 45 percent of Americans thought the news media were “too liberal”, while only 15 percent found them “too conservative.” (Donnelly, 1999). Lots of surveys are available showing a liberal bias but very few could be found supporting the idea of a conservative bias. Sometimes the bias is deliberate with the intent to deceive or mislead its audience. But quite often the bias is due to the writer’s frame of reference. He, or she, just doesn’t know how to be objective about a situation when he/she has no knowledge of any other options. Regardless of how or why the bias occurs, it is important that anyone who pays any attention to the news understand some of the techniques that are often used to manipulate the news in a way that will pull the readers to a certain point of view. Among those techniques are the use of statistics and perceived facts, the use of words, tone, and diction, and the use of omission. These aren’t the only techniques being used, but they are effective. Understanding statistics is difficult at best which makes this subject easy to use as a technique to manipulate and deceive groups of interested people. As an example, to make a disaster seem more spectacular, a reporter can say “hundreds injured in air crash”. Or to make the disaster much less signification, the reporter can say, “only minor injuries in air crash” This technique is most often used by writers versus broadcasters and interviewers. A writer can manipulate the reader into thinking that the results are very high (or very low). In the Chicago Tribune, October, 2009, an article, “Women are Suffering” appeared declaring that an estimated 585,000 women will die or suffer from terminal illness if Obama’s Health Care Plan is not adopted. (How to Detect Bias in the News, 2010). The use of the statistic raises the importance to the reader.. The number may be factual or even a close estimation. But what they don’t report is die of what? Is this because they can’t find a doctor? Is it because they have never sought health care? Does their religion prevent medical attention? This past summer, the media reported almost minute by minute on the hurricane that was moving up the east coast. Towns were evacuated; Atlantic City was shutdown, subways closed, and many other precautions were taken. When the disaster was over, thousands were reported to have had their property destroyed. Later, reports began to surface (from conservative outlets) that because of the economic situation, a major disaster would have been a really good distraction. People did lose their homes and some died, but the damage as a whole was not near what was being indicated. The second technique is word choice, tone, or diction and this may be the most subtle and manipulative techniques to bias the viewer. The best example is the commonly used implication that a vast majority within a given demographic share the same opinion, for instance: “the American people believe…” or “many people say…..” (Tedesco, 2011). The use of positive or negative words or words with a particular connotation can strongly influence the reader or viewer. Both the Miami Herald and The St. Petersburg Times discuss a controversial issue concerning gay adoption in the state of Florida. In 1977 the state of Florida had passed a law banning homosexuals from adopting children. In 1999 the ACLU filed law suits on behalf of several gay couples. After months of debates, Judge James Lawrence King ruled in favor of the state’s ban. The Miami Herald appealed to the emotions of their audience claiming discrimination against homosexuals. The writer portrays the judge as having been handcuffed by politics and suggested that he really wanted to rule in favor of the couples. Sympathy is solicited by describing various court room scenes. The content was directed to gain support for this controversial subject, but the diction seemed more targeted at the uneducated. In contrast, the St. Petersburg Times takes a different approach to the topic. This is a predominantly conservative paper. This article expresses support for the ruling and the fact that “…a 24 year old law…”giving the impression that if the law has been able to survive this long then there is no reason to change. There is an eager tone to the message and leaves no doubt that the writer is pleased with the outcome. They frequently use quotes made by some of the more prominent people and in effect gives the story more strength. The third technique is omission. Media members can express a bias by choosing to use or not to use a specific news item. Within a given story, some details can be ignored, and others included, to give readers or viewers a different opinion about the events reported. (How to Detect Bias in the News, 2010). Consider the story that came out about the leaked 2008 emails from JournoList . This was a group setup by the Washington Post as a means for journalists to privately debate current affairs and industry issues. The emails are reported to have shown a concerted attempt to keep the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story out of the mainstream media during the 2008 presidential primaries. (JournoList: Proof of liberal media bias?, 2010). The leak was barely reported on most news outlets. In 2009 during a speech to the United Nations, Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi said, “We are content and happy if Obama can stay forever as the president.” Gadaffi also referred to the President as “our son” and “our Obama”. The following morning, ABC devoted an entire story to Gaddafi but failed to mention his remarks about President Obama. NBC and CBS also ignored the story. (Tedesco, 2011). This is only one example, but there are lots more.
The media has a liberal bias that is providing the American citizens with only part of the facts in many situation and none in others. The American people need all of the news to make informed decisions. Failure to report all the news is a threat to our democratic process.

References
How to Detect Bias in the News. (2010). Retrieved October 26, 2011, from Media Awareness Network: http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/resources/educational/broadcast_news
JournoList: Proof of liberal media bias? (2010, July 21). Retrieved October 20, 2011, from The Week: http://the week.com/article/index/205206/journolist
Donnelly, W. A. (1999, April 11). Biases in Media are no shock: We all harbor them. Palm Beach Post. West Palm Beach, FL, U.S.
Groseclose, T., & Milyo, J. (2004). A Measure of Media Bias. UCLA, Department of Political Science. Los Angeles, CA: American Political Science Review.
Hanson, D. J. (2005, May 5). Alcohol Use and Abuse: How to Lie with Statistics. (P. Prof. David J. Hanson, Ed.) Retrieved Oct 24, 2011, from A D. J. Hanson web site: http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/107055205.html
Overholser, G. (1998, May 10). The Battle Against Bias. The Washington Post, Final Edition, C06. Washington, DC, U. S.: The Washington Post Company.
Page, C. (1996, April 21). News Media shown to have a bias against solutions ; Too many journalists have chosen to conceal their biases behind a think wall of cyncism that shows little or no respect to any politician or any new political idea. Chicago Tribune, 21. Washington, U.S.: Tribune Publishing Company.
Page, C. (2008, July 23). A Big Story is our Biggest Bias. Chicago Tribune, 1.21. Chicago, Ill, U.S.: Tribune Publishing Company.
Tedesco, M. (2011, March). Top Five Ways to Identify Bias News Coverage. Retrieved October 26, 1011, from Ezine Articles: http://www.EzineArticles.com
Weaver, D. (2006, October 3). Trends in Journalism should worry the public: [Final Edition]. Journal - Gazette, 9A.

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