Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Columbia Journo School Says Election Coverage Biased

As if this wasn't obvious.

I wonder if Columbia will find itself attacked over this study.

1 comment:

rod said...

Oh, golly, where to begin...

The article you cite is a piece of shit. What is this "watchdog group" allegedly affiliated with Columbia School of Journalism? It is not named in the piece, nor is it identified in any other useful way. There is no link to the study in question, nor are any of the authors named (even though they are mentioned generically several times). Remember the "five W's" that professional journalists are supposed to introduce in the lede of every story? We seem to be a couple of "W's" short of the mark (although, in another sense, we just as clearly have one "W" too many").

Well, here's the study in question. It was published by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a generally fine organization. And here's what it actually says (from the introduction; emphasis supplied, footnotes omitted):

In the closing weeks of the 2004 presidential race, the period dominated by the debates, President George W. Bush has suffered strikingly more negative press coverage than challenger John Kerry, according to a new study released today by the Project for Excellence in Journalism....

This is the mirror image of what happened four years ago, when then-Governor Bush benefited from coverage in the closing weeks, particularly from the debates, enjoying twice as many positive stories than his rival Vice President Gore. Indeed, the percentage of negative Bush coverage is almost identical to the level of negative Gore coverage four years ago.

In both cases, the penchant of the press to focus on internal campaign matters like tactics, strategy, candidate performance and horse race, seem to be a major factor driving the tone of the coverage. This year the President was battered in the coverage particularly for his performance in the first two debates....

The tactical and performance oriented focus of the press has had another effect as well. The coverage this year has been even less likely than four years ago to describe how campaign events directly affected voters--explaining, for example, the possible implications on citizens of candidate's policy proposal....

These are some of the key conclusions of a major new study of press coverage in newspapers, television and on the Internet during two key weeks ending October.


So, when one looks at the actual report, rather than Reuters' lazy coverage of the report, we learn that the study in question addresses only one short period of time - the period dominated by the debates. Now, even Bush's strongest supporters had to concede that the Boy King performed like a drugged monkey during the debates - even Bob "Prince of Darkness" Novak recognized it - so it is not surprising that the coverage of these events favored Kerry (who, for all his many flaws, is able to speak in coherent sentences more often than not - though admittedly, not as often as one might hope). Note also that the coverage of Bush during this period was similar to the coverage of Gore in 2000, which the PEJ report attributes elsewhere not to liberal or conservative bias, but to heightened scrutiny given to any incumbent.

The limited time frame involved excludes much of the most scurrilous anti-Kerry coverage, particularly the shameful Swift Boat Liars for Bush incident. It is also unweighted - note that the authors identify FOX News [sic] as being particularly pro-Bush (ya think?), but does not weight that coverage more heavily than much lower rated, and therefore less influential, coverage elsewhere.

It is also worthwhile to review the methodology of the study. Because it focuses only on coverage which specifically names a candidate, it excludes most of the gushingly positive coverage given to the administration's policies and activities. Of course, when the government is distributing fake news masquerading as "video press releases," and the media whores uncritically broadcast those press releases, it is no surprise that the government gets good press. Also, notice that only clearly positive or clearly negative coverage gets figured into the formula - thus, video footage of the Naked Emperor being lauded by loud, loving crowds (which Karl Rove hand-selected) is not clearly "positive" coverage, while Candy Crowley's (or, as I like to call her, "SowNN") disgusting hatchet piece in which she sneers at Kerry drinking green tea (a common prescription for prostate problems) and ruminates on whether it means he's "out of the mainstream" is probably not counted among Kerry's negative coverage. In short, this study provides at least some support for what I have always believed - the press does not so much have a liberal bias or a conservative bias, so much as it has a lazy, I-want-to-get-invited-to-the-cool-party-at-Andrea-Mitchell-and-Alan-Greenspan's-house bias.

Dan, I love you like the brother you are, but I must say - your bullshit detector is in serious need of factory maintenance. Until you get that taken care of, I'll be here to help out however I can.