Media Admits Bias, But It Ain’t Their Fault


Keyser often finds it funny when people go into contortions to deny reality. Here we have an even funnier example in that the phenomenon (media coverage of the election campaign being biased in Barry O’s favor) is admitted, then the obvious cause (reporters being liberals) is cavalierly and disingnuously dismissed. Here’s a supposed analysis of why the imbalance in coverage really isn’t a problem at all from the website Politico:

The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s researchers found that John McCain, over the six weeks since the Republican convention, got four times as many negative stories as positive ones. The study found six out of 10 McCain stories were negative.

What’s more, Obama had more than twice as many positive stories (36 percent) as McCain — and just half the percentage of negative (29 percent).

You call that balanced?

Story Behind the Story
Why news gets covered the way it does

Politico’s top editors draw on their experience at the nation’s largest news organizations to pull back the curtain on coverage decisions and the media mindset.

OK, let’s just get this over with: Yes, in the closing weeks of this election, John McCain and Sarah Palin are getting hosed in the press, and at Politico.

And, yes, based on a combined 35 years in the news business we’d take an educated guess — nothing so scientific as a Pew study — that Obama will win the votes of probably 80 percent or more of journalists covering the 2008 election. Most political journalists we know are centrists — instinctually skeptical of ideological zealotry — but with at least a mild liberal tilt to their thinking, particularly on social issues.

So what?

Responsible editors would be foolish not to ask themselves the bias question, especially in the closing days of an election.

But, having asked it, our sincere answer is that of the factors driving coverage of this election — and making it less enjoyable for McCain to read his daily clip file than for Obama — ideological favoritism ranks virtually nil.

The main reason is that for most journalists, professional obligations trump personal preferences. Most political reporters (investigative journalists tend to have a different psychological makeup) are temperamentally inclined to see multiple sides of a story, and being detached from their own opinions comes relatively easy.

Reporters obsess about personalities and process, about whose staff are jerks or whether they seem like decent folks, about who has a great stump speech or is funnier in person than they come off in public, about whether Michigan is in play or off the table. This is the flip side of the fact of how much we care about the horse race — we don’t care that much about our own opinions of which candidate would do more for world peace or tax cuts.

If that causes skeptics to scoff, perhaps they would find it more satisfying to hear that the reason ideological bias matters so little is that other biases matter so much more.

One is McCain backlash. The Republican once was the best evidence of how little ideology matters. Even during his “maverick” days, McCain was a consistent social conservative, with views on abortion and other cultural issues that would have been odds with those of most reporters we know. Yet he won swooning coverage for a decade from reporters who liked his accessibility and iconoclasm and supposed commitment to clean politics.

Now he is paying. McCain’s decision to limit media access and align himself with the GOP conservative base was an entirely routine, strategic move for a presidential candidate. But much of the coverage has portrayed this as though it were an unconscionable sellout.

Since then the media often presumes bad faith on McCain’s part. The best evidence of this has been the intense focus on the negative nature of his ads, when it is clear Obama has been similarly negative in spots he airs on radio and in swing states.

It is not our impression that many reporters are rooting for Obama personally. To the contrary, most colleagues on the trail we’ve spoken with seem to find him a distant and undefined figure.

Beyond the particular circumstances of McCain v. Obama, there are other factors in any race that almost always matter more than the personal views of reporters.

The strongest of these is the bias in favor of momentum. A candidate who is perceived to be doing well tends to get even more positive coverage (about his or her big crowds or the latest favorable polls or whatever). And a candidate who is perceived to be doing poorly tends to have all events viewed through this prism.

Not coincidentally, this is a bias shared by most of our sources…

So, let’s review the argument.

1) It’s all McCain’s fault (otherwise known as “blame the victim”). He was liked by reporters before because he wasn’t acting like a Republican, and because, as the Republican candidate, he has begun to “align himself with the GOP conservative base,” this is “portrayed… as though it were an unconscionable sellout.” Well, smack Keyser’s ass and call him a simpleton, but isn’t that tantamount to saying that reporters dislike Republicans (presumably because of their liberal bias), which in turn shows that it’s ideology that’s the cause of the unbalanced reporting? QED.

2) Reporters don’t like Barry O “personally,” so that can’t be the problem. Hey, idiots, the issue is ideology, not personal friendship. Did every liberal like Carter or Clinton (either one) or Gore or Kerry personally, and did a lack of personal connection lead to an ideological dislike? This is total crap. The obvious point is that people like Chris Matthews, who gets a “tingle” up his thigh at the very thought of The One, don’t need to have a personal connection. The have an ideological one, which is the whole point.

3) Anyway, the reporters are just going with the trends, and since Barry’s victory is preordained, well, them’s just the facts, ma’am. Once more, Keyser calls bullshit on this. Maybe, just maybe, the admittedly biased coverage has something to do with the creation of this supposed tsunami of support, which is presumably taken to be just the inevitable outcome of the fact that Barry O is manifestly the better candidate (see Point 1). And how exactly do we know of this inevitability? Well, our friends the establishment faux conservative snobs like Christopher Buckley say so, so if even what passes for intelligence among the benighted Republicans think that McCain and especially that awful Palin woman who can’t even pronounce “-ing” right are doomed, well, who can blame us?

So, to sum up. The liberals in the media are willing to admit that the coverage has been unbalanced, but the sole reason for that is that Republicans are simply wrong, and reporters simply have to report the facts. So, if you look at it that way, there is no real bias.

As always, Keyser dislikes bullshit, particularly when it’s being flung in his direction, so regardless of any other considerations, Keyser will continue to vote Palin/McCain just to send a hearty “yeah, and fuck you too!” back in the direction that the shit is coming from.

Go Sarah!

[This succulent lobster was just pulled fresh out of the cauldron of boiling water that is Keyser's Lair]

One Response to “Media Admits Bias, But It Ain’t Their Fault”

  1. Ida Says:

    Anyway, the reporters are just going with the trends, and since Barry’s victory is preordained, well, them’s just the facts, ma’am. Once more, Keyser calls bullshit on this.

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