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June 18, 2004

Press Going Too Easy on Bush

Well, the media thinks so according to the Pew Research Center.

But, before getting to that, here's some relevant information:

Real Clear Politics

Two weeks ago, the Pew Research Center published the latest study demonstrating that many more national news reporters identify themselves as "liberal" (34 percent) than "conservative" (7 percent).

While most (54 percent) consider themselves "moderate," even the "moderates" demonstrated that they had liberal attitudes on religion, gay rights and activist government.


Public Skeptical of Media?

The latest Gallup Poll indicates the public continues to be skeptical of the accuracy and fairness of the news media.

Fifty-eight percent of those questioned said the media were often inaccurate, while just 39 percent thought they get their facts straight.

On the question of bias, 60 percent thought the media were ideologically biased.

Of those, however, only 15 percent thought the media too conservative, while 45 percent thought them too liberal.

Thirty-six percent found the media just about right.

By the way, 48 percent of self-identified liberals thought the media just right, while 63 percent of conservatives thought the media too liberal, and 43 percent of moderates agreed.

So onto the news:

Bottom-Line Pressures Now Hurting Coverage, Say Journalists

Journalists are unhappy with the way things are going in their profession these days. Many give poor grades to the coverage offered by the types of media that serve most Americans: daily newspapers, local TV, network TV news and cable news outlets. In fact, despite recent scandals at the New York Times and USA Today, only national newspapers and the websites of national news organizations receive good performance grades from the journalistic ranks.

Roughly half of journalists at national media outlets (51%), and about as many from local media (46%), believe that journalism is going in the wrong direction, as significant majorities of journalists have come to believe that increased bottom line pressure is "seriously hurting" the quality of news coverage. This is the view of 66% of national news people and 57% of the local journalists questioned in this survey.

Now what is a "liberal bias", anyway?

What it isn't is a tendency to lie or report falsehoods. What bias is is a tendency to report stories which the news media wants to report, rather than stories which the population wants to read (or see, as the case may be).

For example:

Suppose that a large mall has been approved to be built in a previously untouched piece of (undesignated) wilderness. Suppose also that a very decisive majority of the population who will be using that mall are very excited about it; they're interested in what choices of shops are going to be avaliable, and they're very interested in what is expected to be a significant boon to their local economy.

Suppose, also, that the local newspaper is run by a collection of environmentalists that are not at all excited about the mall. Unlike the general population, all they see is a destruction of the forest, animal habitats being destroyed, and new garbage and pollution problems. Therefore, they keep reporting on these particular issues and give very limited and inadequate reporting on the facts about the economy and other issues which the population is looking for in the pages of the paper.

That is bias. Everything that the paper prints is (presumably) true, but nobody except those people at the paper care. For the population, it's as if they've picked up "Golfing Today" magazine and have found, instead of articles about golf, in depth articles about Sylvester Stallone movies.

Values and the Press

Journalists at national and local news organizations are notably different from the general public in their ideology and attitudes toward political and social issues. Most national and local journalists, as well as a plurality of Americans (41%), describe themselves as political moderates. But news people, especially national journalists, are more liberal, and far less conservative, than the general public.

So now, according to the Pew Research Center, what we have is a bunch of liberal journalists complaining because the population is ending its willingness to pick up papers which do not report on the stories which interest our population. I find that both funny and encouraging. The liberal press are paying the price through their pocketbooks, and the fact that their livelihoods and their abilities to flourish are threatened.

That is positively heartwarming.

Posted by Jeff at June 18, 2004 03:37 PM

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