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Media Bias – Deliberate and Unintentional

Most news has bias in it; the amount varies with the source. Here are ratings and some examples of subtle editorializing in news coverage.

Most media people are not ideologues, even those who are viewed that way by their opponents. They just want to earn a profit by selling papers, magazines or increasing viewership. We want profitable media companies, especially with today’s transition to the internet where everything has gotten more competitive.

There’s a difference between the opinion page or talk shows and news reporting. Good reporting is a difficult task with time deadlines. Writing a good article takes ten to twenty times longer than reading it, even for skilled journalists.

My blog posts are opinion columns, so they vary in controversy depending on the topic. My conservative political views might get in to a news article regardless of how objective I tried to be.

Worldview Seeps In

I know more conservatives than liberals, so it would be easier to get interviews with them. As a reporter, I might choose to write the story from a different angle: the reduced need for government assistance vs. the underuse of food stamp eligibility.

I have written some articles for GM’s Fastlane blog, including my first one where we thanked a car collector who bought the last DTS from Hamtramck partly because of its Northstar engine. A good reporter puts himself in the background and tries to be neutral.

Most people have never been to an SAE meeting, so I wrote an article about the Chevy Sonic meeting last fall. Automakers and suppliers describe the hard work they’ve done bringing a new product to market. Most people outside the industry have no clue how large a team is involved for the car to start when they turn the key.

Even volunteering to write for the Fastlane blog has a point: I want to put my employer and profession in a favorable light.

Media Ratings List - Left to Right

People think they are getting objective news, but they’re not. So here is my list, a consensus opinion with a coworker who is more widely read and neutral than me.

Far Left - MSNBC, Huffington Post, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews

Left – NPR, Atlantic, New Republic, Juan Williams

Leans Left - CNN, CNBC, Troy Somerset-Gazette, Detroit Free Press, Washington Post, New York Times, TIME, Newsweek

Slight Left - NBC, CBS, ABC, Troy Times, Oakland Press, USA Today

Neutral - Bloomberg, Automotive News, Crain’s Detroit Business

Leans Right – Fox News, Detroit News, Wall Street Journal, National Review, Weekly Standard, WORLD (Christian perspective, follows the Bible on social issues), Dennis Prager, Tom Sullivan, David Webb

Right – Drudge Report, Breitbart.com, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck

Far Right – Mike Church, Andrew Wilkow

 

Social Issues

Given the longstanding media bias in favor of abortion rights and now gay rights (special rights if you’re a conservative on this issue), virtually all media leans left or directly advocates for leftist social causes.

The American Left has been better than conservatives at framing the language of these two issues in particular. Even conservative economic publications tend to be liberal on social issues, sometimes by intent, but also by the language used in reporting.

Bias Extent is Debatable but Existence is Undeniable

A liberal might take issue with the order of some of my ratings of liberal sources or shift everything a notch to the right, but no one can deny there is bias in coverage.

Alert people can spot blatant editorial comments during news broadcasts, so those will not be addressed in this article. Here are a few more subtle examples:

Editorializing with the Camera

It’s no secret in conservative circles that the media preferred Mitt Romney over the other Republican Presidential candidates. Earlier this year, Newt Gingrich cancelled a speech and visited a hospital instead. While reporting the story, the CNN cameras showed the large empty auditorium and his wife reading stories to children at the hospital.

If CNN had wanted to be neutral they could have had the reporter say the same words in front of the hospital instead of the empty auditorium. In the second case CNN showed several other cameras taking pictures of her, implying that this was a mere photo op and not a genuine effort. Granted, nearly everything during a political campaign is staged for effect, but showing it goes beyond reporting the news into editorializing!

When some Presidents have serious conversations with people, they ask the cameras to be turned off. Others invite the extra media attention to bolster their image.

Ignoring the Important While Reporting the Trivial

The lead story on CBS radio news June 6 was about the California ballot proposal to raise cigarette taxes a dollar per pack. It narrowly failed due to 4:1 outspending by Big Tobacco, according to a reporter live in California.

Despite the record $70M spent in a small state, outside lobbying by Big Labor and national implications for the fall elections and the future of our country, the Wisconsin recall got one sentence later in the broadcast: “Governor Scott Walker survived a recall attempt in Wisconsin.”

President Obama was absent from the fray there except for a Twitter message supporting the Democrat (who was not Big Labor’s pick, either). Scott Walker won handily; his 7% margin in the rematch was larger than in 2010. Talk radio hosts pointed out that President Obama was busy at fundraisers while ignoring the D-Day anniversary for the second year in a row.

Conservatives hailed this as a victory for freedom of association for public sector employees. It may embolden governors in other states to balance their budgets, but the longer term implications may be for educational choice. Wisconsin already has a successful voucher program in Milwaukee, and expanding it to other students may outlast any star power Governor Walker enjoys at the moment.

Selection and Frequency of Stories

CBS’ 60 Minutes was classic yellow journalism in the late 1970s; my roommate commented he wouldn’t even talk to those people unless he knew they were on his side. You look bad if you decline to be interviewed for the program, but there is not time to meet with every press outlet and still do your job. If they’re going to cut and paste the interview to make you look bad anyway, why bother?

The NPR program All Things Considered is notorious for selecting stories that evoke sympathy to promote a liberal point of view. Conservatives usually can find such a topic in every half hour program.

The frequency of articles on a certain topic is the most subtle and insidious. Editors decide if a topic is newsworthy and have large influence over public opinion with how long a story stays in the limelight.

The Internet makes it easy to link to past articles, so on-line viewers can be assaulted with past headlines in the margin each time a new story appears. With a newspaper each article stands on its own and is not linked to previous articles.  

Even the way articles are written can be slanted. “His office did not return phone calls” sounds worse than “could not be reached for comment.”

NPR – A National Embarrassment

National Public Radio has thorough news coverage but is notorious for its story selection and the angle it approaches topics. It should be given its independence from government funding during these times when the U.S. government is overspending by 40%. This is a small part of the budget and will not solve our problems, but it is a start.

Like Planned Parenthood and other “charities” with controversial objectives, NPR could survive completely on its own with sponsoring companies and private donations from people who agree with its ideology. If we had a budget surplus, funding could be considered with oversight from people with all perspectives and veto power for controversial content that offends significant minorities. For now, NPR and Planned Parenthood should be given their freedom and defunded.

Conclusion

Most media people vote Democratic and hold liberal views, especially on social issues. Even when they try to be objective it is not possible.

A suggestion for discerning voters: spend some time listening to conservative talk radio or Fox News if you lean left in your views, or the mainstream media if you lean right. It may not change your opinion, but at least you will better understand how other people think and that they have reasonable opinions too.

Finally, don’t be deceived into thinking that you’re swimming in a neutral soup. There is no such thing.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Why, sir, I agree! I just just lecturing my sixth wife, Ekaterina, on this very subject! She's a Russian mail order bride, so she fails to understand the propaganda you find in America media! I'm glad that you've pointed out the media bias about abortion and gay rights! Because you and I know that both are banned by the Bible and Dianetics! We can't let people think that they have rights outside the Bible! What would this country come to if people started believing they were free to make choices!?! And I thank Hubbard for Fox News every day! If we didn't have them to give us our opinions, what would we do? Rely on those socialists at NPR? Don't get me started on NPR! Cluttering the airwaves with liberal tripe! Why, I had an employee who insisted on listening to NPR when we were in our euthanasia-mobile! I was quick to let him know that I wouldn't tolerate such noise! If I was going to make my fortune by euthanizing puppies, I wasn't going to listen to touchy-feely liberal nonsense like NPR! We were going to listen to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity! I may be missing most of my fingers on my left hand, but by gum, I can still push the plunger on the sodium thiopental! And if I pay for the mobile euthanasia van, I will listen to what I want! People who tell me what I want to hear! Conservative talk radio! Dr. Liam "America's Veternarian!™ Wolfpuncher III
John David July 17, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Bias in news reporting and opinion is nothing new. In America it has existed at least since the colonial era. In modern times, bias probably encouraged the lengthy, in-depth investigation of the cover-up and political intrigues that resulted public outrage, Congressional action and ultimately in Richard Nixon's resignation. It probably also had a significant effect on the efforts that resulted in the impeachment of Bill Clinton. So, media bias has always been around, and with our freedom of the press, it has played an historic role in America. Good or bad, depending on your own views and biases. But why do you list Crain's as neutral. Did you read the June 15 article on the new Detroit bridge? Line after line with all the supporting rationale for the bridge, and only a few words regarding Maroun and opposition. Since the bridge is an issue, a bad thing, according to conservatives, it seems to me Crain's is betraying a left leaning bias.
Chris P. July 17, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Yes yes, yes ... and The Detroit News repeatedly forgets to mention two of the four reasons that are on the petition to Recall Janice Daniels. Our local media failed to cover the fact that the 3 false library proposals all had ties to die-hard conservatives, including Bob Gosselin. Who, with Glenn Clark, is Janice's mentor. Until after that election. It's why you have to do your own homework. Much of the news is infotainment now. It's important to recognize who the solid journalists are and go from there. It's also important to understand our local papers and news stations are now very much understaffed, too; the reporters often change and don't cover it like a beat anymore. Fox is beholden to folks like the Rupert Murdoch. If you don't think that's an example of controlled media, you're nuts. He has money, and he can control what comes in our living rooms. Gray-haired, freaked out Americans eat it up. It's disgusting.
DCC July 18, 2012 at 05:19 AM
For humor, read "The American Left has been better than conservatives at framing the language of these two issues [a woman's right to choose and full human rights for all Americans] in particular. Even conservative economic publications tend to be liberal on social issues, sometimes by intent, but also by the language used in reporting." After decades of focus group messaging from Frank Lutz and the GOP sound machine where conservative talking points get multi-media dispersion 24/7, claiming that the American Left has beat conservatives in the messaging rhelm is ridiculous. For conservatives who believe gay Americans should be denied equal protection under the law, yes, the media coverage of the nation's acceptance of "gay rights" will be seen as "biased". Indeed, recognizing human rights has been a bastion of liberalism. It does seem that Dale Murrish would whine about CBS News coverage of "Bloody Sunday" where police used dogs and batons to attack blacks marching in support of voting rights in Salma as being "liberal" because the press coverage didn't consider the fact that the dogs needed exercise.
DCC July 18, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Finally, listing Fox News (sic) as "leans right" shows a major fault in the scale (even though a consensus agreement with one other person is a fairly weak research system). the problem is trying to create symmetry where there is none. The classifications that are more accurate would be Far Left - ** Left - MSNBC (4pm-10pm), Current (7pm-10pm), Huffington Post Leans Left - Troy Somerset-Gazette, Detroit Free Press, Washington Post Slightly Left or Right at times - NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, CNBC, Troy Times, Oakland Press, USA Today, New York Times, TIME, Newsweek Neutral - Bloomberg, Automotive News, Crain’s Detroit Business Leans Right - Detroit News, Morning Joe (MSNBC 6am-9am) Right - Fox News, Wall Street Journal, National Review, Weekly Standard, WORLD (ONE Christian perspective, not THE Christian perspective), Dennis Prager, Tom Sullivan, David Webb, Bill O’Reilly, WJR (We're just Republicans?) Far Right - Drudge Report, Breitbart.com, Mike Church, Andrew Wilkow, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck ** Far Right or Far Left: news outlets known to make stuff up that are unabashed lies to influence the political thought via the "big lie" mechanism.
SharonP July 18, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Wow, Dale. IMO, you are way, way off. You have Chris Matthews as "far" left, but you don't Rush Limbaugh as "far" right? Same goes with Drudge Report. And Fox News only "leans" right? You must be crazy. You should use your chart to illustrate the bias you write about.
Dale Murrish July 21, 2012 at 02:46 PM
I think bridges and roads should be owned by the government, however they are financed. Toll roads are my #1 pet peeve. Maybe I'll write a blog article about the economic benefits of freeways vs. toll roads someday.
Dale Murrish July 21, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Thanks for your opinion below, Darryl. It illustrates my point that we all have our opinions about bias in news media. For the record, I support MLK's cause for equal rights for blacks and would not have objected to the CBS news coverage of Selma at all, especially not in the way you describe: "dogs needed exercise." We have different opinions about abortion and gay marriage and can agree to disagree on those issues.
EHM July 21, 2012 at 05:39 PM
I was wondering the same thing about where he placed FOX and Rush.
K. Sose July 21, 2012 at 07:38 PM
The entire MSNBC network is "Far Left" and Drudge, Breitbart, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck are only "Right"? You've got to be joking? There are very few "Far Left" people in the media. Far left would be people advocating socialism/communism. Just because our right has moved to the extreme right does not mean that the whole scale moves. Here is a bit more of an accurate view of the 2012 candidates http://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2012 . Take the quiz and see where you fall here http://www.politicalcompass.org/test
EHM July 22, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I liked that test...I'm pretty close to Ghandi.
Doug August 01, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Just as I eat the foods I like, I read the "truths" I like. Rarely would someone with a strong opinion of abortion listen to the "other side" just to see their argument. Supply and demand. Truth is just a product and I buy what I like whether it's Drudge or the Daily Show. Many of you are probably not aware of the production process of a news outlet. Simple time and space constraints enter into the picture far more than media conspiracies.
DCC August 01, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Doug, yes, there is limited time available to broadcast a message. However, that does not excuse the tendency to torture logic and create false equivalences. For example, after exhaustive analysis, a study released from the University of California, Berkeley, on Monday confirming what mainstream climate scientists have been saying for years: that global warming exists, and that human activity has contributed to its acceleration. http://goo.gl/Fbp9W Given this and the underlying studies, news outlets should be asking why policy makers are even considering attacking and hindering the creation of rules and regulations that would allow us to react like sane, rational people. Instead, they most likely will continue to waffle, reporting what backers of the truth said in balance with the tales and wails of non-believers. It is the irrational extension of implausible things, like insisting that President Obama is not a Christian, that corrupts our discourse and throws logic to the wind.
Mike Lowry August 01, 2012 at 04:41 AM
I believe that the Patch's editor Marina Cracchiolo is left biased.
Katheryn September 30, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Where is the California Attorney General, and why is she letting this happen? Tell does this sound familiar, I have provided a link to a story on the Temecula Patch. Please read the story and watch the video in the story. Add this to all your facebook accounts, get the word out. http://temecula.patch.com/articles/citizen-reader-shares-mining-sounds

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