Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Media Bias - Does it favor Obama or McCain?

The New York Times ran a story about John McCain this morning called "McCain Laboring to Hit Right Note on the Economy." The Times was one of the few news outlets that accurately covered the true extent of McCain's meltdown, saying, "The sharp turnabout in tone and substance reflected a recognition not only that Mr. McCain had struck a discordant note at a sensitive moment but also that he had done so with regard to the very issue on which he can least afford to stumble. With economic conditions worsening over the course of this year and voter anxiety on the rise, Mr. McCain has had to labor to get past the impression — fostered by his own admissions as recently as last year that the subject is not his strongest suit — that he lacks the experience and understanding to address the nation’s economic woes."

Chris Cilizza - "The Fix" in the Washington Post - has written an interesting story about media bias. His premise is that the stories that are covered in the Drudge report affect which stories are covered on cable news networks. And, he says, the stories that Drudge chooses to highlight run counter to the prevailing bias of the mainstream media. For example, he writes:

"Drudge, believing that the media had gone overboard in its skewering of Palin, began playing up stories that highlighted Palin's crowds and the polls that showed that the Alaska governor had helped bring McCain back to even in national head to heads."

Crooks and Liars has a good section on media bias. I strongly agree with one of the posts there, about the commentary on the networks - even PBS - highlighting the Republican point of view, leaving the Democratic-leaning commentators on the defensive. I switched to C-SPAN after only a few minutes as I couldn't stand the "bloviated" commentary. (See Frank Rich's terrific piece "Obama Outwits the Bloviators.")

An August Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that most people say the biggest problem in politics today is media bias. The survey found that 55% believe media bias is more of a problem than big campaign contributions. An earlier survey found that 49% believe most reporters are trying to help Barack Obama win the election this year. Just 14% believe they’re trying to help McCain. Another survey found that the news you watch says a lot about how you will vote.

I think Sarah Palin's nasty remarks about the press coverage of her family have certainly resulted in the lessening of constraint in publishing negative stories about the McCain/Palin ticket.

What I find hard to understand is when the headline of a story sounds like it is pro-McCain, but the piece itself ends up favoring Obama, or vice-versa. This morning the LA Times ran a headline "Obama Raises Millions" which sounded like it would be positive for Obama, but the story began negatively, "TV crews are kept from two Beverly Hills fundraisers as John McCain mocks the Democrat's connection to celebrities."

The best option is when papers publish original documents for readers to draw their own conclusions, as did the Anchorage Daily News with Troopergate. Nothing like being nailed by a letter on your own official mayoral stationery, as Palin was by her recommendation of Trooper Mike Wooten before the whole divorce thing started.

Update: Click here to read Buzzflash's Media Putz award to Candy Crowley, "For reporting that is an embarrassment to the profession of journalism, and for being beholden to corporate paymasters rather than the citizens of America."

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