Network Morning Shows Display Bias

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on November 16, 2011

Jump to...

Print

Directions

-Read the excerpt below from the Special Report posted at MediaResearchCenter.org.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

From a Media Research Center Special Report:

…A team of Media Research Center analysts examined every Campaign 2012 segment on the three broadcast network weekday morning programs from January 1 to October 31, 2011. Our analysts used the same methodology we employed four years ago to review the [2008 presidential] campaign coverage on those same programs for the equivalent time period (January 1 through October 31, 2007).

These shows reach a sizable audience of potential voters: ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’s The Early Show and NBC’s Today averaged more than 12.5 million viewers in October, many times more than the combined audience for the Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN at the same hours (about 1.5 million viewers).

Unlike the networks’ evening newscasts, the two- and four-hour long morning shows can spend far more time delving into a candidate’s record. And unlike the networks’ Sunday morning shows, the morning news shows are not geared toward political junkies, but rather the everyday voters that campaigns seek to reach. Consequently, the broadcast morning shows are a prime battleground in the candidates’ competition for media attention and positive coverage.

For this study, our analysts tabulated the total amount of coverage given to each of the candidates, including all field reports, interviews and brief news items. Then they undertook a more detailed examination of the interviews conducted with either the candidates or their designated surrogates, tallying the airtime and the ideological orientation of the questions posed.

The results show none of the Republican candidates received the celebrity “rock star” coverage meted out to the top Democratic candidates (Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards) four years ago. Instead, the networks highlighted perceived controversies and gaffes among the [Republican] candidates. In interviews, the morning hosts hit the Republicans with questions drawn largely from a liberal agenda.

And, in spite of the terrible economic situation, Barack Obama was still treated mostly as a celebrity, with the networks providing the President and his political team a forum to trash their competitors, but offering relatively little scrutiny of [his] record.  …..

Four years ago, the network coverage promoted the Democratic candidates and cast their strong liberal views as mainstream. This year, our study finds the networks are disparaging the Republican candidates and casting them as ideological extremists:

Labeling:

  • This year, network reporters have employed 49 “conservative” labels to describe the Republican candidates, compared with only one “liberal” label for President Obama.
  • Four years ago, when Obama was a relatively unknown candidate, the morning shows also provided just a single “liberal” label to describe his ideology, and never once labeled Hillary Clinton, John Edwards or the other Democrats as “liberal.”

Agenda:

  • By a 4-to-1 margin, ABC, CBS and NBC morning show hosts have employed an adversarial liberal agenda when questioning this year’s Republican candidates. But those same hosts’ questions for President Obama leaned in his direction, with mostly liberal-themed questions.
  • Four years ago, questions for the Democratic candidates tilted by more than two-to-one to the left, a friendly agenda.

Tone:

  • In 2007, Democratic candidates were regularly tossed softball questions. This year’s interviews with Republicans have been much more caustic, with few chances for the candidates to project a warm and fuzzy image.
  • Despite the poor economy and low approval ratings, the morning shows continue to treat Barack Obama as more of a celebrity than a politician, airing positive feature stories about the President and his family — a gift not bestowed on the conservative Republican candidates.

During the 2008 campaign, the network morning shows acted as cheerleaders for the Democratic field. This time around, they are providing far more hostile coverage of the various Republicans who are running, while treating Obama’s re-election campaign to the same personality-driven coverage that was so helpful to the then-Illinois Senator four years ago.

If the real decisions in our democracy are to be in the hands of voters, then the news media owe viewers a fair and unbiased look at the candidates in both parties. That means asking the candidates questions that reflect the concerns of both sides — liberals and conservatives alike. And the syrupy coverage awarded year after year to the Democrats’ celebrity candidates in no way matches the pretense of journalists holding both sides equally accountable, without fear or favor.

Read the entire report at mediaresearch.org.

Questions

1.  The MRC study found that “Four years ago, the network coverage promoted the Democratic candidates and cast their strong liberal views as mainstream. This year, our study finds the networks are disparaging the Republican candidates and casting them as ideological extremists.”

a)  Define disparaging, ideological and extremists.
b)  Why do you think the network morning shows treat Republican presidential candidates differently from Democratic presidential candidates?

2.  Do you think the media’s uneven treatment of conservatives and liberals affects the impression voters get of the candidates?  Explain your answer.

Read the entire report at mediaresearch.org.


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
























Answer(s)

1.  a) disparaging – 1-to lower in rank or reputation : degrade; 2-to depreciate by indirect means (as invidious comparison) : speak slightingly about (from Merriam-Webster Dictionary, m-w.com)
ideological – a person who holds a theory or set of beliefs, esp. one on which a political system, party, or organization is based (from dictionary.cambridge.org)
extremists – people who hold a belief in and support for ideas that are very far from what most people consider correct or reasonable (from learnersdictionary.com)

b)  Opinion question. Answers vary.

2.  Opinion question. Answers vary.