Blame the Media

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on April 25, 2012

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-Read the excerpt below from the "Best of the Web" post by OpinionJournal.com's editor James Taranto.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

From a post by OpinionJournal.com’s editor James Taranto (original post date 4/23/12):
[Mr. Taranto writes:] The media are biased, writes Howard Kurtz* of the [liberal] Daily Beast–but wait, it’s a man-bites-dog story**:

[Kurtz writes:]  During the bruising Republican primaries, there was one candidate whose coverage was more relentlessly negative than the rest. In fact, he did not enjoy a single week where positive treatment by the media outweighed the negative.

His name is Barack Obama. . . .

From Jan. 2 through April 15, Romney’s coverage was 39 percent positive, 32 percent negative, and 29 percent neutral, the researchers found. Obama’s coverage was 18 percent positive, 34 percent negative, and 34 percent neutral. That means Romney’s depiction by the media was more than twice as positive as the president’s. So much for liberal bias.

But the explanation, offered by Mark Jurkowitz of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, is telling.  Jurkowitz tells Kurtz that Obama “‘was inextricably linked to events that generated negative coverage’–including rising gas prices, the ailing economy, and the renewed debate over his health care law.” [Inextricably is defined as: impossible to separate: closely joined or related]

Poor Obama! He was just standing around, playing golf and minding his own business, and the media came along and “linked” him to all kinds of unpleasant stuff. Inextricably!

How was this “linking” accomplished? Let’s ask Arthur Brisbane, “public editor” of the New York Times: [NOTE: the public editor identifies and examines critical errors or bias at a newspaper, and acts as a liaison to the public.]

[Brisbane writes:]  Many critics view The Times as constitutionally unable to address the election in an unbiased fashion. Like a lot of America, it basked a bit in the warm glow of Mr. Obama’s election in 2008. The company published a book about the country’s first African-American president, “Obama: The Historic Journey.” The Times also published a lengthy portrait of him in its Times Topics section on NYTimes.com, yet there’s nothing of the kind about George W. Bush or his father.

According to a study by the media scholars Stephen J. Farnsworth and S. Robert Lichter, The Times’s coverage of the president’s first year in office was significantly more favorable than its first-year coverage of three predecessors who also brought a new party to power in the White House: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

Writing for the periodical Politics & Policy, the authors were so struck by the findings that they wondered, “Did The Times, perhaps in response to the aggressive efforts by [Rupert] Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal to seize market share, decide to tilt more to the left than it had in the past?”

I strongly doubt that.

Brisbane concludes: “Readers deserve to know: Who is the real Barack Obama? And The Times needs to show that it can address the question in a hard-nosed, unbiased way.” If the Times and other media outlets had shown that in 2008, perhaps Obama could have stayed in the Senate and escaped the fate of being inextricably linked to events that generated negative coverage.

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*Howard Kurtz, former media writer for The Washington Post, has been described as the nation’s “most influential media reporter.”  Kurtz has publicly declined to state his political affiliation. Conservatives believe Mr. Kurtz is a liberal.

**Man bites dog describes how an unusual, infrequent event is more likely to be reported as news than an ordinary, everyday occurrence with similar consequences, such as a dog biting a person (“dog bites man”). Newsmen say “Dog Bites Man” isn’t news; “Man Bites Dog” is news. What makes an event newsworthy is, in part, its unexpectedness or departure from the ordinary.

Questions

1.  Do you think the media generally portray President Obama in a negative light while portraying Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a positive light, or vice-versa, or do you think they report only the truth about each politician?  Explain your answer.

2.  In this excerpt, do you think Mr. Taranto is correct in his criticism of Howard Kurtz’s assertion that the media puts out more negative than positive stories on President Obama?  Explain your answer.


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
























Answer(s)

1.  Opinion question. Answers vary.

2.  Opinion question. Answers vary.