Fair And Balanced?

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on December 2, 2009

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-Read the excerpt below from the Center for Media and Public Affairs' director Robert Lichter, published at Forbes.com on Nov. 16.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

White House staffers went after Fox [News recently] because of what they perceived as the … network’s trashing of the new Democratic administration.

A Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) ongoing study of the president’s television news coverage, which is being conducted by scholars at George Mason and Chapman universities, found that Fox News’ coverage of President Obama has been even more negative than its coverage of candidate Obama: From Inauguration Day to Oct. 10, only 27% of Special Report’s [Fox News’ 6:00 news show] comments on the president were favorable.

That sounds like proof positive of Fox’s negative intentions. …[However] during the same period only 35% of the evaluations on ABC, CBS, and NBC were positive.  So from the administration’s point of view, Fox’s coverage has gone from being the worst of all to merely the worst among equals.

Moreover, distressing as it may seem to a president used to unusually friendly coverage, this negativity is surprisingly normal. CMPA’s earlier studies found that the broadcast networks gave almost identically negative coverage to George W. Bush (37% positive), Bill Clinton (34% positive) and Ronald Reagan (37% positive) during their first seven months in office.

These numbers are too similar for mere coincidence; instead, they represent a historical pattern. Based on the experience of the past three decades, incoming presidents should expect to receive twice as much bad press as good press and plan accordingly. In the modern era of media politics, presidential honeymoons end with the transition to power. Once they try to put their agendas into practice, Republican and Democratic presidents alike are fair game for a media anxious to tell the other side of the story.

Obama differs from his predecessors mainly in the false hopes generated by sometimes fawning campaign coverage from jaded journalists who temporarily let themselves get carried away by his eloquence and the historic nature of his candidacy. When politics returned to normal, their coverage returned to form.

Of course Fox remains a special case among Obama’s tormentors, with its … conservative talk show hosts singing the same discordant tune. But odds are that the next Republican president will get the same reception from Fox’s liberal counterparts on MSNBC.  A GOP president will also have to cope with the growing trend among entertainment-oriented cable channels to feature liberal commentators, such as Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and HBO’s Bill Maher.

Across the cable landscape, reporting seems to be merging with commentary just as surely as news is merging with entertainment. In light of White House charges that Fox is “not really a news organization,” it is ironic that among all the cable channels that feature political news and comment, Fox is the only one that runs an old-fashioned half hour of nightly news modeled on the broadcast networks.

To be sure, this president can expect more criticism from Fox than from CNN and MSNBC. But to single out Fox as the problem, because–unlike other television news–it has morphed from a news organization into an adversary? He should be so lucky.

Read the original article at forbes.com/2009/11/14/fox-news-barack-obama-media-opinions-contributors-s-robert-lichter.html.

Questions

1.  How do Fox News evaluations of President Obama compare with the broadcast news shows (ABC, CBS and NBC)?

2.  What point does Mr. Lichter make in the excerpt above regarding the negative coverage received by all presidents in their beginning 7 months in office?

3.  CHALLENGE:  Fox News has been accused by the White House of being biased against President Obama.  While acknowledging that Fox’s commentators do criticize President Obama’s policies, Mr. Lichter makes the argument that the Fox news program “Special Report” is similar in its reporting to the broadcast news shows.  Watch Special Report (Fox’s 6:00 p.m. EST news program) and another news program – NBC, CBS or ABS for a week.  Compare the two programs’ reports of the same topic–does each report in a neutral way or do they give opinion?  List 3 examples.


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
























Answer(s)

1.  Fox’s evaluations of President Obama were 27% positive; ABC, CBS and NBC were 35% positive during the same period.

2.  Mr. Lichter makes the point that presidents receive more negative than positive coverage during their first seven months in office by TV news across the board – that incoming presidents should expect to receive twice as much bad press as good press from the media.  He cites the statistics that CBS, NBC and ABC gave similar evaluations to previous presidents: George W. Bush (37% positive), Bill Clinton (34% positive) and Ronald Reagan (37% positive).

3.  Opinion question. Answers vary.