Fair And Balanced?

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

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.