Washington Post Admits Bias Towards Obama

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on November 12, 2008

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Read the excerpt below (from Noel Sheppard's newsbusters.org posting). Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

…The Washington Post [published] an admission from its ombudsman Sunday that it was clearly biased towards Barack Obama in its coverage
of the just-concluded presidential campaign.

…[Ombudsman] Deborah Howell’s piece “An Obama Tilt in Campaign Coverage” … was published at the Post’s website Saturday… She said:

The op-ed page ran far more laudatory [complimentary] opinion pieces on Obama (32) than on Sen. John McCain (13).
There were far more negative pieces (58) about McCain than there were about Obama (32), and Obama got the editorial board’s endorsement.
The Post has several conservative columnists, but not all were gung-ho about McCain.

Stories and photos about Obama in the news pages outnumbered those devoted to McCain.
Post reporters, photographers and editors — like most of the national
news media — found the candidacy of Obama, the first African American
major-party nominee, more newsworthy and historic.

Aside from the numbers, the omissions were really what drove most media analysts wild. Howell agreed:

Obama
deserved tougher scrutiny than he got, especially of his undergraduate
years, his start in Chicago and his relationship with Antoin “Tony”
Rezko, who was convicted this year of influence-peddling in Chicago.

[Ms. Howell] did address the difference in vice presidential candidate coverage:

One gaping hole in coverage involved Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate. When Gov. Sarah Palin was nominated for vice president, reporters were booking the next
flight to Alaska. Some readers thought The Post went over Palin with a
fine-tooth comb and neglected Biden. They are right; it was a serious omission.

… admitting [bias in favor of Mr. Obama] after the fact doesn’t lessen the injustice or the lack
of journalistic integrity.

The press behaved disgracefully during this campaign, and America will likely be damaged by it for years to come. 

As
such, media outlets that actually recognize their failures should not
just admit them, but also inform the public what they’ll do to prevent
such negligence in the future. …

(Read the complete post at Newsbusters here.) 

Questions

NOTE:  A news ombudsman receives and investigates complaints from newspaper readers or
listeners or viewers of radio and television stations about accuracy,
fairness, balance and good taste in news coverage. He or she recommends
appropriate remedies or responses to correct or clarify news reports.
(Read more at newsombudsmen.org.)

1.  In his post about the report by Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, Noel Sheppard concludes: “media outlets that actually recognize their failures should not
just admit them, but also inform the public what they’ll do to prevent
such negligence in the future.”  Do you agree with Mr. Sheppard’s suggestion?  Explain our answer.

2.  Do you think that the Post’s pro-Obama reporting affected the way readers viewed the Democratic Obama/Biden campaign vs. the Republican McCain/Palin campaign?  Explain your answer.

3.  What news source do you use to get your news?  Do you trust it as fair and unbiased?  Explain your answer.