When Watchdogs Snore: How ABC, CBS & NBC Ignored Fannie & Freddie

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on October 1, 2008

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Directions

Read the excerpt below (from the CyberAlert posted at MRC.org). Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

The two mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — seized by the government September 7 before they went completely bankrupt… — have been in obvious trouble for much of the past five years — with criminal investigations, accounting scandals, firings, resignations, huge losses and warnings from the Federal Reserve that their huge portfolio of mortgage securities posed a risk to the overall financial system.

But prior to this year, the watchdogs at ABC, CBS and NBC found time for only 10 stories on the financial health and management of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A review of the three networks’ morning and evening news programs from January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2007 found nine anchor-read items or brief references to the companies troubles, plus one in-depth report by CBS’s Anthony Mason on the May 23, 2006 Evening News, after Fannie Mae was fined $400 million for accounting fraud.

It’s not that the networks [avoid reporting] business news. A 2005 report from the MRC’s Business and Media Institute found heavy coverage of the scandal surrounding Enron, but no interest in the growing scandal surrounding Fannie Mae: “A LexisNexis search of ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN on the term ‘Enron’ from the nine months around when the story first broke — Oct. 1, 2001, to July 1, 2002, produced 3,017 hits….A similar LexisNexis search was performed for the term ‘Fannie Mae’ for those same media, from June 1, 2004, to March 1, 2005, again during the time the story was breaking. This search discovered a paltry 37 matches.” See: www.businessandmedia.org

Read the entire post at mrc.org.  Several examples are provided of warnings about and problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that NBC, ABC and CBS did not report.

Questions

What types of bias is the excerpt below an example of?


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Answer(s)

The excerpt is an example of bias by story selection and omission.