Americans and Their News Media

June 4, 2008

Here’s a post from a blogger observing the media’s treatment of Barack Obama.

I try to view this impartially and simply assess the situation. It appears to me that one can make a case that NBC does in fact have a bias toward Obama. On the whole, the numbers do show that he is getting the most face time. Whether this is a convincing case is a decision left to the listener. I caught a podcast of Meet the Press today, which included this week’s interview with Harold Ickes, adviser to the Clinton campaign. Tim Russert was certainly aggressive — as he often is — but I do believe the conversation was slightly more unpleasant than usual. I don’t blame Russert; this campaign is becoming more bitter because of its prolonged nature and the evaporating rationale for its continuation. Someone has to ask these questions.

The end result, regardless of any emperical evidence, is that both of the Democratic Party’s factions are beginning to dig in their heels and come to final conclusions. It appears clear that the Clinton campaign will claim that yes, Obama won the delegates, but we won the popular vote (or some mathematical derivative thereof). Furthermore, the belief that the media exercised undue influence will persist.

There is evidence that people, whoever they may be, are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the news media. Here is the excpert from the most recent Pew Research survey:

Most Americans (56%) have an unfavorable opinion of the news media, while just 40% express a favorable view. Positive opinions of the news media have declined since March 2007; at that time, 49% expressed an unfavorable view while 45% had a favorable opinion.

Women hold more favorable views of the press than do men, and Democrats hold more favorable views than either Republicans or independents. Conservatives are much more negative in their assessments of the press than are moderates or liberals.

I believe it safe to presume that this due in large part to election coverage this season. The only contingent to have a net favorable view of the media is “Democrats,” by 4%. The seemingly related “Liberal” category was close, but still holds a negative view of the media.

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Another Saturday Night Intercession

March 2, 2008

Previously mentioned: last week’s Saturday Night Live skit regarding the media’s portrayal the Democratic primary race. The most recent edition of SNL included another commentary on this issue, which is quite interesting. Twice now, Saturday Night Live has taken it upon itself to address media bias directly.

Hillary Clinton Does SNL

Outside the Beltway notes that this sense of partiality is odd, that it is more customary to make light of both candidates. I have to believe, though, that they are doing this in large part because no one else is. Moreover, the candidates are hardly being parodied at all; the object of the joke is NBC.

As an aside: this appearance, like Mike Huckabee’s, came off fairly well. Such a thing is always a risk. (Recall George W. Bush on David Letterman).


Expectation Bias

February 22, 2008

If you were to ask the average American if the mass media have a responsibility to the voting public, you would likely hear an affirmative answer from most. Just what that responsibility is, however, and how we should interpret it, is quite unclear.

Last Night’s Democratic debates were conducted, as they usually are, as a series of questions from the news media, from minds and pens that are somewhere behind the cameras, deciding which questions should be asked. The “town hall” concept is clearly an exception to the standard practice. Of course, someone has to moderate the discussion — and the media can serve to interpret the market of ideas and interests that stir the electorate. Do they?

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