Media people again fail to do their job

Would it surprise any of you to learn that the media’s coverage of the President horse race accords more coverage, and more favorable coverage, to the Democratic candidates? It didn’t surprise me, but it’s still useful to see it in black and white:

Campaign coverage of the 2008 presidential election has been both biased and shallow, according to a study released today by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

One party dominates, and there’s way too much partisan fluff.

Numbers reveal all: Democratic candidates were the subject of half of the 1,742 recent print, broadcast and online news stories analyzed in the research. Republicans garnered 31 percent.

“Overall, Democrats received more positive coverage than Republicans (35 percent of stories versus 26 percent), while Republicans received more negative coverage than Democrats (35 percent versus 26 percent),” the study said.

Just as interesting is the fact that, while the public really, really wants to know about the candidates’ positions on the issues and their voting records during public office, that’s not what they’re getting:

The public pines for substance. A separate survey found that 77 percent of the respondents said they wanted more solid information on candidate policies and ideas. The press did not deliver.

Instead, almost two-thirds of the coverage focused on the “game” of the political horse race and candidate “performance.” Accounts of their marriages, health and religion followed in importance in 17 percent of the stories — with just 15 percent examining domestic and foreign policies. A mere 1 percent shed light on candidates’ public records.

“The press and the public are not on the same page when it comes to priorities in campaign coverage,” the study said. “This disparity indicates there is room for the press to calibrate its coverage differently to make it more useful and possibly more interesting to citizens.”

You can read (and weep over) the rest of the report here.

Hat tip: American Thinker

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24 Responses

  1. “Overall, Democrats received more positive coverage than Republicans (35 percent of stories versus 26 percent), while Republicans received more negative coverage than Democrats (35 percent versus 26 percent),” the study said.

    The percentages are only a gross and rather inaccurate method to analyze the quality or even quantity of propaganda being used.

    After all, would not the Rather documents be counted statistically as one incident? Yet such an operation, if it had succeded, would not only be reproduced, clone wise, multiple times, but it would also would be characterized as high quality propaganda from 60 minutes.

    Without organized methods, “positive” and “negative” are meaningless. They are simply random fluctuations that are too weak to truly influence the gross decisions of a group of people.

    Humans respond to organization.

    “The press and the public are not on the same page when it comes to priorities in campaign coverage,” the study said. “This disparity indicates there is room for the press to calibrate its coverage differently to make it more useful and possibly more interesting to citizens.”

    Obviously the author has not been clued in on the fact of life that the press are not here to inform anyone. The press are here to make sure that citizens know what they are worthy of being informed of. It is a tasking requirement, after all. “All the news that is fit to print” also implies that it is all the news that you are fit to read. It has always been thus, it has just become more fractious now that the average citizen has access to better data cataloging and search databases than the reporters themselves, should the citizen choose to exercise such powers. Choice, or free will, is an alien and not altogether agreeable concept to the Left.

  2. Hello BookWorm. I was so entranced by your arguments regarding Glenn Greenwald’s selective use of elisions to make “smarmy” points that I read your entry on this new media study/survey from Harvard with great avidity.

    Allow me to quote your lead-in: “Would it surprise any of you to learn that the media’s coverage of the President horse race accords more coverage, and more favorable coverage, to the Democratic candidates? It didn’t surprise me, but it’s still useful to see it in black and white.”

    Eager was I to go to the links you provided, confident that they were direct to the study in question. Sure Greenwald did that too, used a link to make the full, contextualized source info availabe (although you disapproved, an odd thing there). But I support the hyperlink method myself. Clickin’s easy.

    Alas, your hyperlink went only to a) The Washington Times, which offered no link at all to the study; and to American Thinker, whose link to the study was actually a link to the selfsame WashTimes artilce. Hmm.

    So I went on google and found the study. It offered some, er, context regarding you pained remark that the coverage is, to paraphrase, “more favorable” to Dems. Here is one “key finding” from the study:

    — (direct quote): Most of that difference in tone, however, can be attributed to the friendly coverage of Obama (47% positive) and the critical coverage of McCain (just 12% positive.) When those two candidates are removed from the field, the tone of coverage for the two parties is virtually identical.

    Hmm – so while technically correct, your statement omits facts that might be pertinent to any fair-minded intellectual elephant listening in the living room. Let’s move on:

    — (direct quote) Meanwhile, the tone of coverage of the two party front-runners, New York Senator Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, was virtually identical, and more negative than positive, according to the study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

    Hmm. Indeed, Hillary’s negative coverage is nearly a point higher than Rudy’s. More elephant fodder, i’faith. … and wait ,,, there is this:

    — (direct quote) Just five candidates have been the focus of more than half of all the coverage. Hillary Clinton received the most (17% of stories), though she can thank the overwhelming and largely negative attention of conservative talk radio hosts for much of the edge in total volume.

    My my my. What do you know about that. But of course you knew all this, because you would never have ignored the fuller context just to make a point that fit a worldview. And you didn’t use elipses.

  3. Oh wormy, you are so busted. Hard to think of a more deserving bustee.

    Please tell me you do not take people’s money for your “lawyering” skills.

  4. check the words integrity and honesty in the dictionary, bookworm.
    They must be of foreign origin to you

  5. Zuzu — your offended sensibilitilities are touching. Most lawyers are shameless propagandists for their paying clients. When they are in court they usually have to be more careful than this because if they get caught by the judge at this sort of mischaracterization or misattribution they are going to lose their crediblity. Here, the judges (Bookie’s usual readers) are intellectually corrupt fellow-travelers, so no intellectual honesty or rigour is needed or even appropriate.

  6. Hi WDCHA,
    Thank you for identifying where the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s report on the 2008 Campaign could be found. It truly is interesting and I’ll have to print it out and read in full later. You take issue with BW’s characterization that a majority of the media is providing more positive coverage for Democrats, and more negative coverage for Repulicans, based on the report. You quote (directly from the report) Obama as getting 47% positive reporting and McCain getting 12% negative reporting (Actually, the report said 46.7 positive for Obama and 12.4 negative for McCain) You then say that if you remove these two candidates, the coverage becomes virtually equal. I did not find that quote in the report’s analysis. That is your analysis, and it is misleading.
    The report has many sections. I encourage all to read them. One of those sections is entitled “Media Sectons”. The report breaks down positive and negative coverage by different media groups, and subgroups. Print, Cable, Morning shows, Evening shows, Talk radio, and even a section for NPR. The only group which has anything like generally more positive Republican “reporting” than Democrat, is Conservative Talk radio, as if Talk radio is supposed to be straight news. Every other group has generally more positive reporting on Democrats, and more negative reporting on Republicans.
    There are other points which could be made, but I’ll leave them for others to make. I have some positive work to do.
    Al

  7. Wow, the liberal Brownshirts are out in force today.

    What an astounding coincidence that so many lefty trolls decided to spam your comments at exactly the same time. So are they all the same person, or just obediently following orders?

  8. Hey, WDCHA: Why in the world would you take Obama out of the equation? He’s one of the main Democratic candidates, and the media is crawling all over itself to promote him. That belongs at the top of the equation. It’s especially interesting given the media’s negative coverage of Hillary. People don’t like Hillary — even her own friends don’t like her. So one could read the radically positive Obama coverage as a bit of king-making, as the media attempts to create a viable Democratic candidate who won’t offend as many people as Hillary will.

    In other words, your a-ha! doesn’t seem to do anything at all to my ultimate point. But thank you for making it, because it did explain why you and your friends are comfortable with Greenwald’s approach to source material.

  9. [...] [Discuss this article with Bookworm over at Bookworm Room…] Share Article President, Democratic    Sphere: Related Content Trackback URL Please vote for Webloggin at the Weblog Awards by clicking on this link here, searching for the word “Webloggin” and clicking on the + sign. No registration required. [...]

  10. This report is obviously fake. The fonts and kerning are all wrong.

  11. Quick, get Dan Rather on the phone!

  12. AI – are you high, dense or both … ? Those are Direct Quotes from the report’s first page on line. Your sentence “That is your analysis, and it is misleading,” is thus afactual, untrue, not correct, not based on reality, a pure invention — what Patterico would call “a lie.” How can anyone take you seriously when you are this fundamentally unsound?

    Wormy, you really have nothing. First you scold Greenwald and those who enjoy his well-sourced if often hyperventilating work for elisions, even though he links instantly to the full text. Within nanosecs, in another post, you make an intellectually smarmy point about a study YOU HAVE NOT READ based on a link to a secondary source’s opinionated take on the report, which you have NOT READ. So you are busted for holding yourself to a completely different and far less defensible “intellectual” (your word) standard that you expect of Greenwald, et al. Then you make speculative points about the study — “the radically positive Obama coverage as a bit of king-making, as the media attempts to create a viable Democratic candidate who won’t offend as many people as Hillary will” that sound ludicrous given the frontrunner and inevitability status now conferred on the disliked Hillary. Petard, meet hoist. The elephant has come home to roost.

    It is TRUE that Obama received a giant media tongue bath when he became The First Major Black Candidate for President. Kind of reminds me of the tongue-bathing that McCain got 8 yrs ago. But i wasn’t making that point. I was noting how dishonest and smarmy you were being. To site, as do you, the immortal Laurie Byrd:

    “… They often link to a report, but then will cherry pick certain portions, while ignoring any favorable ones. In some cases, positive reports are not mentioned at all, but are omitted entirely. …” oh dear, now i’m excerpting. No doubt she meant the exact opposite of this.

  13. See, what did I tell folks.

  14. apologies for misspelling cite as “site.” dur.

  15. That’s ok WhyDoConservativesHateAmerica, only libtards care about spelling.

  16. What an astounding coincidence that so many lefty trolls decided to spam your comments at exactly the same time. So are they all the same person, or just obediently following orders?

    Balloon Juice, must be a euphemism for getting high, linked to her Green post.

  17. Hi WDCHA,
    Actually, I do wish I was more dense. My body mass index is consistent with the diagnosis of morbid obesity. Then I might live long enough to pay off my kids’ college loans.
    However, I am not so dense to fail to note that nowhere in the first four paragraphs of the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s report is there any mention of equalizing the media’s evaluation of Democrat vs Republican coverage of the Presidential campaign after removing McCain and Obama coverage. That remains your analysis, and your propaganda.
    You also ask, am I high?
    You have no idea. I truly hope you, and all of you, can have the renewing high of your own daily work.
    Al

  18. Al:

    I am truly astonished that I have to do this – when i read at Cole’s site that rightist ideologues and bushist 24%ers are willfully stupid as a general rule I thought for sure he was exaggerating. It simply can’t be true that they deny reality and unabashedly lie about things that are unarguably factual. And yet above Al asserts that I have written something that is in fact PART OF THE STUDY itself. THE VERY FIRST PAGE! So, to make this impossibly clear and easy, here is the LINK to the STUDY’s first page:

    http://www.journalism.org/node/8187

    Now, scroll down to the little headline that reads: “Among other findings from the PEJ-Shorenstein study:” and go to the the fourth (1, 2, 3, 4) bullet (bullets are little round dots of ink). Proceed to READ the text.

    WhyDoConservativesHateReality?

  19. I’m going to agree with WhyDoConservativesHateAmerica in this argument.

    A readers digest version of this whole affair:
    1. Bookworm and American Thinker did not link to the original study which would have provided the whole picture.

    2. The juxtaposition of point 1 with Book’s recent post: http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/2007/10/29/more-selective-editing-from-the-progressives/
    (Book, I love your blog and read it daily, but they got ya here. You took one on the chin, no big deal, live and learn)

    In my humble opinion, the study (which should be taken with a grain of salt anyway) simply reveals that the media is giddy about Obama and has a particular dislike for McCain. Apart from that, Giuliani and Clinton were treated about the same. (the grid in the very beginning of the study – http://www.journalism.org/node/8187 summarizes this)

    I understand why the press likes Obama. He is charismatic and interesting on the surface. However, as I hear him speak on important (to me) issues, I find him to be grossly under qualified for the job. The slant against McCain is something I do not understand. So the media wants to prop up Obama, so what? I have faith in Americans to make up their own minds (which is why the ‘media bias’ argument is weak)

    PS. from my experience of arguing on the internets, pointing out someones spelling errors makes the pointer look foolish and defeated

  20. John from Columbus: Yes, the media is swooning over Obama, because they’re in king-making mode again. But when it comes to Presidential elections, the media always finds a Democrat who is swoon worthy and goes into hyperdrive. It doesn’t change the fact that, this year, as every year, there’s more coverage, and more favorable coverage about Democrats, whether about one candidate or all of them. That’s my point, and no amount of finessing the details is going to change that.

  21. Interesting. Why are folks here acting so chldish? (WhyDoLiberalsHateAmerica and WhyDoConservativesHateAmerica, I’m looking at you.) The study has conflicting points that can be interepreted either way.

    The first page does indeed say that when you remove those two candidates discussed above, the media coverage becomes quite similar. However – on the eighth page, http://www.journalism.org/node/8197, the study shows favorable and negative coverage by candidate. Newspaper coverage, network evening news coverage, PBS, cable coverage, and NPR were more favorable to Democrats. Who’s supporting Republicans more? Talk radio, and Fox news.

    Perhaps it would be fairer to say that, overall, the media tend to get more excited about Democratic candidates than Republican ones, to the extent that the media get excited about candidates at all. Whether this is the result of a couple outliers or not, it will probably have an effect on the public’s unconscious sense of which candidate is “better” or “has a better grasp of the issues.”

    Question: Why the animosity? In the end, cultural and economic trends in the U.S. will have more influence on the long-term progess or regress of this country than the short-term goals of the political parties.

    Liberal people-folk: Worse case scenario for you, Ron Paul wins, gets no where with his proposals, and you have another chance at getting decent candidates on the ballot in 2012. Absolute worst, he flees Iraq, abolishes the income tax and IRS, and does nothing about illegal immigration. Et cetera. You can survive four years of this.

    Conservative people-folk: Worst case scenario for you, Sen. Clinton and Obama team up and one of them takes the Presidency, with the other serving as vice president. They flee Iraq, impose a health care system and preschool program, ban guns. Et cetera. You can survive four years of this. And then there’s another chance in 2012.

    Sheesh.

  22. Hey. I couldn’t get through to this page the other day. Anyone else had the problem?

  23. [...] A study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy has found that the media coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign was more likely to be spun in a positive manner toward Democrats than Republicans. The study also found that the press coverage of candidates was in sharp contrast to what the public says it wants from campaign reporting by concentrating on the effects that events have on candidates rather than reporting on how candidates’ stances on issues will affect the electorate. (h/t Bookworm) [...]

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