Monday :: Apr 18, 2005

How The Liberal Media Myth is Created (Summary)

by eriposte

[This is the consolidated summary of the series posted here in the past few weeks. The single-page link to this summary and the full series is here.]


Over the years a number of different approaches have been used by different individuals and groups (especially those on the Right) to claim that the "mainstream media" (MSM) in the United States has a "liberal bias" in its news reporting. Here, I systematically examine the most prominent of these claims, as well as other less publicized claims (by breaking them down into different classes), and show how these claims really do not prove that there is a "liberal media" bias (overall) in the United States

The main reason why most of the "liberal media" claims to-date don't really prove their case is that such claims don't assess accuracy of the news content at all. Clearly, establishing the accuracy of the content is the most challenging part of media bias analysis, which may explain why critics often attempt to "prove" media bias using other approaches, e.g., "tone" of media coverage, "catch-phrases" in articles, "newspaper headlines", "topics" covered, "think-tank" citations, journalist ideology or voting preferences, and public opinion polls. Of these, the only category that comes even remotely close to addressing a piece of the media bias issue is the aspect of "topics" covered - but even there, proving bias can be quite difficult; indeed, I have shown that the one serious study which used that approach was totally flawed. Another possible indicator of media bias is "think-tank" citations, but it is impossible to prove bias using citations alone - the content and accuracy of citations and associated news reports must be examined for one to make a credible claim of bias of any kind. Thus, a well publicized (on the Right), recent paper claiming "liberal bias" using a study of "think-tank" citations was totally flawed and incorrect because, among other reasons, the accuracy of news reports or citations was not addressed at all. 

Some critics on the Right have attempted to prove "liberal bias" by ostensibly looking at some of the content in news reports. However, even here, claims are often baseless for a variety of reasons: the critic's use of obvious unintentional errors in news reports, the critic's ignorance about the content, the use of opinions to distort straight news, superficial fact checking (and sometimes NO fact checking at all), or the use of various types of silly spin

Two other common approaches should also be mentioned. One involves the use of outright fabrications, lies or misleading statements to claim media bias - which has become a cottage industry of sorts, especially with the Far Right. The other involves the use of rank hypocrisy (e.g., claiming "liberal bias" based on actions, which when practiced by conservative media outlets, is not considered conservative bias, by the same critics). 

The sections below provide more systematic coverage of these different myth-making approaches. The bottom line is that, I have yet to see *any* credible study that proves that the mainstream media (MSM) in the U.S. has a "liberal bias" overall. As an aside, let me add that I am fully aware that absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. Which is why, at Illiberal Conservative Media, I am amassing evidence to show why the mainstream media in the U.S. is not liberal (i.e., it is illiberal) and most often conservatively biased.


Part 1: Using "tone" of media coverage

Part 2: Using "catch-phrases" like 'right-wing extremist' v. 'left-wing extremist'

Part 3: Using "newspaper headlines"

Part 4: Using "topics" covered

Part 5: Using "think-tank" citations

Part 6: Using journalist ideology or voting preferences

Part 7: Using public opinion polls on media bias

Part 8: Using obvious, unintentional errors in news reports

Part 9: Using [the critic's] ignorance

Part 10: Using opinions to distort straight news

Part 11: Using superficial fact checking

Part 12: Using no fact checking

Part 13: Using rank hypocrisy

Part 14: Using outright fabrications, lies or misleading statements

Part 15: Using miscellaneous spin

eriposte :: 7:23 AM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!