Wednesday :: May 4, 2005

The Media's True Colors - Introduction

by eriposte

In two previous series, I examined How the Liberal Media Myth is Created and Why the Liberal Media Myth Persists. One of the objectives of those series was to set the stage for an examination of the real nature and behavior of the U.S. mainstream news media - in terms of news coverage. That's what I intend to do in this new series, titled The Media's True Colors.

The purpose of such an examination is to both understand the media's real biases (which includes inaccuracies) and provide a reasonably comprehensive reference for average Americans, media reform activists, media critics, academics/researchers, politicians on the left, left-leaning columnists/talking heads and even honest reporters who are concerned with the quality of journalism in the United States.

There are a large number of areas or issues that the media covers on a day-to-day basis, so this effort, by definition would have to include many of those areas. Since I do have only limited time though, I am going to try and pick areas that I consider to be the most important. The broad areas of interest to me are:

  • Basic journalism (e.g., free speech, accountability, propaganda)
  • Politics
  • Economic issues
  • Socio-cultural issues
  • Other/General issues (e.g., science, media ownership, ideological representation, etc.)

In each of the above categories, I intend to address the most important topics.

A few important points of clarification.

1. I am not going to look at the slant or bias of newspaper/magazine editorials per se. Although I haven't looked into the correlation between editorial page slant and slant in news coverage systematically, history is quite clear that at least with mainstream media outlets that have supposedly "liberal" editorial pages, the slant in (or nature of) news coverage had almost no positive correlation to the editorial page slant. Now, by excluding editorials, I am not in any way diminishing the importance of reforming editorial pages - that is also important (as I've stated in the comments to my previous post). It's just that my goal right now is to understand the nature of news reporting, as opposed to the nature of editorial opinions. [Indeed, heh, why not use this opportunity to remind trolls of Instapundit's (sorta reverse) note in this regard (which he posted after being reminded that the Chicago Tribune endorsed Bush): "...I apologize for attributing to the editorial page the slant of the paper's news operation. I should have recognized that there's a wall of separation between the two...."]

2. As I have always done in the past, the terms "liberal bias" or "conservative bias" are used to reflect the media's OVERALL bias on a particular issue. It would not be surprising to find examples of both if we look at anecdotes or specific incidents - what is more important to understand is whether one is more prevelant over the other, i.e., how the media tends to behave overall. (Ultimately, my goal is to drive the media to be accurate and factual, regardless of which one is more prevelant.)

3. I use the term bias to capture both intentional and unintentional behaviors. Whether a media outlet's behavior is intentional or not is certainly important, but at the moment I am less concerned with intentions and more with the ultimate result. So, for example, if the media outlet is not overtly biased in one direction, but ends up effectively being biased because of the nature of the reporting, then the ultimate result is still a bias.

4. Finally, I also use the term bias to include inaccuracies, lies, and significant omissions (but not obvious and inadvertent misprints/errors). I understand that is a broad definition, but again, this is for convenience. We can sort out the right classifications later - I just want to examine broad trends at the moment.

P.S. In the coming days and weeks, I would very much appreciate readers letting know if there are important posts or bits of research that address the above topics.

eriposte :: 8:31 AM :: Comments (10) :: Digg It!