Archive for the ‘bias’ Category

the $200 million echo-chamber

November 17, 2010

Times columnist Thomas Friedman reports today on a classic example of the echo-chamber amplifying misinformation.  President Obama’s recent trip to India was claimed to cost taxpayers $200 million a day, an absurd claim on the face of it, but expoused by a Congresswoman on network television (Michelle Bachmann).  How did it happen?  It started with an anonymous source in an Indian newspaper, picked up by the Drudge Report, then…

Rush Limbaugh talking about Obama’s trip: “In two days from now, he’ll be in India at $200 million a day.” Then Glenn Beck, on his radio show, saying: “Have you ever seen the president, ever seen the president go over for a vacation where you needed 34 warships, $2 billion — $2 billion, 34 warships. We are sending — he’s traveling with 3,000 people.” In Beck’s rendition, the president’s official state visit to India became “a vacation” accompanied by one-tenth of the U.S. Navy. Ditto the conservative radio talk-show host Michael Savage. He said, “$200 million? $200 million each day on security and other aspects of this incredible royalist visit; 3,000 people, including Secret Service agents.”

CNN’s Anderson Cooper tracked the flow above, because Bachmann had used his program to promote the false claim, and used the next program to correct the facts.  What a radical concept:  a journalist actually trying to get to the bottom of a story and find the truth (although it’s ironic that given the state of the current echo-chamber media his actions were regarded as noteworthy).


the politics of climate change

October 21, 2010

Tea Party supporters are among the biggest skeptics of climate change, or global warming, in spite of the scientific consensus supporting it.  We’ll examine this issue in class Tuesday, but the case makes a good journalistic issue.  Where do these beliefs come from, and has science become unduly politicized by media pundits and political leaders?  As one Tea Party supporter in Indiana demonstrated, it’s a mix of echo-chamber media, coupled with a strong sense of paranoia, supporting beliefs that easily take on aspects of religious faith.

“It’s a flat-out lie,” Mr. Dennison said in an interview after the debate, adding that he had based his view on the preaching of Rush Limbaugh and the teaching of Scripture. “I read my Bible,” Mr. Dennison said. “He made this earth for us to utilize.”

If journalism is based, in theory, on the pursuit of truth, then how are these beliefs to be addressed in reaching political consensus, when they are so clearly outside the realm of rational argument?  This is also a case where a balanced presentation of the competing views doesn’t yield a truthful account.

media decoder: gender issues

October 4, 2010

Here’s a recent study that supports the women and news themes to be discussed this week in class.

It is a perennial complaint about American television news: that the guests on the Sunday morning public affairs programs are not representative of the country’s diversity.

A new study says the guest bookings do not represent the population of Congress, either.

“In 2009 the talk shows told us (by their selection of Congressional guests) that the people who matter are disproportionately white, male, senior and Republican — disproportionate not just when compared to the American population overall, but also when compared to the population of Congress itself,” concluded a study published this month in The Green Bag, a quarterly journal supported by the George Mason University School of Law.

The Times decoder feature should be handy for other of your analysis.

board of “education”?

September 21, 2010

Here’s a great example of claims and evidence from a watchdog group, critical of the State Board of Education, which i mentioned in class today.  Ask yourself whether the claim(s) of anti-Christian bias are sufficiently debunked.  Excellent exchange of comments below by the way on the Ole Miss post. 

the media reality map

September 13, 2010

It’s not representative, either of the population or, as a recent study shows, Congress itself–particularly with regard to newsmaker guests on the Sunday public affairs shows.

the media business

November 16, 2009

If you don’t read anything else in the Times, the Monday business section on media issues should be a must for “critical issues in journalism.”  On opinion-oriented cable news, MSNBC is called progressive but not partisan.  Partisan means supporting the party no matter what, while non-partisan, ideological means critiquing even like-minded partisans:articleInline-1

While much attention has been paid to the feud between the Fox News Channel and the White House, the Obama administration is now facing criticism of a different sort from Ms. Maddow, Keith Olbermann and other progressive hosts on MSNBC, who are using their nightly news-and-views-casts to measure what she calls “the distance between Obama’s rhetoric and his actions.”

Elsewhere, signs of the fluid definition of “journalism” are found in a couple of interesting places:  (1) the decision of Chicago prosecutors to go after Northwestern University student reporters (because that’s now increasingly where real journalism is happening) and (2) the Secretary of the Treasury inviting financial bloggers to a round-table discussion, another example of the Obama administration’s sophistication when it comes to adapting to new media realities.

Dobbs out at “opinion-free” CNN

November 13, 2009

The resignation of Lou Dobbs at CNN follows the general reshuffling of cable news to reflect ideological niche markets–with CNN striving for the audience that prefers its news in the more “objective” tradition.  It’s good news for those who saw Dobbs as a fear-monger, spreading rumors and unsubstantiated charges, particularly about immigration issues but including other fringe conversations like the “birther” movement.  Today’s Times has the story:business_111309

Mr. Dobbs had been the target of a campaign by Hispanic groups and media watchdogs who accused him of spreading misinformation. The media monitoring organization Media Matters even bought ads on competing networks condemning CNN for employing Mr. Dobbs.

On Thursday, the leaders of those anti-Dobbs campaigns said they were convinced they hastened the anchor’s departure and declared a victory. But CNN executives in private also sounded victorious — saying that they now have the opportunity to remake the 7 p.m. hour free of any anchor’s opinion.

So, on one hand it seems like a victory for more serious discourse, but more than likely Dobbs will find his way to Fox and retain his opinionated radio show.

crowd size and media bias

November 12, 2009

In analyzing media portrayals, one of the traditional measures of bias is estimates of crowd size.  Inflating the number of participants suggests a bias in favor of the social movement involved.  Visual inflation took place recently in a Fox program’s portrayal of the rally called at the Capitol by Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachman, with images of two separate rallies combined in the story to suggest a far greater number of attendees. s-JON-STEWART-large These distortions are now much more difficult to get away with under the scrutiny of the blogosphere and programs like the Daily Show. Be your own judge whether the juxtaposition of crowd video was purposive manipulation or an “error” as host Sean Hannity has now acknowledged.

yet another take on Obama vs. Fox

November 4, 2009

I argued that, contrary to the pundits, Obama might as well criticize Fox for its news practices, since he will be attacked regardless by its lineup of opinionators.

Support for that, and a good example of claim checking, comes from Media Matters that shows the Fox ratings spike some claimed was a myth.

“I sent Barack Obama, President Obama a fruit basket for all that comments because our ratings are up 20% since he made it.” [Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly]

“[R]atings at Fox are through the roof.” [Politico’s Mike Allen]

“Every time the president or one of his spokespeople mentions [Glenn] Beck or [Rush] Limbaugh, the latter two enjoy increased ratings and bucks.” [Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker]”


recent tracking of partisan news trends

November 2, 2009

Over the years, the audiences for the cable news networks have become increasingly split along partisan lines–with the sharpest split among Fox viewers.  MSNBC is split toward Democratic viewers (as is Comedy Central), but CNN is not much less favored by Democratic leaning viewers, according to reporting in today’s Times.

By 2008-9, the network audiences tilted decisively, like Fox’s. CNN viewers were more Democratic by 50.4 percent to 28.7 percent; MSNBC viewers were 53.6 percent to 27.3 percent Democratic; Headline News’ 47.3 percent to 31.4 percent Democratic; CNBC’s 46.9 percent to 32.5 percent Democratic; and Comedy Central’s 47.1 to 28.8 percent Democratic.

The question arises:  is that pattern because CNN is “Democrat friendly”, or has Fox been uniquely successful in luring away the more conservative viewers who would otherwise have watched a more mainstream, quasi-neutral outlet?