Media bias in the US

August 13th, 2008 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

JafaPete points me to a Rasmussen survey which finds 55% of Americans find is a bigger problem than big campaign contributions. Not surprising in light of the current presidential campaign.

So does this mean NZ should have a media version of the Electoral Finance Act? :-)

Well Rasmussen also found:

22% believe it would be a good idea to ban all campaign commercials so that voters could receive information on the campaign only from the news media and the internet.

This is the ultimate endpoint for the EFA – leave it all to the media, and stop all spending. Nicky Hager advocated spending controls should be in place every day of every week or every year.

Anyway back to media bias. I don’t think we have a huge problem in NZ, but there are some problems. It is natural that some editors and journalists have worldviews that influence their reporting. The problem is when they are not open about it. NBR for example is unashamedly a newspaper of the centre-right. I would say that the Sunday Star-Times is very much a centre-left publication – but they don’t acknowldge that explicitly.

The Herald on Sunday is whatever it takes to sell more copies :-)

It would be very interesting for someone to do some quality research on media bias in NZ. I recall a decade or so ago a survey of all major media outlets, where each was asked to self-rate their editorial and reporting position. One could redo that,and then do a survey of journalists on how they rate each media outlet on the same scale.

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23 Responses to “Media bias in the US”

  1. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    Well it opens the door on poltical parties posing as independant media and bloggers… oh wait.

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  2. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    How is ‘bias’ defined? By issues covered/not covered? The line of the daily editorials? All we have in media in NZ is a whole lot of yawn-tastic stories about cats up trees in the national section; world reporting is by necessity done by overseas agencies and carried by every publication – the only stuff I can think of (soon to be added to i’m sure) to be biased is the columnists/pundits/commentators…does the Independent Financial Review qualify as ‘Left’ because Chris Trotter writes for it?

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  3. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    No stephen that qualifys them as “stupid”.

    Why anyone would be happy to give that hack money for his delusional Stalinist rantings is beyond me.

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  4. Crampton (214 comments) says:

    The best American study on media bias would be impossible here to replicate, unfortunately. Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo’s procedure works as follows. First, the Americans for Democratic Action score each member of Congress 0-100 with 100 being very liberal, 0 being very conservative, using Congressional roll-call votes. [Party line voting plus no equivalent to ADA here rules that out]. Then, Groseclose and Milyo look to see which think tanks are cited by which Congressmen, using that to impute an ADA score to the different think tanks. They then look to see which think tanks are cited as authoritative by which media outlets, and use that measure to impute an ADA score to media outlets. They found in that study that pretty much every outlet except for Fox News sat substantially to the left of the median voter, and that Fox was closer to centre (in absolute terms) than most other outlets. I love the study because it benchmarks bias against a reasonable measure of median voter preference. And, it also explains the very rapid rise of Fox News: in a Hotelling model, a huge swath of the public weren’t being catered to prior to Fox coming in.

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  5. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    Well Murray i’d be reasonably happy that my newspaper of choice wasn’t a one dimensional echo chamber…you’re delusional if you think he’s a ‘Stalinist’ too.

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  6. David Farrar (1,856 comments) says:

    Yes I have read that study and it was remarkable in exposing how one sided the news used to be,

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  7. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    I can’t believe I missed ‘the portrayal of statistics’ from my first post! E.g. “Recession fears grow” and “turnaround in sight” from Freakonomics http://tinyurl.com/6jjoe8

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  8. ben (2,399 comments) says:

    Damn, I was about to cite that study myself but Crampton beat me to it. The link to the study is here.

    I think its worth pointing out that competition between media outlets is an important source of protection from media bias. Fox News has made a killing in the US by taking advantage of a gap in the US media market created by liberal bias elsewhere.

    The endpoint of the EFA is not total control on private spending, it is control of the media – indeed when the EFA passed I recall reading warnings from several commentators (possibly including DPF) that this is what’s next. There isn’t a way that idea is not dangerous.

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  9. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    IMHO its Nicky Hager who needs the controlling A roll of duct tape or 2 to bind his hands feet and mouth shut would be a good start

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  10. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    Trotters “balance” is like bolt a bowling ball ro one side of a bike wheel stephen. How balanced is his “noble corruption” bit for a start?

    Follow that with all non-socialists are evil outburst and you have a cry for therapy, NOT journalisim.

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  11. PhilBest (5,117 comments) says:

    Yes, that is a very good study, Crampton. DPF, I think, as usual, you are being too apathetic about the penetration of the Left into the media and other institutions. Do you honestly think a study like that one you agree with above, would show LESS bias in the NZ media than in the US one? (As if the bias in the US was not bad enough).

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  12. Tauhei Notts (1,611 comments) says:

    Media Bias?
    Just listen to National Socialist Radio for a little while.
    It is nauseating.

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  13. Nigel Kearney (864 comments) says:

    Why not just ask the journalists who they vote for? I expect they would refuse to take part because they know what the results would reveal.

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  14. Buggerlugs (1,609 comments) says:

    Tauhei – you’re dead right. Having David Lewis’s ex-wife parrot the Labour Party line on Jim Mora’s show yesterday afternoon was vomit-inducing.

    And wasn’t/isn’t Brent Edwards an avowed communist party member? Wonder how close he and Don Franks are? And, puhleese, someone get rid of Gael “I Am The Labour Party Education Spokeshuman” Woods…

    PS Nigel – in recent memory I think the only journo I’ve seen lay out his voting choices was Iain Llewelyn. The rest don’t have his balls (or his devil may care attitude!)

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  15. big bruv (13,316 comments) says:

    Is he NZ media bias directed and orchestrated from the ninth floor?

    And if so is this the reason that Paul Henry has gone (been sent) on holiday until just before the election?

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  16. RRM (9,471 comments) says:

    If Paul Henry has been sent anywhere, it will be to learn that no-one wants to hear his worldly opinion on the news every 15 seconds. We want to hear The News. That is all.
    Honestly the BS (sorry, “wit”) never stops with that guy – even when the topic wasn’t politics and he couldn’t keep straight out bagging the Government and plugging His Hero Mr John Key.

    Most of it is reasonably funny to be fair, but it just goes on and on. After a while you just tune out, and come to expect that the breakfast news format will be thus:

    1 Factual news story
    2 Live cross
    3 Factual news story
    4 2.5 minutes of BS (sorry, “Wit”) from Paul Henry, until someone else manages to drag it back to:
    5 Factual news story
    6 Paul Henry throws in a little more BS/”wit”
    7 Weather
    8 as per 4
    9 interview
    10 More BS/”Wit” from Paul Henry
    ***Advertisement break***

    Honestly If I were in Paul Henry’s job, I would be too distracted by Pippa Wetzell sitting next to me, to bother much with prosing on with ream after ream of BS (sorry, “wit”) ad nauseam…

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  17. Buggerlugs (1,609 comments) says:

    Yeah but does anyone consider Paul Henry a journalist? Come on, you can do better than that…and Pippa needs to get her nose straightened, BTW, before she’d feature in any Top 10 list…
    PS If either of the local networks’ Morning programmes are considered news, then I’m a jelly tip.

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  18. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    Fluffy news at best buggerlugs…

    He’s pro-labour Murray, hardly an extremist most of the time…

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  19. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    Right, Labour being corrupt is a good thing but thats not extremist.

    Do you work for Tui?

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  20. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    Wonder if it’s kiwiblog’s fault or mine that I can only see the first 4 comments…

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  21. kiwi in america (2,437 comments) says:

    There was a study done about 8 years ago about the leanings of Radio NZ’s National Programme that I am trying hard to find. It was pretty definative about its left leaning bias but then its not rocket science to deduce that.

    Bias is hard to define as others have stated. NZ as a whole tilts to the left whereas the US is more centre-right. NZ media (with a few exceptions) largely reflect this political positioning. The bias in NZ media is obvious and very prevelant largely because so many journalists share a Labour/Green centre-left world view so they see their policies as mainstream and normal and would see anyone to the right of their centre as being right wing.

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  22. big bruv (13,316 comments) says:

    RRM hates Paul Henry…..must mean Henry is doing a good job.

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  23. PhilBest (5,117 comments) says:

    KiwiInAmerica, I think there has been a recent one done on the BBC, too, that showed rampant leftwing bias. So rampant that the personnel at the BBC were quite candid about it.

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