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Media Bias Update

I don’t care too much about the “bias” in the media, though I have no doubt that it exists. For those who want some scientific proof of the existence of such bias, Professor Tim Groseclose has a new book with evidence:

To measure media bias, Professor Groseclose examines the political content of news and converts the content into an SQ, or “slant quotient.” To determine bias, he compares SQs of news outlets to the PQs, or “political quotients,” of voters and politicians. Professor Groseclose contends that the general leftward bias of the media has shifted the PQ of the average American by about 20 points on a scale of 100, the difference between (i) the current political views of the average American and (ii) the political views of the average resident of Orange County, California or Salt Lake County, Utah. With the kind permission of Professor Groseclose and his publisher, we excerpted the book in six installments accessible here.

I’d recommend reading the book in conjunction with the terrific Myth of the Rational Voter from Bryan Caplan. I think it will be a nice dose of reality for those of you thinking that media bias qua media bias will spell the end of the world for freedom.

To fan the flames however, I came across this line from Politico this morning:

POLITICO — “Almost 80 percent of lawmakers might need to crack open an economics textbook before the congressional recess ends, a new study on Tuesday suggests. The vast majority of members lack an academic background in business or economics, according to a study by the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit group that takes a conservative stand on fiscal issues. Only 13.7 percent majored in business or accounting, and 8.4 percent have an economics degree (see chart above).

Now, go read some other news stories with quotes and analyses from places like the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the Urban Institute, the Economic Policy Institute and other similar organizations and tell me how many times they follow the introduction of the group’s name with, “a nonprofit group with a liberal stand on fiscal issues.” You’ll never see it. But I think such omissions say more about the general quality of journalism than it does the level of bias out there.

2 Responses to “Media Bias Update”

  1. Bob says:

    I actually have seen groups, I believe the Brookings Institute, tagged as liberal leaning, or words to that effect, though it is nearly as rare as hens’ teeth.

  2. Rod says:

    Who needs a study to certify the leftward leanings of Al Sharpton, Ron Reagan and Rachel Maddow?

    The question is this: does NBC News slant the news in straight news stories?

    When Bill Clinton was elected for the first time, there was no Fox News, so I had to select from the big three networks or the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour. At the time, George Stephanopolous relentlessly fed the news media with faxes rebutting any and all statements by George Herbert Walker Bush (GHWB) and his surrogates. Thus the news always began with a story about what GHWB had said that day, followed with a refutation scripted by the Clinton campaign.

    One news story then stands out for me. The day before election day, Charlie Gibson hosted on GMA an “expert” on body language who had written a book on how “nosewipes” were indicative of lying. Then the expert followed with commentary over news clips of GHWB speaking about the Iran-Contra affair and the October Surprise claims that he had committed what amounted to treason. When GHWB scratched his nose, touched his nose or even got his finger close to his nose, the nosewipe expert said, “There’s the nosewipe!” Charlie did not challenge the validity of any of this, of course. He also sat on his hands during the interview.

    And then there’s the dirty trick of releasing news films of Bill Scranton, Jr. walking around in John Lennon-style hippie robes, looking like the Biggest Frigging Doper in Pennsylvania. Not only did ads depicting Scranton run at the last minute, but the Inquirer and the Philly news media all reported that they tried and failed to get Scranton, Jr.’s reaction. Reaction? No, man, I’m not going to give you a reaction. What time is it? Does anyone have any ice cream? I’m hungry. (No, there was no “reaction.”)

    Bias also depends on where one defines the center of the political spectrum and the degree to which one allows or disallows the Law of Excluded Middle.

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