Free Markets, Free People

bias


MSM – the traditional Democratic ally?

I’m sure you’re watching the MSM give a huge collective yawn concerning the Obama video that has been surfaced showing an Obama that most of America hasn’t seen.

“Old news” they’re saying.  “We’ve covered it,” they claim.  Funny, I don’t remember it (oh, it was on MSNBC?  No wonder no one has seen it).

Meanwhile the MSM is fixed on 1985 videos of Mitt Romney and his stance on … Vietnam?

Ed Driscoll, via Instapundit, sums up a couple of points that are pretty much true.  First, he quotes Andrew Ferguson at Commentary, who makes a good point using the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle as a basis:

Heisenberg’s principle can be crudely generalized (it’s the best I can do) as follows: An observer can change the nature of a thing or an event merely through the act of observation. Observation all by itself can become an intervention. Heisenberg was describing how reality works at the level of quantum mechanics, where a wave becomes a particle and vice versa depending on how it’s being measured. But it applies, too, at the level of political journalism, where reality is even stranger. There, facts can become interpretations, interpretations can become facts, and events of no significance can achieve an earthshaking importance simply by virtue of being pawed over by a large number of journalists.

A typical journalist, if he’s any good, insists at least theoretically on the iron divide between observer and participant. At its best the press corps sees itself as a squadron of Red Cross workers, wandering among the combatants in a battle zone and ensuring their own safety with a claim of strict neutrality. The Heisenberg Principle of Journalism puts the lie to all that. You see it at work whenever a news anchor announces that “this story just refuses to go away” or a headline writer insists that “questions continue to be raised” about the conduct of one hapless public figure or another.

The story refuses to go away, of course, because the anchor and his colleagues won’t let it; and the questions that continue to be raised are being raised by the headline writer and his editors. Reporters create more news than anybody, just by pretending they’re watching it unfold.

How often have we seen the absolute over-kill by the media on stories most would consider trivial.  It seems to always depend on who is involved, doesn’t it?   But, as Bengazi and Fast and Furious are proving, the inverse is also true.  The MSM can blatantly ignore what most would consider important stories as well.   Driscoll lists the exceptions:

Let’s.  And that’s precisely what the media is doing.  I’d also add to that list a litany of economic failure that is simply being ignored.

Or to put it another way, as the Washington Examiner notes tonight in an editorial, “To believe Obama is to forget the last four years.” That’s what both the Obama Administration and their palace guard are hoping.

It has gotten so obvious that even Howard Fineman has criticized the press for its obvious bias and its selective coverage.  Pat Caudell went off on the media just the other day.

The intent of the media?  To drag their chosen one across the finish line regardless of how poorly he’s done.   There seems to be no attempt to hide it anymore.  Simply peruse the stories of the day, identify what should be the stories of the day (a useful tool is to identify something not being covered and say to one’s self “if that were a Republican president …”), and it becomes clear which side, literally, the press is on.

Tonight is going to be interesting as well.  We’ll see how subtle the “moderators” of the debate are going to be about their bias by the questions they ask.  Will they focus on the economy, the unfulfilled Obama promises, the disaster his foreign policy has become, ObamaCare and its cost, etc.  Or are we going to talk about “lady parts”, what Romney said in 1985 and the evil Bain corporation.

My guess?  Not much economy, not much Obama record, lots about Mitt’s past (with the excuse that we know about Obama, but this is an opportunity to introduce America to Romney).

~McQ
Twitter: @McQandO
Facebook: QandO


Media bias? Majority of likely voters say yes

This can’t help the mainstream media’s already battered reputation or it’s constant claim of objective political reporting:

Likely voters, by a five-to-one margin, believe that America’s media is in President Obama’s pocket and will treat his candidacy better than challenger Mitt Romney’s as the election nears, according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll.

The startling numbers point to an even more disturbing trend for the media: Reporters just aren’t trusted to deliver the news in an unbiased fashion. The proof: Rasmussen found that when it comes to information about the presidential campaign, 48 percent of likely voters trust friends and family while just 26 percent trust reporters.

In fact, it’s even worse than those two lead paragraphs in the story:

The poll found that 59 percent of likely voters believe that the media has given Obama better treatment than Romney, a view Team Obama doesn’t agree with. Just 18 percent believe the media has treated Romney better.

Whether or not “Team Obama” agrees is irrelevant.  In politics, perception is reality.  And the reality is a large majority of likely voters (the key demographic) find the media both bias and wanting in terms of fair, objective and balanced political reporting.

So what is the impact of this?

Well, for one, tuning the media out.  Few people are likely to keep listening to or watching coverage don’t trust.  One of the reasons for the rise of the new media is it provides an important “other side” to the coverage of politics.

Despite their protestations to the contrary, the mainstream media has been unable to convince almost 60% of the likely voters they’re unbiased and trustworthy.  That has to come from somewhere when you talk those numbers.  And it is unlikely it is only a figment of that 60%’s imagination.  They see the bias as real and they don’t like it or trust what they consider the biased outlets.

If you’re wondering why CNN’s numbers are at an all time low or why newspapers are failing this is part of it.  Meanwhile the new media is thriving.  It may not be objective, but readers and viewers know that, because new media outlets make no bones about it.  What these outlets provide is “the rest of the story”.  And when the rest of the story comes out, and all the facts are on the table, not just what the mainstream media chose to use,  it makes the mainstream medias bias apparent.

Another reason the mainstream media is considered to be in Obama’s pocket is that instead of asking hard questions and follow up, and researching a story, they’ve become a transcription service.  Whatever the campaign or White House put out is dutifully published or announced with little or any questioning.  When that is shot full of holes by blogs and on-line news services and pundits, they again look to be biased (when, in many cases, they’re just not doing their job).

The question, of course, is with almost 60% of likely voters believing that the mainstream media is in Obama’s pocket, what effect will that have on the election.

In the past the media has, of course, played a large role in helping determine who the next president would be.  Will the 60% disregard and ignore the media?   Will they treat it as a propaganda arm of the campaign and seek their information elsewhere?  Because of the perception held by a majority of the likely voters, will the media play a diminished role in this election?

All interesting and entertaining questions which we’ll have to monitor during this election cycle. 

I remember years ago, after QandO got started and blogs began having some visibility and impact, media organizations sniffing down their arrogant noses at these upstarts who dared to question their dominance and reminding everyone the difference between some loser in the basement in his pajamas churning out his stuff and a professional organization, with trained journalists and 3 layers of editors.

Well as it turns out, that difference hasn’t mattered.  The pajama clad are still around (and pretty well established now) and the professional organizations with trained journalists and 3 layers of editors have seen their reputations and followings dwindle.

You’d think, by now, they’d be clued into the ‘why’, but apparently its like economics to the left – it just doesn’t compute.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Facebook: QandO


American majority perceives media bias

We’ve talked about this for quite some time, years in fact (hit the media category for previous discussions).  And we’ve been told countless times by the media and media apologists that is just isn’t true, because, you know, they’re professionals.

But the the world of opinion, perception is reality.  People’s opinions of an organization or institution are formed around their perceptions of that organization or institution.  In the case of the media, it appears they have earned the reputation of a biased institution.  Whether they agree that’s true or not is really incidental.  Their “customers”, in the majority, believe it.  And thus, to them, it’s true.

The majority of Americans still do not have confidence in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. The 44% of Americans who have a great deal or fair amount of trust and the 55% who have little or no trust remain among the most negative views Gallup has measured.

That’s an earned reputation, especially after the last election when the media refused to the vetting of Obama that is customary for a presidential candidate while going into full feeding frenzy over Sarah Palin.  The difference was obvious even to the most disinterested of Americans.  And there are numerous other examples.  But primarily it was the obviousness of the political bias demonstrated by the media in that election which sealed the deal for many.

Key point:

Partisans continue to perceive the media very differently. Seventy-five percent of Republicans and conservatives say the media are too liberal. Democrats and liberals lean more toward saying the media are "just about right," at 57% and 42%, respectively. Moderates and independents diverge, however, with 50% of independents saying the media are too liberal and 50% of moderates saying they are just about right.

Interesting that those who see no bias but see it “just about right” are on the left.  Look up the term “confirmation bias”.  Notice there isn’t a category saying the media is “too conservative”?

What should the media as a whole take away from such a poll?

That they’ve lost the trust of the majority of America in their ability to report the news in a factual, complete and unbiased manner.

That’s a very difficult perception to reverse.  Trust is not something given lightly by most people.  And once violated, very difficult to win back.  The media has become it’s own worst enemy.  It refuses to acknowledge this perception of the public and thus makes no effort to self-correct.   And because of that the perception is constantly revalidated and the erosion of the trust factor continues.

Without the ability to self-correct, the media will continue with its business as usual.   And, as it has seen, on-line competition will continue to grow and prosper.  I’m biased and you know it.  You can filter that out.  But I make no pretense or claim to the contrary.

Perhaps full disclosure by the media would be the way to change the trust factor.  It certainly would be refreshing.  But, as I note, they don’t believe it of themselves, so why would they change?

And its not just Gallup finding these things:

In a report released Thursday, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found record-high negativity toward the media on 9 of 12 core measures it tracks.

Hope they enjoy their earned reputation.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Shocking news–public sees media as biased

I know, I know, you’re asking “how in the world can that be”?

Uh, where were you during the last presidential election cycle?

Seriously, I think, as I mentioned in a recent post, that’s when it became obvious to even the most unaware.  And it hasn’t gotten any better if you’ve been following any of the recent political debate/theater:

Likely voters hold a dismal view of the news media, generally regarding reporters as biased, unethical and too close to the politicians they purport to cover, according to a new poll for The Hill.

A full 68 percent of voters consider the news media biased, the poll found. Most, 46 percent, believe the media generally favor Democrats, while 22 percent said they believe Republicans are favored, with 28 percent saying the media is reasonably balanced.

“Dismal view”.  Pretty descriptive, no?  The only thing the numbers in the cite make you wonder is where the 28% who think it is reasonably balanced get their news.

The share of voters who believe the media are too friendly with politicians is almost twice as large as those who find their coverage of politicians appropriate. Forty-four percent of voters assert the former; only 24 percent believe the latter.

I think those who believe the media are too friendly with politicians is absolutely correct.   It’s hard to maintain objectivity and ask hard questions when a reporter who does so suddenly finds access more and more limited.   The “go along to get along” syndrome is certainly at work.   After all, no access, no job.  

More importantly though:

The picture is not much brighter on the general question of ethics. Fifty-seven percent of voters think of the news media as either somewhat or very unethical, while only 39 percent see them as somewhat or very ethical.

This comes from all sorts of things the media has done over the years.  From fraudulent stories to flat ignoring them.  Puff pieces and the refusal to hold different politicians to the same standard have taken their toll.  For instance is there anything we don’t know about Sarah Palin v. asking what do we really know about the President of the US?  Certainly not his college grades or much else about his academic accomplishments.  Yet the press descended on Alaska like a swarm of locust when Palin’s emails as governor were released. 

Given the results of the poll it’s clear the public thinks the media has earned this reputation.  And while I expect the media to reject the poll as an example of public ignorance (after all you can’t be a “journalist” until you go to J-school.  So how could you understand the intricacies of journalism ignorant peasant?).

Anyway, some other interesting trends emerge from this poll:

Self-described centrists and liberals, for example, tend to hold a less unremittingly harsh view than conservatives.

The proportion of moderates who believe the news media generally report on politicians in an appropriate way is, at 33 percent, almost twice as large as the 17 percent of conservatives who take the same view.

At the same time, however, centrists tend to think the news media favor one side in their reporting. Thirty-nine percent of centrists endorse the idea that the media favor Democrats while 19 percent think they favor Republicans.

There is some evidence of a gender divide in terms of the media’s overall stance toward politicians. Men are significantly more likely than women to see the news media as too friendly with politicians. Fifty percent of men think the media are too friendly; 38 percent of women take the same view. Twenty-two percent of women think the news media are too hostile toward politicians — a view that is shared by only 12 percent of men.

I’m sure none of those particular numbers would surprise most observers.   They track pretty much as I’d figure they would.   The media needs to pay attention.   More and more people are turning to other sources, especially in the new media, to try to get the real story on incidents.   The establishment media continues to try to ignore that.  They do so at their own peril.  It is obvious that the public wants objective news reporting.  It is going to continue to seek sources for that.   In the area of opinion, they’ll seek those whose opinions they respect.  But what they don’t want, as this poll seems to indicate, is opinion disguised as news or some lackey posing as a reporter lobbing softball questions at a politician while ignoring the hard ones.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Was it bias or lack of time that caused the NYT to get the Giffords story so wrong? Or both?

The New York Times public editor, Arthur Brisbane, engages in a little self-criticism of the Times.  It is about the Giffords shooting, and it highlights one of my critiques of the media for years.

That is, it feels the need to get the story out first rather than getting the story out right.  Or perhaps “feels the need” isn’t the right way to say that – the media has devolved into an industry where getting the story out first has become more of a priority than getting it out right.

The Giffords shooting and the Times give us the perfect case study.  First the premise:

JIM ROBERTS, the assistant managing editor who has helped create today’s NYTimes.com, likes to call it the 1440/7 news cycle — 1,440 minutes every day, seven days a week, each one of those minutes demanding news for delivery to a networked world.

In a word – wrong.

I don’t know about you, but as a consumer of news, what some might call a news junkie, I’m not demanding “news for delivery” in every one of those minutes.  Heck, I couldn’t absorb that much news – nor could anyone else.  What I want is factual, complete and comprehensive news delivered when it is ready to be delivered – i.e. confirmed and out of the realm of rumor.

In the case of the Giffords shooting the Times failed miserably at meeting my demand.  Brisbane details the failure.

A major breaking news event, occurring on a Saturday afternoon with a small staff on duty, with print deadlines to worry about and a Web site that needed to be fed as fast and as frequently as possible.

The Times’ first online posting came at 1:47 p.m., followed by two quick updates — at 1:53 and 2:16. These stories, pieced together from other news organizations that were on the ground in Tucson, reported the shootings and other basic facts, attributing word of the shooting to the congresswoman’s spokesman, C. J. Karamargin. At this point, her condition was described as “unclear.”

At 2:27, though, the story was revised to say Ms. Giffords had been shot and killed, attributing the information to Mr. Karamargin and “news reports.” Lower in the story, those news reports were identified as coming from NPR and CNN. As it turned out, the information was incorrect. The Times compounded the error by appearing to attribute it in part to Ms. Giffords’s own spokesman, who was not the source of the error.

Or said another way, the Times got it completely wrong and really didn’t know they had.  The question then is this – did anyone get on the phone to NPR and CNN or Rep. Giffords spokesperson and try to confirm the details?  Apparently not.

Enter the infamous “3 layers of editors”:

Here’s how the error was made. It was hectic in the newsroom with many news reports flowing in as Kathleen McElroy, the day Web news editor, was trying to decide whether The Times was ready to report Giffords’s death. She decided against it and was telling Web producers to hold off reporting it in a news alert when J. David Goodman, who was writing the story, told her he had a few changes he wanted to make.

Ms. McElroy said, “I should have looked at every change,” but she thought Mr. Goodman was referring to small stuff. Mr. Goodman told me he then erred by reporting Representative Giffords’s death in the lead as though The Times itself were standing behind the information. In any event, Ms. McElroy had said O.K. without seeing that change, so Mr. Goodman pushed the button.

And suddenly, the Times was reporting, unedited, the death of Giffords.

Brisbane entitles his critique, “Time, the enemy”.  I call BS.  It wasn’t time that was the enemy, it was the unspoken premise that says “it is more important to get it out first than to get it out right” that seems to have infiltrated the media.  Brisbane sort of admits to that in another paragraph:

The Tucson shootings afforded another, quite different illustration of the pressure of time in news coverage — not pressure measured in seconds and minutes, but pressure that news organizations feel to define the context of a story, to set up a frame for it, sometimes before the facts can be fully understood.

Note his choice of words.  “define the context of a story” – “to set up a frame for it”.  He claims that has to be done “sometimes before the facts can be fully understood’”.

Really?  How in the freakin’ world does one “define the context of a story” without knowing the facts?  Well, as it turns out, they’re reduced to making assumptions and those assumptions, in the case of Giffords, were wrong.

The Times’s day-one coverage in some of its Sunday print editions included a strong focus on the political climate in Arizona and the nation. For some readers — and I share this view to an extent — placing the violence in the broader political context was problematic.

It wasn’t “problematic”, it was, as one reader claimed “a rush to judgment”.  So what was that rush to judgment based on?

One would have to assume, given the Times admits it didn’t have all the facts, it was based in bias.  How else does one “set up a frame” for a story for which it admittedly doesn’t have all the facts or “before the facts can be fully understood”?  You go with what you believe to be true, that’s how.

And, apparently, that’s precisely what the NYT and a whole bunch of other news organizations, politicians, pundits and bloggers did.

So strong was this bias that the Times admits it missed even more facts available and germane to the story:

Meanwhile, opportunities were missed to pick up on evidence — quite apparent as early as that first day — that Jared Lee Loughner, who is charged with the shootings, had a mental disorder and might not have been motivated by politics at all.

Fancy that – with the story framed the way the bias dictated, the Times wasn’t looking for facts that might contradict or dispute their frame. 

Is that what happened?  Well, not according to Brisbane.  You see, it was a function of “framing protocols” developed “generations ago”.

My, my – you mean like this nonsense?  If this is the function of generational framing protocols it would seem to me media organizations would be taking a serious look at modifying them.

Jerry Ceppos, dean of the journalism school at the University of Nevada, Reno, said journalists’ impulse to quickly impose a frame on a story is “genetic.”

“Journalists developed automatic framing protocols generations ago because of the need to report quickly,” he said. “Today’s hyper-deadlines, requiring journalists to report all day long and all night long, made that genetic disposition even more dominant.”

Nonsense. It may be "genetic" to an organization, but it is hardly "genetic" in the real sense to reporters. It is what is demanded of them by the media organization. And when that is what is demanded, inaccurate stories and bias are what you will get. And that’s precisely what the Times got.

A self-imposed dictum of "publish or die" has overridden that of "get the facts, corroborate them and get the story right" that should be dominant in any media organization. This internal requirement to "get it out first" instead of "get it out right" has naturally led to short-cuts – like pre-conceived frames which can be imposed even "before all the facts are understood".

The editors simply make assumptions based on what they initially have heard and then select the "facts" that support those assumptions. In short, they establish a bias and then "support" it. Brisbane’s two pages of equivocation and "transparency" aside, that’s the short version of what happened.

~McQ


Observations: The Qando Podcast for 25 Jul 10

In this podcast, Bruce and Dale discuss the dissatisfaction about President Obama’s competence, the oil spill, and the American stranded in Egypt.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Media gets low ratings from public

Rasmussen has a poll out about the public’s perception of the media. The media in question is the old media, both print and broadcast I assume. Many of the numbers don’t come as a particular suprise. For instance, 66% of those surveyed expressed some anger at the media, with 33% saying they were “very angry”.

Only 9% felt no anger at all, a part of the 31% that said they felt little or no anger at the press.

The primary reason for the anger was two-fold. One they felt there was a liberal bias (51%), but more importantly, they felt reporters (who a slight majority believe to be biased) will write stories that help their candidate of choice and (54%) even hide things which might hurt that candidate.

In other words, the majority of the public believes it can’t get unbiased coverage of campaigns.

Nothing particularly new there. But something which did catch my eye was the 55% who think media bias is a bigger problem than campaign contributions.

And this:

Unhappiness with the media comes at a time when many government policies are unpopular with a majority of voters and two-thirds (67%) think the news media has too much influence over the actions of government. Sixty-two percent (62%) say what the media thinks is more important to the average member of Congress than what voters think.

I think the pubic may have a point here. The media’s influence is outsized, especially when compared to what impact it has vs. public opinion. How else does one explain health care reform? If you remember, it was only after the bill was passed that we began to see the analysis emerge from mainstream news orgainzations that began framing the consequences of the bill in a negative light.

Like politicians, the media has dug it’s own hole in the perceptions of the public. I think one of the reasons for the rise of the political blog is the public can get a different slant on the news, and, given most blogs proudly announce their biases, weigh the news with the given bias in mind.

Most blogs don’t play at being objective and many times that can be a refreshing difference, since you can then go to blogs which identify with each ideological side and get their versions of the same policy, event or speech. I think this access and availability to diverse but biased opinion has helped shape the recurring perception that the old media is biased. It sort of points itself out when you read an old media article and see the same sort of reporting on a politically biased blog site while finding another explanation (and sometimes other facts) on an opposing blog.

As has been said many times, perception is reality, and the reality is that most of the public isn’t buying the old media’s claims of objective reporting – and for a good reason.

~McQ

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