Wednesday, June 23, 2004

John Gallagher on Media Bias and Selective Perception

Bill, I would agree that the examples you cite of "loaded language" constitute bias. Other objective measures of bias might include story selection (What stories do I have to go to the international press or the Internet to get because they're not covered by the mainstream US media?) and story placement.

BV: Agreed.

The trouble is, I can probably cite just as many examples of conservative bias as you can cite of liberal bias in the mainstream media. Conservatives tend not to notice or complain when stories are slanted to their liking, and I think the same can be said of liberals. Both conservatives and liberals exhibit selective perception when it comes to media bias.

BV: OK.

I'm unaware of any objective empirical studies which prove that a systematic liberal bias exists in the mainstream media. If you know of such a study, please let me know.

BV: Which media outlets are 'mainstream'?

Also, I'm not entirely clear on what you mean by "elite media." Would The Washington Post and The New York Times fit the bill? Do you consider these to be liberally biased papers? If so, give me some recent examples of liberal bias in the news coverage of either of these papers. Editorials and columnists don't count.

BV: I gave examples of elite media outlets in the post that got this thread going. Yes, The New York Times is a prime example. It is still the most prestigious newspaper in the country, although its credibility is not what it used to be. And yes, the NY Times most decidedly tilts Leftward. You want examples? How about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal coverage? Look at where the Abu Ghraib stories are placed, how many of them there are compared to stories about the Nicholas Berg and Paul Johnson beheadings, and the language in which they are formulated. And ask yourself: What's worse, to be behooded or to be beheaded? And how about the coverage of the Iraq war when it started? It was reported as going poorly when it was going well.

If I am to convince you, the logically first task would be to sit you down with the NY Times, my red pen at the ready, and try to get you to agree that a particular piece of reportage has a liberal slant. If I can't convince you that a particular specimen of reportage is biased, then there is no point at all in far-flung statistical analyses. In the meantime, surf on over to Times Watch.