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December 19, 2005

This Just In; Media is Biased!

So says a new UCLA study:

While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

Regarding Drudge, later on in the report it's noted that Drudge is graded based on the bias of the stories he links to, which lean left. This overbalances his personal conservative tilt, but he doesn't do as much writing of his own as he used to years ago. So overall, the media is liberal.

This isn't news to the "reality-based community" (a term the Kos folks like to assign themselves, even though they've called the media "conservative"). This is simply yet another in a long, long line of evidence that conservatives have a tougher time getting their message out in the media.

Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS' "Evening News," The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Only Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume" and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.

Heh, and Markos of Daily Kos calls the media the "Right Wing Noise Machine". But when 18 of 20 top media outlets lean (or fall over) left, it's points out the wishful thinking on his part.

Of the nightly news shows, I find these results interesting.

The most centrist outlet proved to be the "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." CNN's "NewsNight With Aaron Brown" and ABC's "Good Morning America" were a close second and third.

"Our estimates for these outlets, we feel, give particular credibility to our efforts, as three of the four moderators for the 2004 presidential and vice-presidential debates came from these three news outlets — Jim Lehrer, Charlie Gibson and Gwen Ifill," Groseclose said. "If these newscasters weren't centrist, staffers for one of the campaign teams would have objected and insisted on other moderators."

The fourth most centrist outlet was "Special Report With Brit Hume" on Fox News, which often is cited by liberals as an egregious example of a right-wing outlet. While this news program proved to be right of center, the study found ABC's "World News Tonight" and NBC's "Nightly News" to be left of center. All three outlets were approximately equidistant from the center, the report found.

"If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox's 'Special Report' as ABC's 'World News' and NBC's 'Nightly News,' then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news," said Milyo, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

I find it interesting that folks who get outraged over Brit Hume don't recognize the same bias in ABC or NBC. And (no surprise here) CBS is even farther to the left. Is "Special Report" biased to the right? I'm willing to admit that it is. It uses contributors and sources that ABC, NBC and CBS completely ignore, based on the political stance. Rush Limbaugh often says that he doesn't need to be balanced by a liberal because he is the balance that's required for all the liberal opinionating out there (often disguised as news). Fox is far more centered than Limbaugh, of course, but they do have a rightward tilt that helps to balance the whole picture. But by the way they describe it, lots of folks on the left seem to think that Fox is much farther to the right than CBS is to the left. This study puts all of this in perspective.

When folks who say that Fox needs more liberal contributors start acknowledging that the rest of them need more conservative ones, that's when I'll start taking them seriously. Eric Alterman, call your publisher.

More thoughts and analysis can be found at "Oh, That Liberal Media", and Technorati shows all the blogs covering this.

Posted by Doug at December 19, 2005 11:40 AM

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