Patterico's Pontifications

7/28/2008

L.A. Times Fights the Notion of Liberal Bias — Unsuccessfully

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Media Bias — Patterico @ 12:04 am

The folks at the L.A. Times are busy trying to convince readers of the Myth of Liberal Bias in Big Media. The arguments aren’t too successful when scrutinized, however.

First, blogger Andrew Malcolm takes on a study that shows journalists contribute far more money to Democrats than Republicans.

According to this article, the study shows quite a disparity in contributions:

An analysis of federal records shows that the amount of money journalists contributed so far this election cycle favors Democrats by a 15:1 ratio over Republicans, with $225,563 going to Democrats, only $16,298 to Republicans .

Two-hundred thirty-five journalists donated to Democrats, just 20 gave to Republicans — a margin greater than 10-to-1. An even greater disparity, 20-to-1, exists between the number of journalists who donated to Barack Obama and John McCain.

Searches for other newsroom categories (reporters, correspondents, news editors, anchors, newspaper editors and publishers) produces 311 donors to Democrats to 30 donors to Republicans, a ratio of just over 10-to-1. In terms of money, $279,266 went to Dems, $20,709 to Republicans, a 14-to-1 ratio.

Malcolm’s response:

Those same donation figures could also be used to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Republican journalists are a whole lot stingier than their liberal colleagues.

Very cute. Of course, that particular spin ignores research that shows that conservatives are generally less stingy than liberals, at least when it comes to charitable donations:

Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

I suppose the argument could be made that there are equal numbers of conservatives and liberals, but conservatives save their money for charity while liberals donate to political candidates. But that argument ignores another well-known study that showed “89 percent of Washington-based reporters said they voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Only seven percent voted for George Bush, with two percent choosing Ross Perot.” That study and many, many more discussed here.

Next we have a study touted by the L.A. Times‘s James Rainey (h/t Tom Maguire). Here’s Rainey:

The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.

You read it right: tougher on the Democrat.

During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative.

Network reporting also tilted against McCain, but far less dramatically, with 43% of the statements positive and 57% negative, according to the Washington-based media center.

Well, I’d like to see the full list of allegedly critical statements. How are we to know that they aren’t attacks from the left? “Obama sold out the left on FISA” would be a critical statement. So would “I hate the fact that Obama is moving to the middle on the Second Amendment and the death penalty for child rape.” That Rainey would seize upon this study as evidence that there is no liberal bias in Big Media, without asking these questions, says to me that Rainey really wants to believe that there is no liberal bias in the media.

Which suggests to me that Rainey is biased towards liberals.

Nor does Rainey appear to have ever watched Special Report with Brit Hume. Witness:

By the way, Lichter’s group also surveys the first half-hour of “Special Report With Brit Hume,” Fox News’ answer to the network evening news shows.

The review found that, since the start of the general-election campaign, “Special Report” offered more opinions on the two candidates than all three networks combined.

No surprise there. Previous research has shown Fox News to be opinion-heavy.

I’m not going to defend Fox News outside of Fox News Sunday or Special Report. The network is generally wretched except for those two shows.

But to accuse Special Report of having a lot of opinions misses a major point: Special Report each night features an entire segment of pundits giving their opinions about the stories of the day.

Of course they have more opinions. It’s like saying that the section of the newspaper containing editorials and op-eds has more opinions than the other sections.

Keep claiming that there’s no liberal bias in Big Media, L.A. Times. And keep using these laughable, easily refuted arguments!

It’s one of the ways we know you’re still liberal.

29 Responses to “L.A. Times Fights the Notion of Liberal Bias — Unsuccessfully”

  1. By the way, Lichter’s group also surveys the first half-hour of “Special Report With Brit Hume,” Fox News’ answer to the network evening news shows.

    The review found that, since the start of the general-election campaign, “Special Report” offered more opinions on the two candidates than all three networks combined.

    I think this shows some bias from Lichter’s group, the panel section that is full of opinions is in the second half of the show.

    For the record, as someone who has spent more than 14 years in newspaper newsrooms, it’s overwhelmingly liberal — no matter what any of these people say.

    Hoystory (08dea2)

  2. In my memory, there has only been one serious attempt to address the issue of bias in campaign reporting. Sam Donaldson, then co-host of ABC’s Primetime Live asked viewers to send in evidence of bias. A week later, he conceded that the response of people complaining of liberal bias had a point was overwhelming and convincing.

    Seared in my memory is one particular example: The Chicago Tribune was cited for placing on its front page a wire photo of GHW Bush that contained an unusual optical illusion. Bush was on the tarmac about to walk up the stairs to an airplane, and with his back turned from the photographer, he gave somebody a double-thumbs up. Where he was standing, a sign in the foreground that read “DANGER: AVOID THIS AREA” with an arrow appeared to be pointing right at Bush’s head.

    Donaldson said that the Tribune said that photo was the only one available at press time; Donaldson’s research proved that many other shots with more flattering depictions of Bush campaigning could have been used.

    In his #1 bestseller Bias, Bernard Goldberg wrote that after first laying the groundwork for a CBS News story that tackled media bias, then-CBS News President Andrew Heyward killed it, saying that everyone already knew about the leftist tilt. But every time one of those university studies confirms it (and we know how much the news loves those studies when they want to), the MSM either mumble about it or don’t mention it at all. This new George Mason study is, as Al Gore would put it, “an outlier.”

    L.N. Smithee (ef90eb)

  3. Hoystory wrote: For the record, as someone who has spent more than 14 years in newspaper newsrooms, it’s overwhelmingly liberal — no matter what any of these people say.

    I am sick of the two major newsweeklies abusing their power by trying to set the agenda for national discussion on the basis of the latest Obama talking points.

    For example: After Obama’s speech in which he gave his definition of patriotism came the Time cover with the flag lapel pin and the header “The Real Meaning of Patriotism.” Following that was a cover with Mark Twain, who was referenced in Obama’s patriotism speech; then, Nelson Mandela, headlining an article on “The Secrets of Leadership.”

    Newsweek is no less guilty; after a series of slanted stories in the Washington Post and AP took up the cause of eradicating the thought that Obama was anything but a devoted Christian, Newsweek featured a cover with Obama with eyes closed in prayer captioned, “What He Believes.”

    L.N. Smithee (ef90eb)

  4. …prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Republican journalists are a whole lot stingier than their liberal colleagues.

    Right, what a deep thinker. What’s next? The Nazis did not single out Jews for extermination. The Jews were the just slowest runners and they were the only ones who got caught!

    Perfect Sense (9d1b08)

  5. As JOM observes the study itself is not available on the website for The Center for Media and Public Affairs. Their last media report available is back when Hillary and Obama were still running against each other.

    They have an annual fee to get the latest stuff and it is really dirty pool to cite a study that is not available for general access to allow independent review.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  6. For the sake of argument, giving to Republicans is a political contribution, not a charitable one.

    Joshua Poulson (9ac18d)

  7. If Larry Sinclair ( who I think is a liar) had made the same accusations about Bush it would have been on 60 Minutes and the front page of the NY Times .

    Dennis D (ae900a)

  8. Malcolm trying to explain away the vast preponderance of Democrats in the newsroom is just pitiful. The guy is in terminal denial.

    Media bias for the most part is environmental, not intentional. Reporters hang around their peers, who tend to have left-of-center opinions, so they rarely encounter conservatives in a purely social setting. They seldom get to hear the other side of the story. In that environment, it’s easy to get a warped view of conservatives.

    So the reporters will say with perfect sincerity they are calling it as they see it. They are wearing glasses that displace things several feet to the left and don’t even know it.

    Bradley J Fikes (0ea407)

  9. Bradley is our honorable exception.

    The Pauline Kael remark is just as true as it was then. Of course, the quote is disputed.

    Mike K (586583)

  10. This weekend the LAT editors gave an explanation in response to the many complaints they have received re liberal bias (and against McCain) in their coverage.

    If you click the link, what was painfully obvious from the get-go is the title of the piece,

    “The candidates: Who makes the news?”.

    Directly below it the LAT ironically answers its own question with a large color photo of Obama before the worshipful masses. None of the written explanation mattered much after that…

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/readers/2008/07/bias-towards-ob.html

    Dana (b4a26c)

  11. Bradley, again you are the exception. I like that you aren’t compelled to wear the rose-colored glasses and tout the company line but rather look at your profession of modern journalism honestly and with a critical eye – not in an effort to disparage it but rather to try to make it better.

    Dana (b4a26c)

  12. Whatever happened to the idea of teaching these people the basic concept of reporting in journalism school? You are there to report the news; you are not there to change the world or to try to make things better — by straightforwardly reporting the news you will put out the information with which the people that receive said reportage can then go forth and make changes as they see fit. You are there to tell people what happened, not to tell them what to think about it.

    Icy Truth (9cedd0)

  13. LAT has been hemorraging readers for a long time. The management usually points to competition with the internet as the main explanation, and I have no doubt that the availability of free news coverage on the net is an important factor in the LAT’s decline. However, I also believe the Times has a well-deserved reputation for liberal bias in its news reporting that has caused large numbers of conservative-minded readers to give up on it.

    I know that’s what happened to me. Since college in the early ’80′s I was a dedicated subscriber to the LA Times and I had great respect for it. But over time the liberal tilt to its news section became too obvious to ignore. In story selection, story placement, and the way the stories were written, the paper seemed designed to ignore, denigrate or minimize issues important to conservatives. In the early years of Clinton I became fed up and cancelled my subscription. I have never subscribed again since, although I still occasionally by the paper from newsracks.

    I’m certainly not alone in this experience. I know of two other longtime subscribers on my block that cancelled their service in anger over some particular incident of obvious leftward bias. Multiply two or three fed-up conservatives per neighborhood by all of the neighborhoods in So Cal and you have a phenomenon that is too big to be ignored.

    But the Times does ignore it. In all of the discussion that I’ve heard about the Times’ decline, to this day I have never heard any representative of the Times conceded that it has a bias problem. I think that the idea that professional journalists let the their personal biases infuse their work is something that LAT management can’t possibly bring themselves to admit. (I also think that LAT management tends to view complaints of bias from what it sees as conservative knuckle-draggers are something that may safely be ignored.)

    None of this bodes well for the prospect that the Times will seriously address the problem. Every recovering alcoholic knows that you have to admit a problem before you can effectively address it. So look for more losses of readership as the Times continues to alienate on-half of the potential newspaper-buying population.

    Cicero (8438da)

  14. I’m visiting family this past weekend and they had MSNBC on a good part of the time. I don’t watch much TV and, like the vast majority of the country, I don’t watch MSNBC. Wow ! They make the Times look almost neutral.

    The Times is published in the heart of the entertainment industry. If Craig’s List can figure this out, why can’t the Times ? They are stuck in an old left wing time warp. The reason socialism doesn’t work is the failure of innovation. The Times, both of them, are examples. Traditional universities are about to be another as the market hands their heads to them. Bastions of socialism.

    Mike K (586583)

  15. I tried to point this out yesterday to someone.
    The LA Times yesterday ran the bias article… which by itself was about twice the size of the LA Times McCain coverage.
    Obama made front page under the fold, but article continued to a full page.

    McCain may not be asked tough questions… we wouldn’t know because no one seems to be covering him.

    SteveG (71dc6f)

  16. My actions regarding subscribing to the LA Times are very similar to Cicero’s (comment #14), although it wasn’t until after the Senate trial of President Clinton that I cancelled my subscription.

    Patterico, I think you’ve misconstrued Rainey’s report of the Lichter report:

    Nor does Rainey appear to have ever watched Special Report with Brit Hume. Witness:

    By the way, Lichter’s group also surveys the first half-hour of “Special Report With Brit Hume,” Fox News’ answer to the network evening news shows.

    The review found that, since the start of the general-election campaign, “Special Report” offered more opinions on the two candidates than all three networks combined.

    No surprise there. Previous research has shown Fox News to be opinion-heavy.

    I’m not going to defend Fox News outside of Fox News Sunday or Special Report. The network is generally wretched except for those two shows.

    But to accuse Special Report of having a lot of opinions misses a major point: Special Report each night features an entire segment of pundits giving their opinions about the stories of the day.

    Of course they have more opinions. It’s like saying that the section of the newspaper containing editorials and op-eds has more opinions than the other sections.

    Isn’t the pundit panel segment in the second half of Special Report? If so, then the Lichter report, according to Rainey, is saying that the first half of Special Report, without the pundits, is laden with opinion.

    Ira (28a423)

  17. Most people are smart enough to keep their personal biases out of their work.

    FYI: Here are 190 unkind comments LA Times approved on their month-late San Francisco / sanctuary / Gavin Newsom / triple murder / illegal immigrant felon article that ran Saturday.

    Wesson (f6c982)

  18. If so, then the Lichter report, according to Rainey, is saying that the first half of Special Report, without the pundits, is laden with opinion.

    Which means he has never watched the show. Brit Hume is as stolid as they come, and simply reports the news in a sonorous voice that would make Walter Cronkite proud.

    I’ve never heard so much as a snide remark after a news item. He saves that wit for the pundits, and that last segment from the late-night shows…

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  19. But, but, but, all these media outlets are owned by corporations. All good moonbats know rhat corporations are by definition conservative!!!

    Just airing out a stupid and frequently used liberal talking point against a left-biased media for shits and giggles.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  20. 13, Icy, this is the legacy of “Woodstein” and the WaPost bringing down a corrupt President who happened to be Republican and supposedly Conservative eventhough he governed like a Liberal.

    PCD (5c49b0)

  21. I’m putting my bets on the people of the US anyway. Every study that’s been done shows that people are very much aware of liberal media bias. It IS worth a guffaw that the LA Times would go to such length to argue something so inherently obvious and I’m certain that deals with their shrinking bottom line. I’d like to see more coverage on why so many journalists are so left of center. If the press would just embrace their bias, they wouldn’t look like such a bunch of liars. I’d like to see the LA Times run a story called “Yeah, we’re liberal, but that’s because (fill in scary sounding cause here).”
    Also, does it surprise us that several years of a failed education system has churned out a group of folks who are liberals? It also explains the exodus from public education from the middle class in our country.

    Carolynp (a200f6)

  22. could also be used to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Republican journalists are a whole lot stingier than their liberal colleagues

    Republicans don’t consider political donations as philanthropic. Democrats apparently do.

    PA (83a8c1)

  23. I would be willing to bet that most people in the media (and I am coming to hate that term – it is so broad as to be meaningless) are quite sincere when they argue against the notion of a pervasive *liberal* bias.

    Why? Because, I believe this has little to do with political beliefs, per se. This has more to do with enlightenment. As in, they feel enlightened, not liberal. Their world view is informed by this sense of enlightenment.

    Enlightened on abortion (it’s good), enlightened on homelessness (it’s bad), war (it’s always bad), enlightened on global warming (it’s real), enlightened on affirmative action (it’s good), enlightened on feminism (it’s also good), etc., etc.

    And, as enlightened beings, as caring empathetic folks, what are they to do? Of course the placement of news stories, the content of news stories, the types of stories covered will be informed by these views – they have an obligation, after all, to spread enlightenment, to illuminate the dark corners, turn over the rocks, exterminate the dark ages mentality they see as ever encroaching.

    The fact that their enlightened views so closely correlate with the central planks of the Democratic party platform seems not to cross their minds. And why should it? Why should they listen to the views of those they consider, well, unenlightened (who just almost always happen to be conservative Neanderthals).

    I agree with Bernie Goldberg on this one. For the most part, if a reporter thought it would get him or her a byline on the front of the NYT, they’d report on some explosive and salacious sexual tidbit of a major Democratic party figure (well, if the NYT’s publishers would allow such a thing). They’d at least try. This isn’t so much about whether they are democrats (they are, but this is incidental). This is all about a world view, which seems to be, against all odds, monolithically shared by a vast majority of those working in print and broadcast journalism.

    Eric (ea41a4)

  24. Drumwaster, regarding your comment #19, whether or not the first half of Special Report is laden with opinion could be debated between you on one side and Rainey and/or Lichter on the other. (At the start of the debate I would be leaning toward your position.) The point of my comment # 17 is that the fact that the second half of Special Report may or may not be laden with opinion does not have bearing on whether the or not the first half does, and therefore does not discredit the Rainey/Lichter’s point (as meritless as it might be).

    Ira (28a423)

  25. I think Eric nailed it with his comment about MSM journalists spreading what they see as “enlightenment” rather than a liberal political agenda.

    The really irritating part of it is that their “enlightenment” is the enlightenment of an earnest junior high school student. Their guiding themes are simplistic in the extreme: “nobody should say things that make other people feel bad”; “military action is always bad”; “its always good when the government takes money from people who have a lot of it to give to people who don’t have enough.” I could go on an on, but essentially the “enlightened” philosophy of the MSM boils down to something like, “mean people suck.”

    These folks aren’t sophisticated enough to even understand that there are countervailing principles are at least worthy of good faith argument: “true freedom of speech assures that some people are going to be made to feel bad by the opinions of others, but society is better off for the exchange”; “sometimes war is necessary to avert a greater evil”: “when the government deprives the producer of the fruits of his efforts, it discourages him from producing, which hurts all of society”; etc.

    This simplemindedness on the part of journalists and much of the Left in general is partucularly ironic in light of the persistent meme that it is conservative dullards who see things in black and white, while it takes a “progressive” to understand the rich nuance inherent in every political question. If there is a side of the spectrum that sees every issue through a prism of childish overriding principle, it is the Left.

    Cicero (8db983)

  26. #21 – PCD

    this is the legacy of “Woodstein” and the WaPost bringing down a corrupt President

    – If today’s reporters limited themselves to asking “what did the president know and when did he know it?” it might not be so bad. But they don’t. Now they describe the ‘feeling’ everyone supposedly has when Obama is in the room, and other such nonsense.

    Icy Truth (f0c2e6)

  27. Hooray for Eric #24 and (most of) Cicero #26 who make the most intelligent comments so far on this thread. Thier comments could be just as easily directed at any journalist.

    Liberal? Conservative? What do those words MEAN anymore? Liberal=corrupt tammany hall pork barrel feeder=Democrat=bad. Conservative=corrupt war profiteer=Republican=bad Those two words are meaningless now. Eric nails it. Journalists think its their job to save people from their ignorance. That observation cuts both ways on the political spectrum.

    As for “just reporting the facts” well, give it the old college try and good luck, but don´t expect people who dont agree with you to not start howling about your “bias” because you didn´t put the “facts” that they want to believe in on the front page.

    EdWood (9df7cb)

  28. The Times editorial admitted the editorials’ “center left” leaning — and you can argue about the “center” part — but claimed it balanced its op-ed coverage between left and right. So let me offer some specifics: Of its regular columnists, on one side are Tim Rutten, Rosa Brooks, Patt Morrison, Joel Stein, Steve Lopez and Al Martinez (the latter two appearing in the California section). On the other is Jonah Goldberg. The score: 6-1, lefties — assuming I haven’t overlooked any conservatives. And that’s not even counting the Calendar section.
    The editorial said its own count shows a balance in all op-ed stories. I think I’d better start counting myself.

    james fulton (86d115)


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