Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Data, data, everywhere, but not a drop to think

Posted by metaphorical on 3 November 2008

Is anyone in the media capable of reporting a story that has numbers in it?

Study: Media coverage has favored Obama campaign

John McCain supporters who believe they haven’t gotten a fair shake from the media during the Republican’s candidacy against Barack Obama have a new study to point to.

Comments made by sources, voters, reporters and anchors that aired on ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts over the past two months reflected positively on Obama in 65 percent of cases, compared to 31 percent of cases with regards to McCain, according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

ABC’s “World News” had more balance than NBC’s “Nightly News” or the “CBS Evening News,” the group said.

Meanwhile, the first half of Fox News Channel’s “Special Report” with Brit Hume showed more balance than any of the network broadcasters, although it was dominated by negative evaluations of both campaigns. The center didn’t evaluate programs on CNN or MSNBC.

Let’s look at the numbers.

The center analyzed 979 separate news stories shown between Aug. 23 and Oct. 24, and excluded evaluations based on the campaign horse race, including mention of how the candidates were doing in polls. For instance, when a voter was interviewed on CBS Oct. 14 saying he thought Obama brought a freshness to Washington, that was chalked up as a pro-Obama comment.

When NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported Oct. 1 that some conservatives say that Sarah Palin is not ready for prime-time, that’s marked in the negative column for McCain.

ABC recorded 57 percent favorable comments toward the Democrats, and 42 percent positive for the Republicans. NBC had 56 percent positive for the Democrats, 16 percent for the Republicans. CBS had 73 percent positive (Obama), versus 31 percent (McCain).

Hume’s telecast had 39 percent favorable comments for McCain and 28 percent positive for the Democratic ticket.

So by this account, Hume is objective, while ABC, though better than the other networks, is partisan. Yet by the very numbers being reported, the tilt on Hume’s show is 1.39:1, while, that of ABC is 1.36:1.

But the study doesn’t even say that the media reporting is biased, just that Obama-Biden has come off better. That’s surely true, and should come as no surprise.

If the Obama campaign had lots of good things happen, such as good poll results, or major endorsements (eg, Colin Powell’s), and the press reports it, those are going to count as favorable mentions. And if bad things happen to the McCain campaign, they’re going to lead to reports that get counted as unfavorable. But that’s just reporting on what happens.

The “nonpartisan” Center for Media and Public Affairs is affiliated with the strongly conservative George Mason University, by the way.

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One Response to “Data, data, everywhere, but not a drop to think”

  1. Blue Athena said

    I’m a democrat; I voted for Obama. But the media was so Obama-biased I have to admit to feelings of nausea. Why? MSNBC and others reminded me more of FOX than of the media I used to respect. I know there’s no such thing as pure objectivity, but there are closer approximations — and the MSM just lost it this year. I’m actually frightened of the things I know they missed in their zest to win. If this political/media alliance continues i really fear for what this victory, for which I longed for some many years, is going to bring us.

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