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Professor Groseclose Takes Another Look at Media Bias

By    |   Thursday, 04 September 2014 07:56 AM

As part of Book TV's College Series on C-SPAN, Book TV's Peter Slen interviewed Tim Groseclose, a professor of political science and author of Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind, a book intended to document a phenomenon with which most conservatives have been familiar since they became politically conscious.

As the nation enters a heavy political season after Labor Day, Americans will again experience ingrained media bias. Is there anything new to say about this? In response to a question from Slen, Groseclose explained the methodology he uses to measure liberal bias in the media. He has developed a scale that assigns numbers to politicians based on their roll call votes.

For example, he rated Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., 0, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 100 and the typical congressman, whom he characterized as a "blue dog" Democrat or a RINO Republican, such as the late Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., as 50.

He then compares the content of the media to the speeches of politicians he has already placed on the philosophical spectrum, and then assigns a number to each publication, such as 75 to The New York Times, placing that paper on a par with former Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

Pressed further as to his methodology, Groseclose invoked think tanks, which he also rates according to how their content matches speeches of rated politicians, with The Heritage Foundation at 0 and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities both on the far left at 100 based on how often they were cited by the media. He said he found both Lieberman and The Times citing the Center about four times as much as they did The Heritage, so he concluded that "The Times sounds about like a Joe Lieberman speech."

Asked for an example of unbiased media, Groseclose promptly named C-SPAN.

Other rating examples the professor gave were The Washington Times at 30 and the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather at close to 80. He acknowledged that the data were a bit dated. He estimated that MSNBC would be even higher than 80. He rated Fox's Brit Hume show at 39, not far right of center, whereas the average Republican speech would be 15.

Pressed still further, Groseclose told Slen he had been a statistics major and was quite proud of the way he had employed this background in his analysis, but he also called on a graduate course in "maximum likelihood estimation" from his Ph.D. program in statistics. He said he had his mother in mind as the audience, and she majored in interior decorating at Oklahoma State. The professor recalled that he had met his good friend Steve Levitt, author of Freakonomics, when the latter was in graduate school, and Groseclose was inspired to write a book that would be useful to a lay audience for beach reading, although he reports that his wife does not agree that it would be beach reading.

Asked whether he was blasting the media, Groseclose responded that he did some of this in the epilogue. He said he spent the first 10 years of his career studying politicians, and he developed a respect for them. However, he studied journalists for almost as much time and respected them less for the exercise.

The professor, who rated himself 13, called on journalists to be more transparent about their ideology, and he cited the oft-quoted statistic that 92 percent of them vote Democratic. He credited journalists with not giving full vent to this bias.

This writer would observe that since most people who care about bias know this, it's almost as good as transparent. Thus the book's contribution may be to provide statistical evidence for what conservatives already know about media bias.

As this is written, Groseclose has moved from the University of California, Los Angeles, to George Mason University, and for his next book he plans to blow the whistle on bias in admissions policies and practices at UCLA.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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As part of Book TV's College Series on C-SPAN, Book TV's Peter Slen interviewed Tim Groseclose, a professor of political science and author of Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind.
Groseclose, media, bias, rate
Thursday, 04 September 2014 07:56 AM
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