Tags: Liberal | Bias | Quantified | Media | Study

Liberal Bias Quantified in Media Study

Wednesday, 15 December 2004 12:00 AM

In its December 13 edition, the Weekly Standard reports that a pair of university professors has employed a unique research technique that is precise enough to assign actual bias values to each media outlet examined.

Developed by Tim Groseclose of UCLA and Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Missouri, the study is called, “A Measure of Media Bias,” and it reportedly measures with some objectivity the political leanings of publishers and broadcasters of hard news.

According to Robert J. Barro, the Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics at Harvard University, who discussed the project with the Standard, the professors “use a clever statistical technique to construct an objective measure of conservative or liberal bias in the news coverage of major U.S. television and radio stations, newspapers, magazines and the Internet.”

Barro, who is also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said the study illustrates “that the liberal inclination of the mainstream media is clear.”

Barro explained to the Standard that Groseclose and Milyo have developed a variation of the ratings of U.S. Congressional voting records issued by Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). It’s a 0-100 scale – the higher the score, the more liberal the position.

The well known rating system – when applied to the congress – uses a calculus that among other things determines how often congressmen and senators favorably mention 200 prominent think tanks in speeches. Those lawmakers referring favorably to conservative think tanks achieve a score skewed to the conservative or lower end of the ADA scale. Those referring favorably to liberal think tanks move up the scale – into the more liberal zone.

The researchers simply gauged the tendency of 20 prominent media outlets to cite favorably those same think tanks in news stories. The theory is that Media outlets, like the lawmakers, which refer favorably to conservative or liberal think tanks, move up and down the scale accordingly.

Whether the alchemy is foolproof or not, the results are telling. According to Groseclose and Milyo, the most liberally biased news product is the Wall Street Journal, with a rating of 85.1.

The New York Times’ rating of 73.7 puts it even with Dan Rather and the CBS Evening News – the most biased news program on television.

Meanwhile, Fox News with Brit Hume and The Washington Times rank as the most conservative, with ratings of 39.7 and 35.4 respectively.

Some mainstream outlets came out of the alchemy as very middle-of-the-road. For example, ABC’s Good Morning, America scored a rating of 56.1; CNN News Night with Aaron Brown a 56.0; and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer a 55.8 rating.

The only Internet journalist put through the ringer, Matt Drudge and his popular “DrudgeReport,” was just left-of-center, with a rating of 60.4.

Here’s a run down on how top media outlets scored:

A paradox, noted Barro, was that the major media is even more biased to the left than Democratic members of Congress.

“Thus,” he said, “if the political opinions of viewers, listeners, and readers are similar to those of their elected representatives, the political leanings of most of the media are far to the left of those of most of their customers.”

He says such mismatch could lead to some financial opportunities for conservative or -- at a minimum -- balanced, publications.

Some in the mainstream media agree there is a bias, but claim it is skewed towards conservatives and Republicans.

“We have an ideological press that’s interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that’s interested in the bottom line,” says former PBS newscaster Bill Moyers, who retires today from his taxpayer-supported gig.

Eric Alterman, a columnist for the The Nation and author of the recent book, “What Liberal Media?” also says if anything, there is a right-wing slant to the news.

“In distinct contrast to the conclusions reached by Ann Coulter, Bernard Goldberg, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly, Alterman finds the media to be, on the whole, far more conservative than liberal, though it is possible to find evidence for both views,” says a book description.

“The fact that conservatives howl so much louder and more effectively than liberals is one significant reason that big media is always on its guard for ‘liberal’ bias but gives conservative bias a free pass.”

But despite those protestations, Barro says Fox News’ success may herald a new era in journalism where the left does not thoroughly dominate with its bias.

“Fox News is probably only the beginning,” Barro writes. “Maybe the next conservative entrant will be a recreated CBS News.”

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In its December 13 edition, the Weekly Standard reports that a pair of university professors has employed a unique research technique that is precise enough to assign actual bias values to each media outlet examined. Developed by Tim Groseclose of UCLA and Jeffrey Milyo of...
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2004-00-15
Wednesday, 15 December 2004 12:00 AM
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