My post last week about the economy struck a nerve, judging by some of the comments that were posted.
The question is whether the constant drumbeat of negative economic news creates an impression that the economy is worse than it really is. Keep in mind, that's a far different statement from saying the economy isn't in bad shape; it is.
A poll out from Rasmussen today says 50% of those surveyed think the media is making the economy seem worse than it really is. This is despite the face only 34% think the U.S. "has the world's best economy.
Only a quarter (25%) think reporters and media outlets present an accurate picture of the economy and 18% believe they actually portray it as better than it is. Just 34% trust reporters more when it comes to news on the economy, and 32% see stockbrokers as more reliable.
A plurality of Americans (41%) similarly believe that the media has tried to make the war in Iraq appear worse that it really is, while 26% say reporters have made it look better than reality and 25% think they've portrayed it accurately.
This poll is one of several Rasmussen released today, purporting to show the media are biased -- or at least that people think they are.
What a sad commentary on the state of the populace. If I may leap to a conclusion, it seems that the general public has been hearing so much about 'biased media' for so many years - ironically from partisan sources - that they're believing it. I wonder what these people assume is the media's motivation for overstating how bad the economy is? Oh- forgot - part of the liberal media's bias towards dems. Of course. How silly of me.
There is a bias in newsrooms. There's a bias everywhere. The stories we are interested in have to represent the interest of the listener/reader and not JUST the interest of the reporter and editor.
That's why it's important to have a diverse newsroom in many respects. Otherwise, you're just guessing based on what you think you know.
The other troubling aspect of storytelling is the propensity to make every story one of good vs. evil. There always has to be this tension between participants in a story. That's a bad thing, in my opinion.
There obviously ARE stories about good vs. evil, but not every story is good vs. evil and I think reporters and editors look for that angle first, believing that that's what makes a good story.
Overall, I think the public perception of bias in the media is one in which the reporter is actively involved in some strategic way to shape a story toward a particular view. I think the actual bias is more subconscious than that.
I think that most people understand that the economy is not QUITE as bad as the media is portraying it to be, but that all depends on your personal financial situation. If I was down and out financially, I might have a different opinion.
The media IS biased, and history will show which group of Americans understood the nature of that bias best.
Right now lefty blogs are watching to see if any daily newspapers other than the LA Times bothers to pick up on the story that al-Maliki agreed with Obama's plan to withdraw all troops within 16 months of his taking office. So far this is as close as the Strib has gotten (der Spiegel, btw, has emphatically insisted that their translation was exactly correct), while the PiPress ran a more accurate wire story two days earlier.
I think everyone who reads this blog is acutely aware of the Strib's shift to the hard right in recent years, and story placement decisions like this one reinforce that perception.
I'm pretty sure that media bias, like many, many other things, is in the eye of the beholder.
There are plenty of people that believe NBC or CNN to be nothing more than PR firms for the Democrats, while an equally large number believe Fox to be in the tank for the Republicans.
The happy few in the center that don't have fervent political beliefs one way or the other just watch the channel that has the cutest news readers.
Bias? At NPR that usually asks only the opinion of Leftists when they want a "perspective" on news items?
Or, when NPR wants "both sides" of a debate will have a far-lefty speaking for Democrats and a Liberal speaking for the Republicans?
Naw!! Couldn't be!
The bias that Bob speaks of, in my opinion, is a propensity for conventional wisdom and sensationalism. It's not ideological unless shallowness is an ideology.
As a side note, listeners of public radio can hear an excellent critical analysis of the newsrooms every week by tuning into On the Media.
So much to address:
Zeb: On The Media is easily the worst thing MPR broadcasts. It is, itself, a prime symptom of the bias we conservatives talk about. Garfield and Gladstone quite audibly sneer down their noses at right-of-center points of view on every topic they address; their goal seems not to be to analyze or even deny liberal bias in the media, but to institutionalize and banalize it. While I keep an open mind about MPR, "On The Media" is the disease, not the cure.
Sailor: "Or, when NPR wants "both sides" of a debate will have a far-lefty speaking for Democrats and a Liberal speaking for the Republicans?"
That's given many of us a healthy laugh. While I've given kudos to MPR's newsroom for its efforts at something like balance, the national office is pretty much beyond hopeless.
DaveG - media bias IS in the eye of the beholder. Put another way - from Sacramento, Denver is "way east". So let's phrase the question this way - pick five key Conservative issues; say, Abortion, Second Amendment rights, cutting taxes, reducing the scope and size of government, and National Security. What is the tone and content of M/NPR's approach to these issues? If you gathered 100 registered DFLers and 100 registered Republicans in a room and made them listen to 24 hours of M/NPR programming, who'd find more ideological resonance, and who do you think would find their beliefs more under attack?
I don't think there's even a non-risible argument on that count.
I've gone on more than long enough...
>>propensity for conventional wisdom and sensationalism
Yep, as well as the effort to get a "good story", one which screams out "read me". Subtlety is not something that resonates well with the reptilian brain....
>>propensity to make every story one of good vs. evil.
I remember learning, in a writing class, what the parts of a good story were. High on the list were the protagonist and antagonist. Yet I share the sentiment that these are not essential. When a good story comes along that does not have these features, I can understand the temptation to couch the story into their terms. But this can be seen as a subset of the sensationalism point.
The protagnoist vs. antagonist method, it seems to me is an anachronistic view of news. Keep in mind, of course, I have views on what news is that's substantially different from more learned folk.
I think everyone is interesting and if you give me enough time, I'll find something interesting in you that others will find interesting too.
I also favor anecdotal storytelling (you can hear a perfect example of this on the evening MPR show The Story) in which rather than deal with a big hairy issue from the top down, you basically explore it from the bottom up.
As for the bias thing, in many cases a few people want to hear their views coming back at them. They're not in a mood or a mindset to hear another view and on the occasion when they do -- even if it's accompanied by a familiar view for them -- they will not only will NOT accept the validity of the view they won't accept the publication or broadcast of that view.
There's not much you can do about those people.
Opposing to some posts here I've noticed that NPR (and MPR) have a lot of free/pro-market pundits on the air, a lot of conservative commentators and officials, and in fact are one of the only radio stations I've heard that actively approached right-wing religious leaders and gave them a free voice.
You see, I find that NPR is very good at simply producing the facts. And while I may not always agree with the facts (I'm fairly centrist myself) I don't see them as an attack. I recognize that my personal beliefs can sometimes differ from the evidence presented. I don't think it makes the media biased... I think it makes me biased.
Media Nation has a few things to say on the subject this evening.
Media Nation brought up an important example of the typical national media mentality. This whole Barack Obama trip: they track the polls as he visits each country, trying to see if it affects the horse race. Is that what's really important here? While I have no doubt this trip is partly a campaign strategy, isn't it also possible he really wants to learn something and start forging relationships with other world leaders?
Reading your comments here and on your blog, I think it is an incredible stretch to say you "keep an open mind about MPR." You have a conservative viewpoint of public radio. That is your bias.
The show you referenced to in your blog is the Thomas Jefferson Hour. It's still being broadcast on stations across the country. Check it out on iTunes or www.jeffersonhour.org