Liberal Bias Debunked (Again)

More bad news for right-wingers longing to peddle the myth of liberal bias in the corporate media. Indiana University released a comprehensive study of the visuals used in presidential campaign coverage from 1992-2004, finding that the three major broadcast networks–NBC, CBS and ABC–all favored Republicans in each election.

The study focused on the visual production of news: where each story was placed in the newscast, editing techniques and manipulations related to camera angles, shot lengths, eyewitness perspectives and zoom movement. Among the most negative visual representations or “image bytes” is the “lip-flap shot,” where a reporter’s narration is placed over a candidate talking, which the report calls a “violation of professional television news production standards.”

“Not only is lip-flap unflattering for the candidate who appears,” the report notes, “but it also distracts from the reporter’s narration because viewers focus attention on making sense of what the lip flapper appears to be saying.” The technique was found to be used more often with Democratic candidates than with Republicans. A similar partisan bias was found in which candidates were given the last word, which were videotaped in flattering low-angle shots and which were given unflattering extreme close-ups and high angles.

In attempting to account for the pattern of favoring Republicans in four consecutive election cycles (during both Democratic and Republican administrations), Maria Elizabeth Gabe, one of the study’s authors explained, “We don’t think this is journalists conspiring to favor Republicans. We think they’re just so beat up and tired of being accused of a liberal bias that they unknowingly give Republicans the benefit in coverage.” In other words, “working the refs” works.