Sep
15
2008

The Myth of Pro-Obama Media Bias

Little evidence for self-proclaimed ‘lovefest’

If there has been one unquestioned assumption of the 2008 election, it is that the media love Barack Obama. Rush Limbaugh declared that the media were following Obama with “their tongues dragging along the concrete to the floors.” “Lenin, Stalin never got this kind of coverage from their media,” Limbaugh claimed (7/22/08), which he blamed on the “chickification of our culture and the news business” (7/21/08). Joseph McQuaid, publisher of the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader, wrote an editorial headlined “Obama Orgy” (7/21/08) that denounced “the outrageous imbalance in the major media’s coverage of the candidates.” Such proclamations bolstered a […]

Sep
01
2008

SoundBites

McCain’s Warm Sedate Reception NPR guest Robert Traynham (7/16/08) described the “warm response” McCain received at an NAACP convention, including a “standing ovation” for his plan to promote school vouchers. But why would the NAACP, which opposes vouchers as a drain on public schools, be so enthusiastic about McCain’s proposals? Maybe they weren’t. The Baltimore Sun (7/17/08) reported that McCain received a “somewhat sedate reception—with only a smattering of applause for his education plan.” The discrepancy might be explained by Traynham’s perspective: Although NPR’s Farai Chideya introduced her guest only as “D.C. bureau chief for the Comcast cable network CN8,” […]

Sep
01
2008

Inventing Obama's Race Problem

Media muddle needs some sort of trouble

Barack Obama has a race problem—though corporate media can’t quite decide what it’s supposed to be. Take an article by New York Times political reporter Adam Nagourney published toward the end of the primary race with Hillary Clinton (5/6/08): If Mr. Obama loses in Indiana because of white blue-collar support for Mrs. Clinton, it would be the third time in a row, after Ohio and Pennsylvania, that he has lost a big state because of an inability to win over enough of those kinds of voters. So Obama’s problem is “white blue-collar support.” The very next paragraph, though, gives him […]

Sep
01
2008

Spinning the Surge

Iraq & the election

Elections in Iraq--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Al Jazeera English

The most conspicuous thing about the mainstream media’s election-year discussion of the Iraq War is the lack of one. The numbers tell much of the story. Although it had been the main news story between January and May of 2007, totaling 20 percent of the news hole, that number declined to just 4 percent in the first three months of 2008—while the presidential campaign occupied 43 percent (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 3/26/08). Media decisions to treat the Iraq War as an afterthought have caused some correspondents to speak out publicly—most notably CBS correspondent Lara Logan, who said on Comedy […]

Sep
01
2008

Media's 'Girls Gone Wild' Fantasies

Pregnant girls ignored in story on ‘pregnancy pact’

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/MestreechCity

When Time magazine (6/30/08; online edition, 6/19/08) reported that “nearly half” of 17 pregnant teenagers at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts had made a pact to have children simultaneously, corporate journalists latched onto the story and scurried to express their dismay on newspaper pages, blogs and 24-hour cable news. Time’s article, which reporter Kathleen Kingsbury largely sourced to school principal Joseph Sullivan, told of a group of girls who repeatedly visited the school clinic for pregnancy tests. The girls, according to the principal, “reacted to the news that they were expecting with high fives.” And “the story got worse,” Kingsbury […]

Sep
01
2008

David Brooks vs. the Real World

Columnist dreams up his own reality

David Brooks--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Miller_Center

Appearing on MSNBC Live (6/2/08), New York Times columnist David Brooks said that though Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy represented a “big historic movement,” the candidate may lack the common touch: The magic is not felt by a lot of people. It’s not felt, obviously, by a lot of less educated people, downscale people. They just look at Obama, and they don’t see anything. And so, Obama’s problem is he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who could go into an Applebee’s salad bar, and people think he fits in naturally there. The fact that Applebee’s doesn’t have salad bars […]

Sep
01
2008

The Illusion of Immigrant Criminality

Getting the numbers wrong

Photo Credit: Democracy Now!

Immigrants aren't a crime problem. "The foreign-born commit considerably fewer crimes than the native-born," as President Herbert Hoover's National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement concluded in 1931 (National Lawyers Guild Quarterly, 10/39; Immigration Policy Center, Spring/07). While noncitizens now make up more than 8 percent of the U.S. population, the available evidence indicates that they account for no more than 6 or 7 percent of the people incarcerated for crimes in the United States, less than 170,000 of the 2.3 million inmates currently in our federal, state and local penal systems--not including some 30,000 immigrants in administrative detention on […]

Sep
01
2008

Still Taking the Pentagon's Bait:

Media ‘balance’ critical GAO report with DoD spin

The General Accounting Office released a report June 23 that condemned the Bush administration’s “surge” strategy in Iraq. The same day the Pentagon released its own overwhelmingly positive report, “dated June 13 but not released until yesterday” (Washington Post, 6/24/08), which might reasonably be seen as a blatant White House effort to take the air out of the GAO’s findings. How did the Pentagon do with such a transparent gambit? Lamentably well. In write-ups in both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, reporters used the Pentagon’s self-assessment just as its producers must have hoped: to counterweigh and cast […]