Category Archives: Media Bias

The New York Times “political memo”

The New York Times is America’s newspaper of record, and a venerated journalistic establishment. It is wrapped up in the country’s history, and has contributed greatly to the development of a free press and maintenance of an open society. Some fellow conservatives will wonder why I would make such remarks about The Old Grey Lady. I make them because The New York Times – which has earned more Pulitzer Prizes than any other publication – retains one of the strongest, most important news gathering operations in the world.

I also make such remarks because I want it to be understood that I appreciate the original reporting by the Times, even though my main point today is to call attention to another potential source of bias in its coverage of domestic political affairs. That is the “POLITICAL MEMO,” the headline of which appears just above the front-page fold in today’s print edition of the newspaper. Without noticing the small special heading of the article (can I call it an “article?”), I started reading the piece and began to shake my head at some of the writer’s subjective characterizations of the U.S. Senate race in Florida.

In the Republican primary, it is speculated that former front-runner Gov. Charlie Crist may leave the party to run as an independent, leaving Marco Rubio, who surged over a number of months to overtake Crist in popularity, to claim the nomination. Using words like “independent,” “moderate,” “pragmatic,” “outsider” and party “pariah” to portray Crist in the first several paragraphs, writer Damien Cave then drops these couple of gems into the piece:

“If he chooses to run as an independent, Mr. Crist would be betting that the prevailing political logic of the moment is wrong – that despite the Tea Party’s rise, the broader electorate still wants the pragmatic apporach that propelled Barack Obama to victory here.

“Leading a campaign that would most likely lack major fund-raising and a party’s street-level support, Mr. Crist would be running in the hope of turning out ‘the silent majority’ that Richard M. Nixon identified in 1969.” [Emphasis added].

Wow. Obama displayed a “pragmatic approach” in the campaign and the great “silent majority” could just usher in the maverick moderate Charlie Crist into the United States Senate. Obviously, the tone being established is that Crist, the moderate, is naturally cast off by an immoderate Republican Party, etc, etc, etc. Yes, Crist is to the left of Rubio, but what exactly makes him a “moderate?” The fact that he recently vetoed a teacher performance pay bill? That doesn’t seem moderate to me, that seems “liberal.”

In any event, this is about the time I re-scanned the headline to check what type of piece I was reading. I was expecting “news analysis” or something like that. But I got “political memo,” in small caps. What gives? When did the Times start with the political memos, can anyone tell me? Maybe they’ve been around for a while, maybe not. The point is that the more material like this becomes part of the news pages, the more reporter/editor bias you’re going to get. At the Times, on a piece like this, that means liberal political bias.

This is all part of the game schema coverage that we’re treated to non-stop every campaign year. The horse-race coverage. The endless who’s-up, who’s-down, political analysis of election campaigns and the like. It’s in the same vein as the larger, longer trend of interpretative reporting of the news and political news in particular. On television, for example, we used to see politicians talk uninterrupted for dozens of seconds, maybe even minutes. Now, the average campaign sound bite on the news is in the neighborhood of eight seconds.

I need to wrap it up, but I may try to revisit this sometime soon. Would love to hear anybody’s thoughts on it, particularly any journalists or political operatives out there. When newspapers start publishing “political memos,” is that an excuse to write a horse-race piece and not worry too much about any bias that shows up, or is it a legitimate opportunity to delve into the type of political analysis that many readers demand and deserve?

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Filed under 2010 Senate Elections, Journalism, Media, Media Bias, Republican Party

Obama vs. Fox News

There’s been some hot topics in the couple days that I’ve been away, including Obama‘s war on Fox News. There’s been a lot of good stuff written about this, and it’s generally falling into two categories:

1) It’s not right, and or not presidential. All of the right and a lot of the middle is saying this.

2) Whether it’s right or not, it’s not politically adviseable. Generally I’m seeing this from more left-leaning sources, but I think this could be emphasized by anyone.

There have also been a couple pieces from some genuinely far left sources, falling into a third category defending the action.

Here’s my quick take:

A couple days after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, presumably for signaling his willingness to talk to the world’s anti-democratic, anti-American thugs,  Obama wages war on an American press outlet.

I’ve not heard a lot of direct criticism of FNC reporters by the White House, or even of specific FNC anchors. In fact, when asked by veteran media observer Howard Kurtz whether a reporter like Major Garret was an objective journalist, White House communications director/Mao Zedong admirer Anita Dunn replied in the affirmative. Presumably then, much of what the White House objects to is the commentary, or editorial content of the station.

(Of course, for years liberals have also complained more generally about the channel’s news product. However, a major study by Jeffrey Milyo* and Tim Groseclose several years ago actually documented that “Special Report,” the channel’s main evening news program, was among the closest to the ideological center of all the major news sources they examined, along with “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer*”  and a couple others. And Hillary Clinton would have told you during the primary that it was Fox News where she got the fairest shake from the media. It has long been my view that while FNC does lean right, it certainly leans no more in that direction than any of its competitors lean to the left. But I digress).

So, what are we to make of the White House’s decision to target and attack Fox News based in large part on its opinion-programming? Like so much from this White House, it is petty and pedantic, political and partisan. Dressed up, of course, in principled pragmatism.

Of all the broadcast, satellite or cable television stations in the country, there is none like Fox News, whose dynamic and popular on-air talent regularly question and aggressively criticize the president. So by targeting the network, the White House – whose occupant ran on the idea of bringing people together, laughably disingenuous though it was – signals that it will not tolerate a single such voice of dissent. Instead, the president’s operatives will fan out in an attempt to discredit and marginalize the “enemy”.

Folks, this is our president. This is his White House. This is his administration. This is the America he seeks to remake. It is inappropriate behavior, to say the least.

Now, as a pure political matter, I do believe this results in a net loss for Obama, in the short, medium and long term.

Firstly, you lose the biggest audience in cable news. Yeah, a lot of them weren’t with you to begin with, but a few of them were and a good chunk of them could go either way. Contrary to what some liberal commentators might have you believe, Fox does indeed draw more than just die-hard conservatives. It’s #1 for a reason.

Second, anytime you go negative, there’s always a splash. Meaning you get wet, too. You normally think of this in application to going negative with campaign commercials, but this is essentially the same thing. It tarnishes him. Because people instinctively know that it’s unpresidential; that it is a misuse of the majesty of the office.

Thirdly, it raises FNC’s profile. As could be expected from anyone, but particularly the ever-savvy Murdoch, Fox is playing this up big time. And they should. Not only because it’s their right and their story, but because it is in fact a big deal.

Fourthly – and this is related to point one – you harden FNC’s conservative base even more against you. You fire them up. They didn’t care for you to begin with. Now you’ve more than cemented the notion that you have something against them; you’ve straight up called them the enemy. So now you’re the enemy.This is exactly the sort of thing that gins up turnout in midterms.

So, long story short, while the president’s actions are alarming, they will also come back to bite him in the end.

* University of Missouri grads:)

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Filed under Barack Obama, Media Bias

Honduras on the brink; Brazil, Reuters do their part to push it over the edge

The small Central American country of Honduras stands at the brink of  a chasm of absolute political chaos. In recent weeks and months, the democratic government has stoically maintained course in the face of international pressure to reinstall a lawfullly deposed leftist authoritarian to the office of the presidency. Now, it faces the most serious challenge yet.

Former president Manuel Zelaya, after at least one failed previous attempt, has secretly entered the country and taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy. Now, as far as I know Zelaya is not Brazilian, so he would have no regular claim for protection within the embassy. And while I am not intimately familiar with international diplomatic norms in a case such as this, it would seem that Brazil is clearly stepping out of its bounds in harboring a known enemy of the government.

Zelaya has made it clear that he will do what he can to retake power, including the orchestration of mob violence.

Ultimately, regardless of whatever protocol may exist (this instance is so unique I doubt there is much of a protocol) Brazil’s protection of this criminal and volatile political actor is an outrageous affront to the people of Honduras and their democratic government. Honduras has every right to demand that the embassy hand Zelaya over, and if they not, to close down the embassy.

A note on the media coverage: The reporting by Reuters in this story is absolutely shameful. They join a number of media outlets in compounding the incorrect notion that Zelaya’s ouster was a military coup – I even heard Fox News Radio use that term this evening. Additionally, Reuters incorrectly identifies the current president, Roberto Micheletti, as a conservative. In fact, the current president is of the same party as Zelaya.

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Filed under Central America, Media Bias

Schizophrenia at CNN.com

Check out these two stories at CNN. Here are the headlines:

“U.S. scraps missile defense shield plans”

This was published a little before 9:00 a.m. CST. We’ll see if the link remains active. The entire thrust of the article, captured in the lead sentence, is that “the Obama administration will scrap the controversial missile defense shield program in Eastern Europe.” Vice President Biden was reported as explaining that Iran did not pose a threat to the United States, which was part of the logic of shelving the “Bush-era plan.” Officials in Poland and the Czech Republic confirmed that they had been told that missile defense plans were being dropped. “This is catastrophic for Poland,” the country said through a spokeswoman.

“Obama scraps Bush-era missile defense for new plan”

This was published closer to 10:30 a.m. CST, about an hour and a half after the original article appeared. Link here. This time around, the article changes directions entirely and says that “the United States is dropping plans for a controversial missile defense shield and replacing it with a ‘new missile defense architecture in Europe’.” It repeatedly emphasizes that a new plan is in the works, although few details on the plan are offered.

Now, it could be that CNN simply got it wrong the first time and wanted to correct the record. That would represent a minor lapse on their part, but an understandable one given the rapid pace of online news reporting. Updating the story would have been the natural thing to do.

It seems more likely, however, that the network simply let one slip by its internal filters. More likely that they momentarily forgot their role as a public relations arm for the president, lapsing into an actual news organization. That “Obama ditches stalwart Eastern European allies to please menacing authoritarian leaders in Russia and Iran” isn’t exactly the type of storyline they were supposed to be churning out to ensure the public that the president is wise and strong on national security matters.

So, very soon after, they made sure to let everyone know that Obama was actually just replacing (hey, no big deal, we’re just swapping it out!) a controversial (read: CNN didn’t like it) old Bush-era plan (era? as if it was sooooo long ago) with a shiny new, more “cost effective” and “efficient” (cheaper? less potent?) plan approved by O-BAM-A! Yeah!

Anyway. You get the point. That just really caught my eye this morning. Am I onto anything here, or completely off base?

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Filed under Barack Obama, Media, Media Bias, National Security

Pray for Rifqa Bary

Required reading on the American Thinker about the case of the young American girl who converted to Christianity from Islam, and escaped execution at the hands of her father – for now. The father, a Muslim fundamentalist, seeks her return and the girl fears that she will become the victim of an Islamic “honor-killing” for her apostasy.

There’s been some other good pieces on the web about this, but just not a lot in the legacy media (shocking, I know), which is truly, truly a travesty. Absolutely despicable handling of this story by the msm, and for some reason, while I have learned to be patient with msm proclivities, this really, really upsets me. An innocent young girl could die, but the media can’t be bothered to report on the compelling story because it offends their precious, delicate sensibilities towards Islam.

I would love to cover this story more but don’t know how much time I’ll have to do so. For now, check out this American Thinker piece, and please pray for Rifqa Bary.

I very rarely get explicitly religious on the site, but this girl needs our help. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for any kind of legal fund or something like that as a means of helping materially. Let me know if you know of anything like that.

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Filed under Media, Media Bias

Kindergarten parents complain that rules apply to them

A group of public school kindergartners showed up at the White House more than an hour late yesterday for a tour, and were disturbed and in disbelief that the White House would not rearrange its schedule to accommodate their own tardiness.

This according to NBC News (via Drudge Report)- who to their discredit played up the angle of the White House snubbing little kids, as opposed to an elementary school snubbing the White House and the children the school allegedly serves.

Conway Elementary School is located in Fredericksburg, Virginia and is part of the Stafford County Public School District. According to Google Directions, the school is located 50.1 miles away from the White House, for a driving time of 59 minutes or 1 hours 20 minutes in traffic.

For an appointment to the White House, you do not arrive late. Period. The school officials and charter bus company they hired should have allowed for traffic, weather and other contingencies with enough time to still be early. There is simply no excuse for tardiness, and it is a shame that the kids missed out on a special visit to the White House because of poor planning by adults.

The worst thing about it is the adults’ reaction when they realized that they had missed their appointment.

Parents, like field trip chaperon Paty Stine: downplayed and even misrepresented their own tardiness; expressed anger and disappointment at the White House for sticking to the schedule; made excuses about why they were late; focused attention on disappointed children rather than their own actions that caused the disappointment; said that they were entitled to an exception from the rules; claimed victim status; mocked the President of the United States; and even had the presence of mind to indulge in a little rhetorical class-warfare.

The sad thing is that some of these kindergartners may grow up to be just like Paty Stine, if she is the type of parent and chaperon to be found at Conway Elementary School. The school’s website offers added context to the words and behaviors of the adults. The page of “Effective Schoolwide [sic] Discipline” makes not a single mention of punctuality or ramifications of tardiness. Instead, young Conway Cougars are encouraged to “respect others,” have a “positive attitude” and be “accepting of differences.”

The White House issued a gracious, yet carefully worded statement that did not give in to the elementary school-style bullying directed their way. “The President and First Lady are dedicated to opening the doors of the White House to the public, and it is unfortunate to see young people miss a tour. The visitor’s office is already working to reschedule the group.” I don’t say this often, but “Good Job, Obama White House.”

Post Script: Being punctual is important, and I have had my own struggles with it. While I have made monumental improvements and am now generally a punctual person, I still have a little ways to go to always be punctual – even for the little things in life’s schedule. A couple months ago I read an article by Dustin Wax which helped me better understand the significance of punctuality. I recommend it not only to the folks at Conway Elementary School (actually, I recommend they read it about 10 times each and nail it to the doors of their school), I encourage you, too, to consider reading it.

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Filed under Culture, Education, Media Bias

CNN masters Newspeak

This is a perfect example of left wing media bias. Here’s a headline from the cable network’s website earlier today:

Obama moves to separate politics and science

By this, CNN meant that President Barack Obama has done the exact opposite, in moving to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize embryonic stem cell research. This headline is wrong on a number of levels. It starts from the assumption that a government presence is the norm, the standard. ‘Of course government should be funding embryonic stem cell research, and if it’s not, well that’s just Bush injecting politics into science!’

Yet, to fund such research publicly is the definition of injecting politics and science. Any economic or societal sector controlled by the government, is, by definition, politicized. Yet CNN states the exact opposite.

In the first line of the piece, CNN repeats the old lie that President George W. Bush imposed legal limits on stem cell research. He did not. Rather, it is true that the Bush administration – the first to ever make available any federal funding for any stem cell research – did not see fit to use taxpayer dollars for wide-ranging embryonic stem cell research.

I feel like I do a pretty good job of not nit-picking the mainstream media for every little shred of ideological bias in their reporting. It’s a tired act, and you’ve got to pick your battles. This headline today, however, was quite jarring. To know that people actually watch and read CNN without filtering everything being said, is an alarming notion.

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Filed under Bio-Science, Media Bias