2012 campaign coverage vs 2012 media bias
posted at 12:46 pm on October 17, 2011 by Karl
The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study today with what some mght consider to be surprising findings: Over the last five months, the presidential candidate with the most negative media coverage is Barack Obama, while the candidate with the most positive coverage is Rick Perry. So much for liberal media bias, eh? However, a closer look at the study suggests much less news than meets the eye — and even less about media bias.
Why is Obama getting an almost 4:1 ratio of negative stories to positive stories? Pew answers:
Several factors were likely responsible for that critical tone. In many stories, Obama was the target of not only the whole roster of GOP presidential contenders. He was also being criticized in often harsh terms by Republicans in Congress. Added to that, members of his own party began criticizing him on both policy and strategy grounds, particularly as his poll numbers fell. And for much of this period, the president’s coverage reflected the biggest problem on his watch-a continual flow of bad news about the U.S. economy.
Translation: Obama is getting negative coverage because few like the job he’s doing as president. The coverage reflects events on the ground. Similarly, although Perry received the most positive coverage overall, it is equally obvious the media coveage tracks events on the ground. He received a lot of positive stories during his splashy campaign rollout, but the coverage has turned more negative as his campaign has stumbled (blog coverage actually tracked the polls more closely; the MSM lags a bit). Herman Cain’s coverage also started turning positive in August and is now the most positively covered candidate (for how long remains to be seen). The coverage of Mitt Romney has been as stagnant as his poll numbers.
Establishment journalists will seize on the Pew study as evidence that they do not have a liberal bias. (indeed, Politico is already unsubtly suggesting Team Obama start working the refs.) To be sure, the media bias does not extend so far as pretending that the economy is roaring along. However, the Pew study by necessity only tracks stories actually covered. Such studies will not reflect the media’s propagation of Team Obama’s “jobs saved or created” dodge. The Pew study will not reflect that NBC and ABC largely ignore the Obama administration’s Fast & Furious scandal and that the entire establishment media blacked out the House subpoena to the top levels of the Justice Department in the scandal. Pew won’t reflect Big Media’s systemic downplaying of our exploding national debt and pretending that Obama has a serious plan to deal with it. The list goes on and on. When the watchdogs don’t bark, Pew won’t hear — but that’s not evidence of media objectivity.