A study in media bias

In an extraordinary spectacle, a number of Barack Obama supporters attack John McCain’s military service. It ranges from Gen. Wesley Clark saying that a pilot locked up in a North Vietnamese cage for five years doesn’t have executive military experinece like generals at their desks to the 1960s peaceniks who revive the “baby-killer” libel against Vietnam Vets. That’s news, right? An example of going negative on an issue that McCain supporters assumed would be one of his strengths?

So the Washington Post covers this controvery in the last few paragraphs of a frontpage story about Obama defending HIS patriotism! Read Obama Fiercely Defends His Patriotism and be astounded at the way professional journalists are doing of campaigners’ job of spin doctoring.

Here is a tip for identifying media bias, one that comes from the study of literature: Notice the POINT OF VIEW of a story; that is, not just the ideas as such, but, as in literature, the character through whose mind everything is presented. Who is the “us” and who is the “them”?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • The Jones

    I wish this problem was only unique to the Washington Post. I’m wondering if there is (or ever was) a thing called objective journalism. Lets just go back to the days of Party newspapers. At least then you KNEW you were getting something biased, and you could deal with it. Funny enough, FOXNEWS and CNN and everybody else are starting to do this in practice, if not in name, merely by exploring the wishes of the consumers.

  • The Jones

    I wish this problem was only unique to the Washington Post. I’m wondering if there is (or ever was) a thing called objective journalism. Lets just go back to the days of Party newspapers. At least then you KNEW you were getting something biased, and you could deal with it. Funny enough, FOXNEWS and CNN and everybody else are starting to do this in practice, if not in name, merely by exploring the wishes of the consumers.

  • Don S

    MSNBC has definitely taken this approach — Rush Limbaugh has taken to calling it MS-DNC, or something like that. Despite the articulate protestations of one tODD, it has been true for decades that the media reporters strongly lean left as a group. Study after study has proven this, most recently a Pew media poll taken a couple of years ago. The media doesn’t deny this, but claims that reporters are professionals, and can separate their personal biases from their professional reporting. I think reporters used to try to do this, but the problem is that you are naturally drawn to stories that interest you, so the bias is primarily in which stories you tend to report and emphasize. This explains why stories on gay pride protests always splash the papers, but a pro-life march is more likely to be buried on page C 41, if it makes the paper at all, unless something happens during the march which will embarass conservatives.

    Recently, what has changed, it appears, is the idea that the stories which are reported are presented from a neutral point of view. As Dr. Veith noted, the reporters on the Obama campaign today could easily be mistaken for Obama press flacks, simply spouting Obama campaign press releases.

    As The Jones stated, we would be far better off if the media would just go ahead and admit their partisanship, so that we could all account for their bias when evaluating their story.

  • Don S

    MSNBC has definitely taken this approach — Rush Limbaugh has taken to calling it MS-DNC, or something like that. Despite the articulate protestations of one tODD, it has been true for decades that the media reporters strongly lean left as a group. Study after study has proven this, most recently a Pew media poll taken a couple of years ago. The media doesn’t deny this, but claims that reporters are professionals, and can separate their personal biases from their professional reporting. I think reporters used to try to do this, but the problem is that you are naturally drawn to stories that interest you, so the bias is primarily in which stories you tend to report and emphasize. This explains why stories on gay pride protests always splash the papers, but a pro-life march is more likely to be buried on page C 41, if it makes the paper at all, unless something happens during the march which will embarass conservatives.

    Recently, what has changed, it appears, is the idea that the stories which are reported are presented from a neutral point of view. As Dr. Veith noted, the reporters on the Obama campaign today could easily be mistaken for Obama press flacks, simply spouting Obama campaign press releases.

    As The Jones stated, we would be far better off if the media would just go ahead and admit their partisanship, so that we could all account for their bias when evaluating their story.

  • Carl Vehse

    Despite their left-wing bias for the Democrat Party, the clymer media doesn’t seem to be pushing the March, 2004 view of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean:

    “Who would you rather have in charge of the defense of the United States of America, a group of people who never served a day overseas in their life, or a guy who served his country honorably and has three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star on the battlefields of Vietnam?”

    McCain, by the way, has received a Purple Heart and 17 awards and decorations, including the Silver Star Medal, the Legion of Merit with a combat “V” and one gold star, a Distinguished Flying Cross, the Navy Commendation Medal, and a Bronze Star Medal with a combat “V” and two gold stars.

  • Carl Vehse

    Despite their left-wing bias for the Democrat Party, the clymer media doesn’t seem to be pushing the March, 2004 view of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean:

    “Who would you rather have in charge of the defense of the United States of America, a group of people who never served a day overseas in their life, or a guy who served his country honorably and has three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star on the battlefields of Vietnam?”

    McCain, by the way, has received a Purple Heart and 17 awards and decorations, including the Silver Star Medal, the Legion of Merit with a combat “V” and one gold star, a Distinguished Flying Cross, the Navy Commendation Medal, and a Bronze Star Medal with a combat “V” and two gold stars.


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