On Media Bias

20Jul08

Since most Democrats have always argued that media bias doesn’t exist – that it’s a fantasy of the conservative mind, and worse – that it’s impossible – it has been a satisfying year for those of us who advance the theory.

It was very exciting when Democrats themselves, in the form of the Clintons, complained about how they were treated in the media compared to Barack. Bill was downright bitter before the New Hampshire primary when explaining, in response to a voter question, whether Hillary would join Barack in calling for a new kinda politics.

“Nobody would be happier to see all this go away than us. But you can’t ask somebody who is at a breathtaking disadvantage in the information coming to the voters to ignore that disadvantage and basically agree to put bullets in their brains,” he said.

Saturday Night Live did such a nice job spoofing Hillary’s newfound media irrelevance that the media was impacted.

Now, of course, there’s the Obama World Tour, dutifully covered by the three networks by sending their anchors along, when McCain’s overseas trips have received virtually no coverage.

“If this were John McCain’s first trip to the war zone, that would be a story and we would cover it big time,” said Paul Friedman, the senior vice president of CBS News.

Okay. That’s a point. But don’t the networks still have an obligation to maintain some level of balance?

The Tyndall Report, a news coverage monitoring service that has the broadcast networks as clients, reports that three newscasts by the traditional networks — which have a combined audience of more than 20 million people — spent 114 minutes covering Obama since June; they spent 48 minutes covering McCain.

It is, I believe, the combination of two factors that leads to the lopsided Obama coverage. One is the fact that reporters love the guy. But then there’s the issue of commerce.

The news industry’s fascination with Obama has carried over to general-interest magazines, with the candidate landing on considerably more covers in recent months than has McCain. In the last couple of weeks Obama has graced the front of Rolling Stone and, for the second time now, that of Us Weekly (both of which are owned by the company of a prominent Obama supporter, Jann Wenner).

Covers are responsible for people making spontaneous grabs at magazines.

Beth Jacobson, a spokeswoman for Wenner Media, said they were among the better-selling magazines of the year.

Ned Martel, the deputy editor of Men’s Vogue, said, “He’s what is called in the magazine world an ‘interest driver.’ ” The magazine put Obama on its cover in 2006 and has recently dispatched the photographer Annie Liebovitz to produce another spread for an upcoming issue. It did do a feature on McCain in 2006 as well; it did not make the cover.

Whatever the reason, the media is failing to do its job properly – in a big way.



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