Wednesday, October 22, 2008

News Media Tone and Obama, McCain, Biden, Palin: There's a Difference

First, the good news. The American news media isn't wildly for, or against, Barack Obama. Coverage of the Democratic candidate is, overall, rather even-handed.

Now, the not-so-good news. News media coverage of McCain is negative, about four to one.

That's bad news, not just for McCain supporters, but for people who would just as soon not have the American news media cheering for either side. I know: that's a little like hoping that I'll win the lottery. It could happen, but it's not likely.

I found an article about news media coverage of the American presidential election tonight: "Winning the Media Campaign" How the Press Reported the 2008 General Election (Project for Excellence in Journalism (October 22, 2008)).

The lead paragraph is a pretty good summary:

"The media coverage of the race for president has not so much cast Barack Obama in a favorable light as it has portrayed John McCain in a substantially negative one, according to a new study of the media since the two national political conventions ended...."

The article is a fairly detailed report of media coverage of the candidates, including how the data was gathered and evaluated.

It could be worse, but I'm not exactly happy about the tone that the news media has taken with the candidates:

Candidate Positive Neutral
or Mixed
McCain 14% 29% 57%
Palin 28% 33% 39%
Obama 36% 35% 29%
Biden 33% 53% 15%

The problem, as I see it, is that if people are told something often enough, they're likely to believe it. Let's say we have a candidate with the -
  • Reputation of the late President Kennedy
  • Eloquence of James Earl Jones
  • Charm of Barack Obama
If almost six out of ten news stories people heard and read about this wonder-candidate explained how poorly he or she was doing, and how unsuitable the candidate was for office: I wouldn't count on that candidate being elected.

When You Read the News, Think

It would be nice if the news media were as even-handed as they seem to think they are. That's not the way it is. So, responsible voters need to study the news, not just read it: think about what's being said, how it's said, and what's not being said.

And, if a seemingly trustworthy media figure makes a claim about, say, the National Review that just doesn't make sense: don't assume that the claim is true. Look it up.

Related posts: In the news: Background:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.