Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Conservative Viewpoint
- Is Presidential Race Media Biased?

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

Americans should not have to worry about having to wade through misstatements of truth, fact or hyperbole from our daily newspapers or favorite broadcast network. But unfortunately many of these once trusted iconic sources of “unbiased” reporting have gradually and seductively become agenda driven. Many have succumbed to their “lust to influence” instead of pursuing objective news reporting and balanced opinion pages. As a result they have steadily lost readers, viewers and listeners, although their influence remains significant.

The editorial “opinions” of all media outlets should be presented on the OP-ED pages of newspapers and labeled as such in the broadcast media as well. But viewpoints can often be masked as hard news. Columnists write opinion commentary based on news events from individual perspectives. A good column and a good editorial should generate a response from readers- those that agree and those that don’t. The objective is to stimulate discourse.

Bill O’Reilly from Fox News for example, reports on news events from his “perspective,” as do Keith Olberman and Chris Mathews, both of MSNBC. They all have their loyal followings. But when the news operations of the once venerable mainstream media outlets openly fawn over or appear to favor one candidate over another, they have, in my view, crossed the lines of ethical propriety.

The New York Times isn’t trying to disguise its preferential bias-even on their OP-ED page. In fact, it’s blatantly telegraphing it. They recently rejected an editorial written and submitted by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain in response to a recent essay published in that paper by Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

Obama’s article entitled “My Plan for Iraq” never discusses winning the war, only ending it. Mc Cain attempted to respond with a commentary written from his perspective as to why it’s important we must win the war. The Times Op-Ed Editor David Shipley told McCain’s campaign: “I’m not going to be able to accept this piece as currently written.” OP-ED pages should not be discriminating against viewpoint and certainly not that from one of just two individuals striving to become our next commander-in-chief.

Let’s also consider the media’s coverage of Barack Obama’s trip to Europe and the Middle East. Is it news? Of course. Any current or potential head of state traveling on fact finding or diplomatic sojourns abroad should receive intense media coverage. But to have the three major television network talking heads, Brian Williams of NBC, Katie Couric of CBS and Charlie Gibson of ABC, reporting each evening “on location” with the Obama entourage is somewhat suspect.

I can’t recall President Bush ever receiving this kind of media coverage on any trip abroad during his eight years as president. And John McCain (remember him?) recently traveled to Europe and the Middle East as well as to several countries south of our border. What kind of media coverage did his trips receive?

To be fair, the Obama campaign is a fine oiled media savvy machine compared to a McCain campaign that’s still trying to find its bearings. They even tried to secure the historic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin for an Obama speech; a place where President John Kennedy spoke to Berliners in 1963 and where 24 years later President Ronald Reagan stood and told the Soviet Union’s General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” German leaders declined and offered a venue of the Victory Column instead.

Next month there will be another “staging” opportunity for the Obama campaign when he officially accepts the Democratic nomination for president at their convention in Denver. Instead of delivering his acceptance speech from the traditional convention hall setting, he’ll move that “moment” outdoors into a giant 75,000 seat stadium guaranteed to be filled with “Obamamaniacs” swooning in their seats as they await his every utterance. It will be great theatre and certain to drive much of an already adoring press into convulsive adulation. We’ll have to wait and see how objectively the media will measure the content of his words versus the hype of the moment.

Some will argue that there really is no media bias for one party or one candidate over another. But by examining who these media types are supporting with their individual wallets, the fog begins to lift from the glen. The American Thinker, a daily conservative web site, recently shared some analysis of federal election records that detail the amount of money journalists have contributed so far this election cycle. Their donations favored Democrats 15:1. Some 235 journalists gave to Democrats and just 20 to Republicans.

And other newsroom categories were examined too, including reporters, correspondents, news editors, anchors and newspaper publishers. These numbers showed 311 donors giving to Democrats and only 30 donors contributing to Republicans. This is the epitome of “putting your money where your mouth is.”

In 1960 four University of Michigan professors performed a research study entitled “The American Voter” which showed voters were nothing but lemmings when it came to knowledge about their government and politics. America was shocked! A recent study called “The American Voter Revisited” indicates the situation today is even worse. And with the seriousness of what’s at stake this November we should all be terrified.

You can’t entirely blame the news media for giving the folks what they want. The news media is also in the entertainment business and can only justify its existence by striving to improve its ratings and circulation numbers. But it’s a sad commentary on the times we live in when news coverage has to rely more on the superficial than the factual to justify their existence. But then again “that’s entertainment.”

Bob did not note what I see as the most pervasive result of the biased news coverage. People in North Carolina are confused about their own government. Though Republicans have had no power in North Carolina for most of the last 100 years, and none at all for the last 20 years, the majority of North Carolina’s voters say that Republicans are the cause of most of the problems in government. We have one party rule and yet most people do not see that. The party that has ruled North Carolina during all that time is considred the best party to fix the problems they have created.

There is a classic definition of insanity. When someone keeps doing the same thing over and over but expects different results, they are insane. When North Carolina keeps voting the party of corruption and taxes into offices, and then complains about corruption and taxes, they are insane. Maybe the problem is that Republicans are not willing to be controversial and point this out.

Is that the problem?


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