Betsy Newmark & Lorie Byrd On Bias At Fox

From Lorie Byrd of Polipundit and Byrd Droppings:

Betsy Newmark has an excellent commentary on a Howard Kurtz article about a recent report on journalism. The report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism “purports to show that Fox broadcasters insert more opinion into their broadcasts than the other cable news shows.” Kurtz reports:

In covering the Iraq war last year, 73 percent of the stories on Fox News included the opinions of the anchors and journalists reporting them, a new study says.

By contrast, 29 percent of the war reports on MSNBC and 2 percent of those on CNN included the journalists’ own views.

I will readily agree with that. Fox took the attitude, as the famous reporters during WWII and other wars did, that the Americans were the good guys and the terrorists were the bad guys. Amazingly, many of the other networks decided that was a judgment call they just couldn’t make. I would argue that is bias – the anti-American variety – in itself.

I don’t know how on earth the researchers determined what constituted bias, because the figures for Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews’ shows was extremely low considering what I personally observe when I watch them. Read Betsy’s excellent analysis for more examples.

I concede that Fox’s programming is more personality and opinion oriented than the other networks, but the opinion is expressed as such and a fair and balanced presentation of the other viewpoint is almost always provided. I also admit that Fox News’ coverage is tilted to the right, but certainly no more so than CNN’s is tilted to the left. For those who are concerned about the rightward tilt of Fox News, talk radio, and other new forms of media, I say be consistent. For decades now there has been an absence of conservative voices in the media, so we have a lot of catching up to do. Those on the left should be happily celebrating journalistic affirmative action. Of course, technically it isn’t affirmative action because it is not government mandated. Maybe they would like it better if it were.

From Betsy Newmark of Betsy’s Page:

Howard Kurtz reports on research by the Project for Excellence in Journalism that purports to show that Fox broadcasters insert more opinion into their broadcasts than the other cable news shows. While I’ll admit that some of their anchors readily express their pro-American views, I would challenge assertions such as this.

Among news-oriented evening shows, journalist opinions were voiced on 70 percent of the stories on Fox’s “Special Report With Brit Hume,” due in part to its regular analysts panel at the show’s end; 9 percent on MSNBC’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann”; and 9 percent on CNN’s “NewsNight With Aaron Brown.”

As for the most popular prime-time shows, nearly every story — 97 percent — contained opinion on Fox’s “O’Reilly Factor”; 24 percent on MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews”

Oh, give me a break. Only 9% opinion on Keith Olbermann and 24% on Chris Matthews? Olbermann expresses his opinions all the time even if only with a raised eyebrow. And almost everything Chris does is opinion-oriented. Have you ever heard the guy ask a question? Every question he asks states his opinion.

And the statistics on Brit Hume’s show are very deceptive. One third the show is the roundtable and clearly portrayed as such. And Brit often questions the journalists about what they think is going on with the story they’re covering. Such interviews seem fine to me. We can tell that the reporters are giving their opinions and that seems a much more transparent way of doing it than having them cloak their opinions as someone else’s view.

But the real issue, which such a survey ignores is topic selection. By choosing certain topics, the news shows demonstrate their biases. When Keith Olbermann devotes countless stories to the possibility that Kerry really won Ohio or that electronic voting machines secretly gave Bush the vote, that is bias. When Chris Matthews has on the New Jersey widows constantly, that is expressing a bias. And when Bill O’Reilly has on someone to talk about Ward Churchill, that is expressing a bias. The choice of topic is the bias even before any of these guys open their mouths. And they all do that. Brit Hume will cover some stories that none of the other shows will cover. That is where I see the bias. But then, it’s the same at the other cables. I’d give more examples, but I tend not to watch them at all. And avoiding stories like this is something else I should do.

This content was used with the permission of Betsy Newmark & Lorie Byrd.

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